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Summary:

Due to personal challenges over the past week, I haven’t spent nearly the amount of time I would have liked with the Acer Aspire One I purchased. Sadly, I’ve spend enough time with it to decide that I’ll be returning it for a refund, minus the […]

Q1up_crystalmarkDue to personal challenges over the past week, I haven’t spent nearly the amount of time I would have liked with the Acer Aspire One I purchased. Sadly, I’ve spend enough time with it to decide that I’ll be returning it for a refund, minus the 15% restocking fee. How can I make that determination without truly reviewing it for a majority of my time over the last two weeks? There’s a few key reasons… and bear in mind that they only apply to me, or people that have similar computing needs to mine. The Acer Aspire One can be a great solution for folks that want a simple and quick out-of-box computing experience; in fact, it excels in that case.

Let me start with my initial impressions of Windows XP on this device since I’ve already mentioned how I find the implementation of Linpus Lite to be lacking for most mainstream consumers. Yes, folks that have a good understanding of Linux or those that want to hit up the web for great resources won’t have issues, but the consumer masses don’t fall into those two categories just yet.

Installing XP was straightforward of course, but Acer doesn’t have the XP drivers front-and-center. They are available on an Acer FTP site, which I found out from the AspireOneUser site. They all installed without a hitch and I then ran Windows Update. First up was Service Pack 3 for XP… when it took over 3 hours to install the SP, I raised an eyebrow with caution. My fears and low expectations were then met once I started using XP on the device. I don’t know how else to say it other than this way: the experience is the slowest XP experience I’ve ever had on a mobile device. Even my original Samsung Q1 UMPC in May of 2006 ran XP faster out of the box from what I can recall. Clicking on something can take anywhere from one to four seconds before the unit even responds. I often click again because I’m not sure if the click wasn’t recognized or if the system is still "thinking".

Of course, it’s not fair to condemn the entire device without looking at the cause. Clearly the slow SSD module is the major bottleneck here since we’ve seen many Intel Atom systems running XP without a sweat. That led me to install CrystalMark, a benchmarking tool that I’ve used in the past for all of the Samsung Q1 UMPCs.

Here’s where it gets interesting because folks that just look at the main benchmark numbers alone will get the absolute wrong impression of the device. Let me show you why with the overall numbers for all of the devices:

Wow, at first glance, it looks like the machine with the 1.6GHz Intel Atom holds its own against the 1.33 GHz solo. If you went on that alone, you’d expect a very solid experience, no? Of course, the devil’s in the details and in this case, the hard drive numbers for the AAO are relatively abysmal in comparison.

Since the CrystalMark numbers are closest between the AAO and the Samsung Q1UP, let’s compare the hard drive benchmarks for both:

Samsung Q1UP with 80 GB hard drive

HDD    2824
Read   23.23 MB/s (929)
Write   20.87 MB/s (834)
RandomRead512K   12.12 MB/s (484)
RandomWrite512K    8.82 MB/s (352)
RandomRead 64K    2.68 MB/s (107)
RandomWrite 64K    2.97 MB/s (118)

Acer Aspire One with Intel 8 GB SSD flash module

HDD    4358
Read   37.20 MB/s (1488)
Write    3.06 MB/s (122)
RandomRead512K   36.70 MB/s (1468)
RandomWrite512K    1.77 MB/s (70)
RandomRead 64K   30.01 MB/s (1200)
RandomWrite 64K    0.26 MB/s (10)

You can see the vast difference here in the write times, showing how slow the SSD module is when writing data. While the read times are faster for the SSD, in some cases, the write times are 90% slower when compared to the traditional hard drive. Aside from the memory configuration then, the only aspect that would matter between the XP version and the Linux version of the Acer Aspire One is the storage: hard drive vs. SSD.

