Outside of the Asus Eee series, the Acer Aspire One models are the best-known netbooks on the market.
Currently two models of the Aspire One A110 range are available, one featuring flash (SSD) storage and the other a more traditional hard drive.
Read TechRadar’s Asus Eee PC 1000 review
Here we’re looking at the 8GB SSD model, which has recently dropped to an extremely tempting price point – if you look around online you’ll find it for a recession-mocking £139.
Cosmetically Acer has made a big deal with curves on the Aspire One. The lid and underside bend neatly to a point, and on opening the machine you’re greeted with a bulbous section beneath the screen, housing status lights and the battery.
There’s a very visible gap between the hinges that hold the screen on to the body of the machine, giving an initial impression of weakness. However, the Aspire One is generally very sturdy with only a little flex in the screen. And that screen is glossy all the way.
Whether this is a big deal to you is a matter of personal choice, but some users simply hate glossy screens. Position yourself incorrectly and you’ll have all manner of light sources glaring back at you, obscuring the stuff on your screen, which isn’t too difficult to fix in an office/home environment – but outside, you can’t get rid of the big flaming orange thing in the sky. Conversely, colours are strong and bold, and it’s an excellent display given the price of the machine.
The left-hand side holds an SD card slot, USB port, Ethernet port and VGA out, while the right side has an extra pair of USB ports, another SD card slot, the Kensington security socket and headphone/microphone ports.
On top, the keyboard is great – good-size keys, a chunky Enter button and great overall feel. The cursor keys are a bit small, but at least there are dedicated Page Up/Down buttons.
We’re not so chuffed with the trackpad though: it’s very small, and to salvage space Acer’s designers have positioned the click buttons on either side of the trackpad. Now, you can retrain your muscle memory to deal with this, but we still prefer the normal layout.
On the software side, the Aspire One is bundled with Linpus Linux Lite, a Fedora-based distro that’s supplied with the apps you’d expect – Firefox, OpenOffice.org etc. It’s a decent distro with a great boot time (22 seconds), but quite locked-down and dated, so many users opt for a ‘full’ distro instead.
Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix runs very well, with Wi-Fi, webcam and sound working out of the box. There’s one let-down though, and it’s the SSD performance. It’s cripplingly slow at times, especially when writing data.
Linux (like any modern OS) builds up file write operations to save in one big batch, and on the Aspire One this manifests itself as annoying intermittent lock-ups. Just switching categories in the Ubuntu Netbook interface took 11 seconds at one point while we were using it because the SSD had some activity to finish.
Ultimately, this isn’t a problem if most of your work is online: it’s a great little web-browsing machine and handles YouTube with ease. The fan kicks in quite a lot and the speakers are tinny, but that’s not a concern at this price.
If you plan to do work on the go, though, or play games, you’ll find the stuttering SD very painful – and with the hard drive model’s price tag around the £220 mark, it’s not so much of a bargain. In that case you’ll want to consider looking elsewhere, such as the Asus Eee PC range.
Tags: A110, Acer, Aspire
Posted August 6th, 2009 in News by Michael