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Summary:

Generally when I get a new device, I gravitate towards all of the good things. I’m going to take a different approach this time and hit some of the things I don’t like about the Acer Aspire One I nabbed yesterday. I’ll also have plenty of […]

AceraspireoneGenerally when I get a new device, I gravitate towards all of the good things. I’m going to take a different approach this time and hit some of the things I don’t like about the Acer Aspire One I nabbed yesterday. I’ll also have plenty of usage thoughts over the next week or two as well. Bear in mind that these are just my own opinions and experiences; I’m not suggesting that the $379 netbook isn’t a great deal for some.

Linpus Lite implementation. Yup, it’s easy to get to all of the apps that Acer has installed and for some that may be more than adequate. After all, you’ve got a solid base assortment of software to use in the build, just like I did with the Asus Eee PC running Xandros Linux. Out of the box, you can simply browse, play, IM or use OpenOffice apps.

But what about adding more apps? There’s no documentation telling you how to do this… in fact, there’s no mechanism in the out-of-the-box OS implementation to add any apps; or if there is, I haven’t found it. There’s no easy way to get out of the custom desktop and get into an Advanced Mode either. A little Googling last night showed me that I could hit Alt+F2 to get into a Terminal session. From there, the "xcfe-setting-show" command offered me an screen option to configure the desktop. It still doesn’t provide me a "full desktop" mode but if I right click on the desktop, I have advanced controls and settings. Folks who aren’t Linux-savvy will likely be stuck with the apps that Acer included. There’s no documentation for XP upgrades as well… maybe I got spoiled by the approach Asus took?

Mouse buttons. Speaking of right-clicking, I was hoping that the Acer mouse buttons would be better than the one(s) on my original Eee PC. They’re certainly functional, but if you take this device out and about (a primary use case scenario), you’ll be clicking and clacking to the chagrin of those around you. The buttons are loud. You can certainly tap using the touchpad for a left click and you can also silently scroll with it as well, but I think some folks will be disappointed with the mouse buttons.

Open RAM slot isn’t easy to access. Again, many people will just buy the device with the RAM they need, but there is an open RAM slot sitting on the inside, just begging for a 512 MB or 1 GB SoDIMM module. I saw six screws on the bottom of the device and removed them, but the unit wouldn’t open up at all. Turns out that the next steps are to remove the keyboard and one system board to access the empty RAM slot. Not a procedure for the faint of heart, as evidenced by this video. In fact, as a few commenters pointed out, the extra $20 for the XP version includes 1 GB of memory and that alone might be worth it to some. There’s also a higher capacity hard drive in that version.

SSD isn’t that quick. Just an opinion on the "performance feel" of the device. I think it should be a little snappier with a lite Linux build, but maybe my expectations are off. No, I don’t expect this machine to be a screamer by any means, but some research indicates that the SSD module might not be as fast as others used in netbooks. I didn’t even have to take the device apart to find out which SSD module is used: the BIOS tells me the part number of ssdpamm0008g1, which turns out to be the Intel Z-P230 we caught back in June. Intel’s documentation states sequential read and write speeds of 35 MBps / 7 MBps, which certainly isn’t blazing speeds.

External screen resolution. One of the ways I use my mobile devices is to attach them to external monitors when at home. The Aspire One offers a VGA out port, so I took advantage of it last night, but I probably won’t again. There appears to be no way to change the screen resolution to anything other than 1024 x 600 or again, I simply haven’t found it. I was hoping for a slightly higher res when connecting the device to a monitor, but all it did was show the same res on a bigger screen. There is a Desktop Settings area (if you use the Advanced Desktop trick above), but it only shows one res to choose from. So you can have any resolution you like on an external monitor… as long as it’s 1024 x 600.

These are just first thoughts; I’ve had the device for under 24 hours at this point. To be fair, we’re talking about a $379 netbook that will surely make some people very happy. I’m not globally condemning the device in any way, shape or form. I’m simply sharing my opinions which of course are based on my computing needs and requirements. If I had the $399 unit with XP and the hard drive, I might feel differently as a few of my disappointments would likely disappear. More to follow as I gather some of the more positive impressions and thoughts.

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  1. I had the Acer Aspire One for about a week. I think its great for anyone who will leave it in its out of the box state (without installing any extra apps, messing with extra settings, etc). I think it falls short for anyone who has even the itch to be a power user such as yourself Kevin. With the memory upgrade setback, the mouse buttons, and the ssd speed, it starts to fall into one of those “you get what you pay for devices”. You almost have to install another OS to get any real extra use out of it, but thats assuming you’re using it for more than what it was intended for. I also didn’t like the glossy screen as I have been used to matte screens, but thats a personal preference.

    The Aspire One has some great features, but overall I couldn’t keep it because I felt a little to restricted in terms of its flexibility.

    I’m looking forward to your review though.

    B

  2. Holy cow, I never realized how hard it would be to upgrade the RAM on this comp. This is definitely a computer for someone who is going to leave it in its stock state.

  3. At least the software issue could be solved by using XP on the device (or a different flavor of Linux i suppose). The RAM access is a deal killer for me.

  4. John in Norway Monday, August 11, 2008

    If it’s any consolation I think it’s great that you bought one so people like me get some idea of what it’s like. They have these for sale here in Norway but for 511 dollars!

  5. I’ve had the 1gb RAM, 120gb hard drive, XP version Aspire One for about a week and I generally like it, especially for the low $422 price.

    You’re right about the mouse buttons though–they are quite loud (and oddly placed too).

    I can’t comment on your screen resolution problem (since I’m not using the Linpus Lite distro) though I will say the little beast drives my external monitors with no problem.

    Greg

  6. The only item on your list that would concern me is the external screen resolution. But even then, when I’m at home I’ll be using my MBP. The netbook I’d like to purchase would only be for outside my house usage.

    I will never buy a netbook with windows. Linux is the only option for me on a netbook since Mac doesn’t make one.

    I will also never use the trackpad and built in mouse buttons on any laptop. Dislike them all. Always carry an external mouse. Does this netbook support a bluetooth mouse?

  7. So it seems the resolution output issue is only on the Linux versions, not in XP?

    I’d surely pay the extra $20 and get the model with 1gb of ram, 120gb HDD and XP Home, FAR better deal.

    And there’s been benchmarks on the HDD, which is a Hitachi and has about 50 MBps read, forgot the write. Beats the SSD in performance!

  8. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, August 11, 2008

    Brian, there is no integrated Bluetooth so you’d have to add it via a hack or with USB.

  9. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, August 11, 2008

    Nina, with the right Intel drivers on XP, I would expect that the device could output higher resolutions to external displays.

  10. I enjoyed your video last night and I was ready to jump on my H-D and ride 45 miles to ABQ and purchase an Aspire One this morning. I appreciate your honest comments so I get I’ll be riding to ABQ to purchase a toilet float instead. I transformed by M205 Tablet into a Xubuntu machine and that’ll have to serve my out-of-home surfing needs. gB-)

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