While I could use Linux on the Acer, either Linpus Lite, Ubuntu or some other distro, I’m going to return the unit. For $20 more, the XP model offers double the RAM and the higher capacity, faster hard drive when compared with the model I purchased. I know I could easily use the device right out of the box because I’m comfortable with living my on-line life within Firefox. However, I don’t want to be tied down to Linux only on the unit. If I want to install and use XP, I’d like to have that opportunity and have it run well. Instead of spending the time and effort to mod the unit myself, it’s far more efficient to drop the extra $20… especially now that the pricing of the device is $50 lower.

From a design and hardware perspective, I really like the Aspire One. And if I was sold on solely using Linux with it, I’d keep it. Well, I’d actually take the receipt to Circuit City and try to get $50 back due to the recent price drop. My ultimate point here though: if you plan to run XP on the Acer Aspire One and don’t want to modify the hardware at all, just grab the XP model to begin with. You’ll be much happier with the performance and you’ll still have the option to run Linux if you choose to do so.

  1. That looks very strange. Too strange.
    3MB/s is 50% slower than the slowest device i’ve ever tested. The Wibrain SSD at 6Mb/s is horrible. I can imagine how unuseable the Aspire must be with those figures.

    I’m wondering if the IDE channel is set up correctly. XP can sometimes lock a drive down to PIO mode after errors which requires a driver removal and reboot. Check the IDE channel for PIO Mode or UDMA mode.

    Steve

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  2. Agreed Steve: I checked and it’s set for Ultra DMA Mode 4.

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  3. KT: You may thank me for inspiring this post. I take PayPal. Ha!!

    And there goes Chippy again making my mouth drop at just *how damn tech* he is!

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  4. That’s good advice.

    However, I am still disappointed at all the negative impressions people give about the Acer when they try to run XP on it. No, it does not run XP very well (or at all), but maybe that is why they don’t sell it that way. Did Acer ever say that this model would run XP?

    You’re returning it because it would not support your personal choice of OS. Fine. I know the majority of your audience probably runs Windows, so this is important information to them. But I think your expectations were too great.

    I run full Ubuntu on mine and it runs very well even with the base 512MB. I enjoy it so much, that it saddens me to here that you are returning yours. But I understand.

    I just need to have a little more sympathy for those still hooked on MS.

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  5. Where can you buy the XP version of the Aspire One?

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  6. The wear leveling in the Intel SSD seems to have some real issues with inserting pauses that appear to cause the system to hang. Even with linpus I found the unit *much* more responsive after I cracked it open and inserted a 1GB RAM module and smoked the swap partition (which also gave me 1GB of SSD back). I’ve been happily compiling and running things like VirtualBox on it ever since. DOS runs very happily in VB under Linpus on the AA1. I’ll be trying XP-in-VB next.

    My guess on your super bad performance numbers is that you didn’t tune XP for SSD. That Intel module really wants you to tune the filesystem for it. Which is why Acer only uses HDD for XP I suspect.

    Amazon’s price protection policy has already gotten me to $379 and I’ve got my fingers crossed it will get me down to $329 today or tomorrow. :-)

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  7. Simply turn of d2d in the bios and use FAT 32 and your problems will go away. Also switch off indexing and system restore if you want to eek some extra performance out of your AA1

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  8. I bought the Aspire One with XP, 1 gig ram and the 120 gig standard hard drive. It runs XP very well. Faster than I had expected it to. I love it and you would have to drag if from my cold dead hands.

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  9. I have one of the 120gb models and run a dual boot on it (XP/OS X leopard 10.5.4). I did up the ram to 1.5 gb and change out the wifi card.

    For that ultra portable with a full keyboard, i love my Acer. I did try out one of the ssd models and found that like the Eee you do need to kill of some of the paging file space to get better results when runnign xp. I will be passing this netbook along to my sister who fell in love with it and moving to the lenovo next. Or a 10 inch aspire one if it should come along.

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  10. Three hours to install SP3? Count yourself lucky…on my little Dell, I did a clean install of XP a few weeks ago. Started at about 1am…literally fell asleep while it was working…woke up around 9 and it still wasn’t finished.

    And this was on a computer that CAN run XP. (Actually, it’s Vista certified, but we all know how accurate THAT is.)

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