While it may feel like Netbooks have dropped off the face of the earth in the post-iPad era, inexpensive 10- and 11-inch laptops still lurk out there, although they're changing with the times. While many Netbooks used to be and still are Intel Atom-based, with minimal processing capabilities and hovering around $299, a few 11-inch laptops have emerged with more powerful AMD-based processors and onboard graphics. We've reviewed several of these ultraportables with E-350 APUs, such as the HP Pavilion dm1z and Sony Vaio VPC-YB15KX/S. The $379 Acer Aspire One 722-BZ608 has an AMD APU (the company's name for a CPU/GPU combo), but it's a slower one: its AMD C-50 processor isn't as fast as the ones in the HP Pavilion dm1 and its kin. It's still a better experience than you'll find on an budget Atom machine--maybe not in terms of raw speed, but in terms of two far more important factors: its included 4GB of RAM and its superior handling of streaming video.
A larger 11-inch screen, a full-size keyboard, and lots of memory and hard-drive space (4GB and 500GB, as much as you'd find in a larger laptop) add some value to this Acer Aspire. With a hard drive large enough to hold big music, movie, and photo collections and a processor fast enough to play streaming HD video from Netflix and Hulu without a hiccup, this is a premium Netbook (or ultraportable) that truly lives up to the "premium" part. Except, consider this: for only a few dollars more, you could have an even faster and better-built HP dm1z, or another 11-incher with a far superior AMD E-350 processor.
|Price as reviewed||$379|
|Processor||1.0GHz AMD C-50 dual-core|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066 MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB, 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 6250|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.2x8 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.0 pounds / 3.4 pounds|
To any casual passerby, the Acer Aspire One 722-BZ608 looks like an average candy-colored Netbook. It even fooled us: we thought the laptop was a 10-incher, when it's actually 11.6 inches. The exterior design resembles recent Acer Netbooks, with a sparkling, glossy color finish and an eye-catching concentric ripple texture to the lid that looks like a drop of water splashed and froze in place.
The upper lid thrusts forward a bit off the back base when closed, but opens wide on twin plastic hinges to reveal a large keyboard filling most of the space inside. More teal blue in matte plastic surrounds the black keyboard, giving a two-tone effect, while the upper lid is framed in shiny black plastic. It's a clean look. The power button, tucked against the bottom of the left-side hinge, blends in so well some might overlook it.
At 3 pounds and 1 inch thick, the Acer Aspire One 722 is easy to hold in one hand and has a slim front edge. It'll pack nicely into a carry-on. It's a lighter 11-incher than competitors such as the HP Pavilion dm1z and Lenovo ThinkPad X120e, with a weight we're more used to seeing in a 10-inch Netbook. It also has a compact AC adapter. One thing we've always liked about Acer's Netbooks is their chargers: the small plugs look more like cell phone chargers, and pack easily in a backpack or small messenger bag. The two-prong plug is a bulky wall-wart, but there's no bricklike AC adapter to worry about.
While the Acer Aspire One may be light and slim, it's not that fun to type on. The wide, flat keyboard exhibited quite a bit of flex, and the key response felt soft and mushy. Keys are also hard to locate, since the flat buttons are pressed so closely together. Backspace, Tab and Enter keys on the side are compressed to accommodate the full-size keys in the middle, which threw us off. Brightness and volume controls are relegated to the direction-arrow keys, and aren't function-reversed.
The multitouch touch pad below the keys is sizable, and makes the most of the limited vertical space below the keyboard, while the palm rest is narrow, and could aggravate those with big hands. The slightly recessed matte plastic surface responded well to basic touch, but didn't offer much room for multifinger gestures. A black plastic button-bar beneath butts up against the bottom edge of the Acer's front end, and is stiff and difficult to press.
The 11.6-inch glossy LED-backlit display on this budget Acer Aspire has the 1,366x768-pixel resolution you'd expect to find on the average 13- to 15-inch laptop. This makes for a viewing experience that doesn't compress browser windows or feel cramped. Maximum brightness doesn't crank up very far, but it's a solid screen that looked good during games and movies. The Aspire One's top hinge opens up to a wide angle, and the viewing angles on the screen were actually better than on many budget laptops. That could come in handy when sharing videos or pictures with someone next to you.
Speaking of videos, video streaming worked smoothly, far more so than on any Atom Netbook we've ever experienced. Hulu and Netflix both played well in full-screen, even with other Web pages running simultaneously. That's big news for someone looking for a cheap way to stream Netflix or Hulu on the go, but it's a less impressive trick now that Blu-ray players, TVs, tablets, cell phones, and even handheld game systems can do the same thing.
You will need headphones. The included speaker is incredibly weak: even on maximum, it's barely audible in a quiet office.
A 640x480-pixel VGA Webcam isn't the fancier HD type we've seen in an increasing number of laptops--it's the same basic Webcam that most Netbooks and budget laptops have. However, the picture looked clean and well-lit in our in-office use. Don't expect anything more than average video quality.
|Acer Aspire One 722-BZ608||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/mic jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|