Yesterday I shared five aspects of the Acer Aspire One that I wasn’t too fond of. It’s not all bad of course, so today it’s time to highlight a few elements that I do like for this $379 netbook. Bear in mind my standard disclosure: these are simply my opinions so use this information to form your own thoughts. A few commenters in the last go-around seem to have missed that part, so it’s worth the restate. With any device, there’s both good and bad; regardless of my opinions, there’s defintely an audience for this device.
Build quality. I’ll start with something that I mentioned during our video unboxing because I think it’s a key element to discuss for a $379 notebook computer. I was leery of the build quality due to some poor experiences with Acer products in the past. Combine that caution with a low-cost, low-profit margin netbook and it could have been a disaster. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. I’m very impressed with how sturdy this little lappy seems to be. The keyboard doesn’t exhibit any of the "wiggle" I saw prior on my Asus Eee PC for starters. The screen hinges? Pretty darn solid at any viewing angle. No doubt that most (if not all) of the lower-priced netbooks will be plastic boxes, but this is one well-build plastic box.
Display. You have to like a glossy screen if you want to use an Acer Aspire One, but I’m used to that on my MacBook Pro and Samsung Q1UP UMPC. I thought Acer might have gone with a low quality display, but the LED backlit 8.9-incher is fantastic.
It’s bright and crystal clear with 9 steps of brightness. I find that I can set the screen to about half-brightness and be very comfortable. It also has one of the widest viewing angles I’ve ever seen as shown below.
Battery life. While not stellar, I can eek out nearly 3 hours of run-time with WiFi on. Keep in mind that this is with the Linpus Lite distro of Linux; experience tells me that if install XP, I could lose about 15- to 20% of that run-time, but we’ll see about that when I get around to an XP install. While we always want to see more battery life in our mobile devices, the netbooks are designed to be companion or "occasional" devices, not all day devices, so I find the battery life to be acceptable. Acer should have 6-cell batteries available in the near future, which will offer double the run-time capacity of a 3-cell.
Storage Expansion. One of the complaints we hear about with SSD-based netbooks is that devices with multiple flash memory modules are treated as separate storage areas from a user perspective. I love how Acer included a software solution to this. The Aspire One has 8 GB of flash memory in lieu of a hard drive, but one of the two memory card slots is specific to storage expansion. In the Files application, you just click a wrench icon to take advantage of this. The Aspire One prompts you to insert an SD card and it then "merges" that card’s storage with the SSD. Nice implementation as shown by my adding a 2 GB memory card using this feature. I had around 6.4 GB of usable space before doing this, now I have 8.3 GB.
Linpus Lite environment. While I don’t care for the way the Acer-customized environment will appear "locked down" for the average consumer not familiar with Linux, I do think that the distro and customizations are great for out-of-the-box computing. The target audience at this price-point isn’t a power user so the target customer should be very happy with what they see. The programs are grouped nicely and just about everything they would need is here.
The Connect grouping offers Firefox, an IM client, e-mail, an RSS reader, and one click access to the Wikipedia and Google Maps. The Work grouping provides the OpenOffice 2.3 productivity suite (Writer, Spreadsheets, Presentations) a Calendar, Contacts, a simple calculator and a note-taking application. Fun offers a media viewer / audio player, a photo viewer, a webcam application, Paint and eleven games. Last up is the Files section which has shortcuts to My Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, Downloads and a file explorer. You can move these program shortcuts around and the first three in each group appear on your Desktop. Simple and everything that most users will need in a companion device.
There’s other things to like, and not like, but these five stand out after using the device for the last two days. More to follow with the Linux build and then I’ll likely make a move to Windows XP for a bit. Actually, I have to give a "bonus sixth like" because the typing experience is vastly better than when I had the Eee PC 701. Yes, I could touch-type on that device, but my accuracy and speed are higher on the Acer Aspire One. It also helps to have a full-sized right Shift key where it belongs! I didn’t have to pull the key off the keyboard, move it and then re-map the keys. ;)