Acer Aspire one: An In-Depth Look
Acer sure moves fast. This morning, a little over a week after the company announced its first entry into the mini-notebook space, the Acer Aspire one (Linux version, full review here) arrived in our offices to much glee. We couldn’t wait to test Acer’s answer to the Eee PC, HP Mini-Note, and MSI Wind NB. However, before we began testing, we talked to our Acer rep who informed us that ours is a pre-production model that has a handful of known bugs (primarily inconsistent Wi-Fi and video playback issues), which are being fixed before the system ships. We kept that in mind as we dug into the system and evaluated its potential. Design and Aestheics Upon getting our hands on the Acer Aspire one, one of our first thoughts is that this doesn’t look like a budget machine. Our system sports a glossy white lid on the outside (it will also be available in black and blue), and a glossy black bezel on the inside which frames the 8.9-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel resolution display Unfortunately, it was a bit of a fingerprint magnet. What we didn’t like is that the Acer Aspire one has a gap between the bottom of the display and the base of the machine, which reminds us a little bit of the Everex Cloudbook, a mini-notebook we want to forget. Whether or not you like a gap between your screen and your notebook body is totally subjective so we won’t hold that against the Aspire one. Overall, it’s a nice look and one that we’d gladly whip out at a coffee shop without fear of pointing and giggling. Keyboard and Touchpad The 2.2-pound Acer Aspire One features an 89-percent keyboard, which is not as large as layout on the HP Mini-Note or Windbook NB but is big enough for comfortable touch typing. It’s certainly bigger than the Asus Eee PC 900/901. The keys were quite responsive and offered very nice tactile feedback. We plan to put the Aspire one through our touch typing test in the days ahead to see how it compares to its competitors. We’re not big fans of the small touchpad or the mouse buttons that flank it. HP uses the same “buttons on the side” layout on its Mini-Note and, in both cases, we find it awkward. The buttons also feel cheaper than the Mini-Note’s. However, the positive side of a smaller touchpad is that the system itself can be more compact, as less room is used for the wrist rest.
Ports and Dual Card Readers The perimeter of the 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.1-inch Aspire one serves up the following ports: three USB 2.0, a Kensington lock, VGA, Ethernet, and headphone and mic jacks. One particularly useful aspect of the machine is the inclusion of two memory card slots: one dedicated SD, and another 5-in-1. “Why include two card readers,” you ask. Inserting a card into the stand-alone SD slot expands the internal storage. When we popped in a 4GB SD card, it was added to the on-board 8GB of flash for a total of 12GB. The system’s file manager actually adds the additional memory to the total of the internal hard drive so the whole thing looks like one large disk. We had one freezing incident when trying to view photos that were on the 4GB card before we inserted it, but we chalk that up to our system’s preproduction status. This second expansion slot is Acer’s way of accommodating upgraders without encouraging them to monkey with the system’s internal components. This is a good thing, because since the RAM and SSD are soldered into place (according to our friend Brad Linder’s Aspire one dissection) making upgrades to either is pretty much impossible. The Linpus Linux Lite Operating System When the Acer Aspire one hits the market in July, mini-notebookers will be able to purchase the machine with either a Linux or Windows operating system (priced at $379 and $399, respectively). Our model features the Linpus Linux Lite OS, which takes a page from the Asus Eee PC‘s Xandros Linus OS by organizing applications into distinct sections: Connect, Work, Fun, and Files. Under the Connect heading, you’ll find Firefox 2.014, an instant messaging client that’s compatible with AIM, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger, Aspire one Mail, an RSS reader, Skype, and links to Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Hotmail. Work contains the OpenOffice suite, Contacts, Calculator, Notes, and Calendar. Fun houses the Media Master multimedia player, Photo Master picture manager, the KolourPaint paint program, a webcam, and a slew of causal games. The Files section is home to the My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, My Videos, My Downloads, and My Files folders.
The look of the interface is very simple and clean; our only gripe (and it’s a minor one) is that we had to click an arrow to display all programs in a section, as only three are displayed by default. Located above these areas is a rather cool search box that doubles both as a desktop search tool and a traditional search engine. We decided to test it by typing in “NY Yankees” and clicking the search icon. Seconds later Firefox launched showing Yahoo search results for the query.
After we loaded the machine with multimedia files, we typed in “Sister”, changed the search from “Internet” to “Desktop”, and clicked the search icon. Instead of instantly displaying the results, the Acer Aspire One opened another search box, which was populated with the term we keyed in. Clicking Find initiated the search to find The Noistette’s “Sister Rosetta” MP3. It seemed like an unneeded extra step, but it worked well.