I’ve always been a big fan of good things in small packages. I remember spending almost a month’s pay on the Toshiba Libretto 70CT. Known as a sub-notebook, it was about the size of a VHS cassette although slightly slimmer, but it weighed a lot more. It ran Windows 98 on a Pentium 120Mhz CPU, had a 1.2GB hard disk, and although it was no PC hot-rod (even back then) it was damn-good at what it was designed for, which brings me to the Acer Aspire One.
The Acer Aspire One (referred to hereafter as simply the “Aspire”) comes in several different versions. The version I bought (and because it’s so cheap, the only version I’d advise anyone to go for) is, like all Aspires, based around the 1.6Ghz Intel Atom CPU. This version has 1GB of RAM, a 120GB SATA HDD, Wireless G and cabled 10/100 Ethernet, 3x USB2.0 ports, 1x analogue VGA port, 1x SDHC slot and 1X SDHC/MSPRO/XD card reader and an integrated wed-cam. Phew, can’t complain about the connectivity then! I bought this from Currys in October 2008 for £260.
It is pre-installed with XP Home SP3, which means it’s quite up to date, and the nice surprise here is that it isn’t bogged-down with bloat-ware. All I had to do was remove the trial version of McAfee and replace it with Avast!, update IE and the other Windows live components, install Defender and Chrome and I was just about ready to go. Compared to some OEM offerings, this is a walk in the park. I’m looking at you Dell!
When I bought the Aspire, the 14 year-old who sold it to me said “you do know it’s not a full-laptop don’t you?” This is encouraging, coming from someone who you might unfairly expect to be inept, because unless you have a second PC and are happy with file sharing etc, the average muggle will run in to problems installing software on this thing. Bravo Currys, it is an important point.
Because it has no optical drive, the Aspire must install software from installers downloaded from the Internet, USB attached devices, or shared network resources. Happily, because it’s XP, this is a snap. Just share the optical drive on your desktop PC to the network and sure enough, you can map it to the Aspire and there’s your Aspire’s DVD burner all ready to go.
The Aspire comes with a trial version of Office Home and Student 2007. If you have ANY full version of Office Home and Student, even if you have installed it three times or more, input the key here. Trust me, it will just work. Microsoft operate an ethos of “If in doubt, let them activate” since their change in transfer-rights policy. I am writing this on the Aspire in Word 2007 and to my recollection; this is the sixth installation from this product key. I have heard that you will be prompted to phone-activate after the ninth attempt, however if you tell the friendly Indian operator that this is the “third concurrent computer” on to which you are installing Office, you will be given an activation key.
The Aspire comes with a seemingly paltry 8MB of video RAM, for its integrated Intel graphics chipset. Clearly, you won’t be playing Quake 4 for on this thing (or whatever the kids are playing these days), but it’s fine for its 1024×600 resolution in most sensible applications. It plays full-screen SD video flawlessly and works wonderfully with the BBC iPlayer, even in High-Quality mode. For your Facebook / MySpace, messaging, productivity and day to day needs, it’s a hit.
The fan is a little loud, which I understand can be fixed with a firmware update, which involves copying the update file to a bootable USB stick, but I’ll be damned if I can get it to work. Seriously, if anyone knows a free, straightforward way of getting 1.5MB of data on to a bootable USB stick, please reply in the comments section and we’ll work out some way for me to send you something special as a thank-you. It’s not a big deal, but it’s the one bad thing I have to say about the Aspire.
Overall, I’d totally recommend the Acer Aspire One to people who know what it’s for. As a stand-alone PC it’s rather lacking in features, but as a PC companion, it’s powerful and capable.
One of the better Netbooks!