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Acer Aspire One review: Acer Aspire One

Acer Aspire One

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

With recent entries from Asus, MSI, Sylvania, and models from Dell and Lenovo on the way, the Netbook field is becoming increasingly crowded. While many of the second-generation Netbooks are creeping toward mainstream laptop prices, we're pleased to see the smart-looking Acer Aspire One holding the line at $379, without skimping too much on features or design.

6.2

Acer Aspire One

The Good

Attractive, slim design; big keyboard for such a small system; affordable.

The Bad

Only 512MB of RAM limits performance; wimpy battery life; no Bluetooth.

The Bottom Line

The Acer Aspire One is easily the best of the current under-$400 Netbooks, but its meager allotment of memory and tiny battery limit its appeal.

Despite the wallet-friendly price and large keyboard, we have a few reservations. For one, the system comes with only 512MB of RAM, which limits its performance. For another, the battery life is nearly as bad as that of the otherwise excellent MSI Wind; both hover about the 2-hour mark--far too little juice for such a mobile machine. And the Linux OS of our review unit limits its mass appeal, though we're pleased to see that an XP Home version of the Aspire One also includes 1GB of memory and a 120GB (spinning) hard drive for only $20 more.

Still, this is easily the best all-around Netbook we've seen for less than $400, although similarly priced upcoming entries from Lenovo and Dell may make the Aspire's window of opportunity rather small.

Price as reviewed / Starting price$379
Processor1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
Memory512MB 533MHz DDR2
Hard drive8GB SSD
ChipsetIntel GM945
GraphicsIntel 945GME Express (integrated)
Operating SystemLinpus Linux Lite v1.0.2.E
Dimensions (WDH)9.8x6.7x1.1 inches
Screen size (diagonal)8.9 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter2.1/2.8 pounds
CategoryNetbook

Physically, the Aspire One is very similar to the slightly larger, pricier 10-inch MSI Wind, with a reasonably large keyboard that's much easier to use than the tiny almost smartphone-like keys found on the Asus Eee PC 901 or the Sylvania G Netbook. That's because the Aspire is a little wider than the Asus, and it's also a few ounces lighter, thanks in part to only having a small 3-cell battery. We were please to see that it includes dedicated page-up and page-down keys, which are especially useful on devices with smaller screens that require lots of scrolling to get through long Web pages.

The touch pad is wide, but not very deep, giving it a letterbox-style look, similar to the one found on the HP 2133 Mini-Note. It's reasonably easy to use, at least as far as the small touch pads on Netbooks go. The mouse buttons are positioned to the left and right of the touch pad--not below it--which may take a little getting used to for touch-typists.

The 8.9-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is the same as found on other 9- and 10-inch Netbooks, such as the Asus Eee PC 901 and the MSI Wind. It's wide enough to display most Web pages correctly, but you'll find yourself frequently engaged in vertical scrolling.

 
Acer Aspire OneAverage for category [Netbook]
VideoVGA-outVGA-out
Audioheadphone/microphone jacksheadphone/microphone jacks
Data3 USB 2.0, two SD card readers2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
ExpansionNoneNone
NetworkingEthernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi,Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical driveNoneNone

The Aspire One is generous with the USB ports, offering three, but there's no Bluetooth, so tethering your smartphone for mobile broadband is out of the question (which we've successfully done with the Asus Eee PC 901). Like all Netbooks we've seen up to this point, it lacks an ExpressCard slot, which the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad S10 is expected to offer, making it easy to use a mobile broadband card. The dual SD card slots are handy for expanding on the 8GB solid-state hard drive, especially since Netbooks with 20GB and 40GB SSD drives are now available (although at higher prices).

With Intel's new 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU, specifically designed for low-power Netbooks, you're not going to find the same level of performance you'd get from even an inexpensive Core 2 Duo laptop. The Linux-based system wasn't able to run our usual suite of benchmarks (which use Windows and Mac applications such as iTunes, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Photoshop), but even the light Linux OS felt occasionally sluggish (thanks, in part, to having only 512MB of RAM) when using the preinstalled Open Office suite of productivity software, although Web surfing was generally trouble-free. For everyday use, however, our anecdotal tests showed that it offers a faster, smoother experience than another $399 Netbook we recently looked at, the Sylvania G Netbook.

The Acer Aspire One ran for 2 hours and 14 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 3-cell battery. That's barely more than the MSI Wind, which was also saddled with a puny 3-cell battery--and the biggest flaw for both systems. MSI plans to upgrade its battery to a 6-cell version in the near future, and Acer offers a 6-cell battery that we've seen online for $119--a large premium for such an inexpensive laptop.

The Aspire One includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty, and Acer has set up a separate mini-site for the Aspire One, including a page labeled "drivers and support." Unfortunately, that support page, and its subpages, have no content aside from a note that says, "Updates coming soon." The regular Acer Web site has some FAQs and driver downloads, but the tech support number is impossible to find (it's 800-816-2237), and the phone support hours are only 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT weekdays, and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Asus Eee PC 1000
326

Asus Eee PC 901

315

Sylvania G Netbook

183

Acer Aspire One

134

MSI Wind U100-002LA

116

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire One
Linpus Linux Lite v1.0.2.E; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Mobile Intel 945GME Express; 8GB solid-state hard drive.

Asus Eee PC 901
Windows XP Home Edition SP2; 1.6GHz Intel Atom; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 945 Express; 12GB Phison solid-state hard drive.

Asus Eee PC 1000
GNU Linux; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Mobile Intel 945 Express; 40GB Phison solid-state hard drive.

MSI Wind U100-002LA
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 945 Express; 80GB Western Digital 5400rpm.

Sylvania G Netbook
Linux; 1.2GHz VIA C7-M; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; VIA UniChrome Pro IGP; 30GB HDD.

6.2

Acer Aspire One

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 5Battery 4Support 4