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Review: Acer Aspire One Is In The Game

Test Center puts the Acer Aspire One netbook through its paces and finds it on par with competitors for light Internet and word processing usage.

The MacBook Air and the Lenovo X300 proved there was interest in light, portable notebooks that could be used for surfing the Internet, checking e-mail and light word processing. Despite interest, not everyone is willing to shell out for their premium price tag, setting the stage for miniature laptops that cost less than $500. The Aspire One from Acer joins the growing market that includes the HP MiniNote, Asus EEE PC, MSI Wind Netbook and Dell Inspiron Mini 9. The Test Center brought the Linux version of the Acer Aspire One into the lab to see how it compares.

At 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.14 inches, the Aspire One is only an inch wider, but thinner, than the Asus EEE PC. The models with a NAND flash module and three-cell batteries are slightly thinner than the hard-disk drive and six-cell battery models. The system includes an Intel Atom N270 processor, 512 MB of memory and an 8.9-inch CrystalBrite WSVGA LCD with 1,024 x 600 native resolution. At 2.19 pounds, it's lighter than the Asus EEE and the HP Mini-Note, and easy to carry, especially in the enclosed cloth case.

The Aspire One scored 850 on Geekbench2, the benchmarking test from Primate Labs, which is in the neighborhood with the Asus EEE PC and double that of the HP Mini-Note, which uses the VIA processor. The Test Center looked at the Linux version, which comes with Linpus Linux Lite preinstalled, and costs $319. A Windows version is also available for $349. The netbook comes with an 8-GB solid state drive, but a 120-GB hard-disk drive option is available.

The lab looked at both the sapphire blue and seashell white offerings. Golden brown and coral pink are the other options. The sapphire blue is much more attractive and stylish; the white unit was reminiscent of Apple's products.

The Linpus OS on this netbook loads in less than 15 seconds into a well-organized home screen where applications are grouped by function. The Internet applications, such as IM, e-mail and browsing, are in one box, office applications in another, and so forth.

The power consumption is impressive, drawing very little power, a little less than 30 watts. The battery life was measured by playing a movie continuously using VLC and with power saving settings turned off. It lasted about four and a half hours, about on par with the Asus EEE. Unlike most other laptops, the Aspire One remained fairly cool to the touch, with surface temperatures barely reaching 100 degrees after two hours of operation. On a recent cross-country trip, the Aspire One easily lasted a whole day with a user editing some documents, writing memos, and surfing the Internet in the airport and on a flight without requiring a charge.

Despite its size, the keyboard doesn't feel cramped. After looking at the HP Mini-Note and the Asus EEE PC, the Aspire One didn't feel any smaller or difficult to use. This will be a perfect fit for small hands, but it's not any more uncomfortable for larger hands.

The Aspire One also ships with a multi-in-one card reader that supports five formats. There is an 0.3-megapixel Webcam, 802.11b/g wireless, 10/100 Fast Ethernet, and WWAN and GSM support. There are three USB 2.0 ports, an external VGA port, headphone and microphone jacks, and an SD card reader for storage expansion.

With its affordable price tag and on-par performance, the Aspire One is more than able to compete with similar notebooks on the market. And the easy-to-use interface of Linpus Linux Lite will be appealing to users willing to give "that Linux thing" a try.

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