03 March 2009

Acer Aspire One AOD150

Despite owning a huge chunk of the growing Netbook market, the popular Acer Aspire One has been saddled with a 9-inch screen, rather than the bigger 10-inch type we prefer. At long last, Acer now has a 10-inch model, the Aspire One AOD150. Even better, it's keeping the starting price at $349, which is about $50-$100 cheaper than similarly configured systems from other PC makers. The Aspire One series has been neither the best nor the worst Netbook out there, and Acer's market share to date has largely been based on its lower retail-price strategy.

With the basic Intel Atom/1GB RAM/XP setup, you'll get a similar experience to using a Netbook such as the HP Mini 1000 or Lenovo S10, but there are a handful of trade-offs for the AOD150's price. While the AOD150's keyboard is large enough for comfortable typing, the tiny touch pad and mouse buttons (on a flimsy rocker bar) are painful to use, and the extended six-cell battery runs for up to 6 hours, but makes the whole package relatively heavy. Note that our test unit had a slightly beefed-up battery (5800mAH versus 4400mAH) compared with what it will finally ship with, and we'll retest with the official six-cell battery when we get our hands on one.

Netbooks were originally intended as cheap, no-frills travel machines, and the new Aspire One fits that bill well, but there are also plenty of slightly more expensive options that add polish.

The new Acer Aspire One AOD150 is available in blue, white, red, and black. Our review unit was "sapphire blue," with a glossy lid and a matte, slightly textured finish on the keyboard tray. While the new Acer Aspire One has a footprint similar to other 10-inch Netbooks, such as the MSI Wind, it's significantly thicker than the slim HP Mini 1000, and also heavier, thanks to the bulky battery.

The first Acer Aspire One we looked at was a 9-inch Linux model, and while the AOD150 model has a larger chassis and screen, the keyboard is virtually identical. Despite not having as comfortable a keyboard as the Samsung NC10 or HP Mini, we did appreciate the inclusion of dedicated page-up and page-down keys.

The touch pad is one of the few giveaways that this is a budget Netbook. It's tiny and square, with a very small rocker bar below it, instead of traditional left and right mouse buttons. Getting it to properly register a click is a pain: you need to press really hard, as the contact seems to be deeply embedded in the chassis.

The 10.2-inch, wide-screen, LCD display offers a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is standard for Netbooks. It's certainly readable, but most documents and Web pages will require some scrolling. Bright and clear, the new bigger display is the main selling points of Acer's updated Aspire One.

The Acer Aspire One AOD150 has a typical set of ports and connections for a lower-end Netbook. Trading up to a more expensive system from Lenovo or HP can net you useful extras such as Bluetooth, an ExpressCard slot, or even faster 802.11n Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is especially useful for syncing a smart phone for mobile broadband service.

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