The definition of a Netbook keeps getting fuzzier around the edges, with displays growing from the original 7-inch designs, and the selection of CPUs expanding to include Intel, AMD, and Via. If we are to take 12-inch systems such as the HP dv2 and Samsung NC20 as Netbooks (we've so far let them slip in under the wire), than an 11.6-inch model is a sure thing.
We found the slightly larger chassis of the $379 Acer Aspire One AO751h-1545 to be an excellent compromise between size and usability, and we could see this becoming a popular choice. The catch is that Acer has decided to use the 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 as its CPU, instead of the faster (and much more common) 1.6GHz Atom N270 version.
It doesn't make for a huge difference in raw performance, but in an already pokey Netbook, and powering a higher-res 1,366x768 display, it made the Aspire One AO751h just slow enough to be noticeably annoying--so much so that we got frustrated with it on a regular basis.
Interestingly, Acer is working on a potentially much faster 11.6-inch system with an Intel ULV processor, purportedly to be called the Acer Timeline 1810T.
|Price as reviewed||$379|
|Processor||1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520|
|Memory||1GB, 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel SCH US15W|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel GMA 500 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows XP|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.8 x 8.5 inches (8.8 inches with battery)|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.0/3.6 pounds|
Starting with a body that reminds us the newest generation of slimmed-down Netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 1005HA and the Acer Aspire One D250, and stretching it to accommodate a larger display, Acer has managed to create a system that's nearly as thin and attractive as the very expensive ultraportables of old (if only old in laptop industry terms). Our matte gray and glossy black review unit had a buttoned-down, businesslike feel, as opposed to the bright colors used on some of Acer's traditional 10-inch Netbooks.
The wide, flat keys are similar to what you'd find on Apple and Sony laptops--or current Netbooks from Asus. The keyboard extends nearly edge-to-edge, so there's enough room for full-size Shift and backspace keys, as well as dedicated page-up and page-down keys. The touchpad, however, was surprisingly small--it's usable, but we're currently partial to the oversized one on the Toshiba NB205.
The 11.6-inch wide-screen LED display offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is a nice upgrade from the typical 1,024x600 found in most Netbooks. On the larger 11.6-inch screen, it gave us enough desktop real estate without making text and icons too small to read. Sony is moving in the same direction and is planning to offer 13x7 displays in the upcoming 10-inch Vaio W Netbook.
|Acer Aspire One AO751h-1545||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
You won't find any high-end extras in the Aspire One AO751h's ports and connection--not even Bluetooth. Hypothetically, the larger body could make it easier to include ExpressCard slots, although for less than $400, there's only so much one can expect.
What we did expect, however, was a relatively typical Netbook usage experience. That means a system that can perform basic chores--Web surfing, e-mail, some productivity apps, light multimedia--with a minimum of fuss. Instead, thanks to the slower 1.33GHz Z520 version of Intel's Atom CPU (instead of the usual 1.6GHz N270 version), actually using the Aspire One AO751h proved to be a frustrating experience.
Achieving Netbook satisfaction requires a fairly modest set of expectations, but even with that in mind, the AO751h was sluggish when compared with other similar systems. In our benchmark tests it fell well behind N270 and N280 Netbooks, and in anecdotal use it felt just slow enough to be aggravating. While the actual differences can be measured in seconds, we still felt like tossing the thing out of a window a few times.