The good people at Gateway graciously sent me an Acer Aspire One model AO532h-2326 to review as part of my overall interest in testing out netbooks to see if they could work as a good ‘field’ machine for IT professionals and consultants. I ended up receiving a netbook from Acer, one from Dell, and one from HP and will review all three here starting with the Acer model.
First, here are the specs for the machine I was reviewing (all three netbooks had nearly identical specs):
- Intel Atom N450 processor
- 1 GB DDR2 RAM
- 10.1” LED-backlit display 1024x600 resolution
- 250 GB 5400RPM hard drive
- 6-cell battery
- 12.4” x 9” x 4.3”
- Up to 10 hours battery life
Remember, the specs above are what they state and everything is accurate except I would argue on the battery life. Please read on.
Let’s cut to the chase. I knew since it was a 6-cell battery that it would be a longer-life battery, but I was skeptical on the 10-hour potential and I was right. It’s long, but really more like 5-6 hours rather than 10 hours. And 5-6 hours is fine with me. If you leave it alone and it just sits there you may get 10 hours, but if you’re working on it then you’re going to get more like 5-6 hours of battery life. Rating: A
There really wasn’t a differentiator on the display – a 10.1” display is pretty much the same no matter what model you put it on. It’s smaller than what laptop users are normally used to. I primarily work on a 13” Macbook and – until recently – a 14” HP Windows XP laptop. So, it’s definitely a smaller display than I’m used to. However, surprisingly it doesn’t bother me. I was concerned that MS Project gantt charts would appear to small, but they’re very readable. Possibly the one announce is the need to scroll more, but it’s not unbearable. Rating: C
The Acer Aspire One netbook keyboard is considered a 92% keyboard. What this means is that it is a full keyboard at approximately 92% of the size of a normal laptop keyboard. I have to be honest – that 8% does take some getting used to. I type fast so I noticed that I tend to make more mistakes on the smaller keyboard because keys aren’t positioned exactly where my fingers are used to finding them. Everything is more compressed – it just has to be. Again, it takes getting used to, but it’s not a major issue. Rating: C
Maybe it’s just me, but touchpads are important. How they feel, react, and function is important to me as a user because they are used so much. The Acer touchpad is good – infinitely better than my kids’ ASUS EeePC netbook touchpads. For me, the left/right buttons need to respond correctly and not be too stiff. I’ve found that many netbooks have annoying touchpads with stiff buttons. I found the Acer’s touchpad to be above average and definitely acceptable. A bad touchpad can slow down the computing experience. Rating: B
I personally consider netbooks to be durable because my teenage daughters haven’t broken their ASUS netbooks yet. And they generally break stuff. The smaller size automatically means you don’t bump them into walls when you carry them. And they’re very easy and comfortable to carry around.
Hinges are another durability factor. The Acer appears potentially weak in that area as the display can be jiggled a little so I definitely have concerns over the hinge durability when in use for 1-2 years of normal usage. I have lots of experience with hinge replacement on laptops so this is a consideration in my family. Rating: C+
The Acer Aspire One, as with all the netbooks I have been testing, performed admirably with its Atom processor and 1 GB of RAM. It had no difficulty running the business apps that I tested it on: Microsoft Word and the entire Office Suite and Microsoft Project. I didn’t test it out on photo processing software, but a netbook is not something I’d recommend using for photo processing anyway. Rating: B
Overall, I would rate the Acer Aspire a B-. There are enough concerns with durability to warrant it and the keyboard wasn’t the best in the group that I reviewed – though it wasn’t the worst either. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this unit to someone for small business use, field IT use, or home use.
Overall Rating: B-
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