5 things I don’t like about the Acer Aspire One

56 Comments

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.

56 Comments

Paul L

The terminal and xrandr command are your friend when coming to screen resolutions. I’ve configured mine to run 1680×1050 on external and 1024×600 on LCD, and both at the same time.

But I do think Linpus should have a GUI tool to adjust screen resolutions more conveniently. The thing I hate about Linpus is that it’s a half-baked product, with tons of dirty hacks internally to make it run on the Intel atom platform. I’d much prefer a cleaner way of doing things, perhaps with another distro. But again, there aren’t many Linux distros specifically targeting at Atom platforms, we’ll have to wait until they mature.

But otherwise I like my AA1, and mine doesn’t have the whining fan noice.

roger

Found on an aspireoneuser.com forum…

“I do have my external 24″ screen running at 1680 x 1050, and the One screen at 1024 x 600. Both at the same time, in dual screen mode – not mirrored.”

Henrik

Up here in Denmark, we’re still waiting for the device to hit the shelves. Asus Eee and MSI Wind are around, but the sleek One is the One :)

If the price difference between the ½ GB Linux model and the 1 GB XP model is merely $20 (which I doubt – let’s see), I’m certainly going to pick up the XP one. And then kick XP.

For something like this, which needs to Just Work, I prefer Linux unconditionally. No worries about virus and all the other maintainance junk one needs to do with Windows (and I’m an expert on this). Wether it be the native Linpus or Kubuntu is still up in the air.

BTW, I found the hack to be able to install RPM packages far from daunting. One does a few things, or has someone else do it, and presto: All kind of amazing applications are there. I’ll start out with Skype (yeah, not Open Source. But I need it).

Still, I prefer adept for package management. Which just might make me go with Kubuntu in the end.

Roger

I’ve had mine for 4 days so far and my impression is mostly the same as yours. The touchpad and the buttons aren’t nice at all. (I thought the Asus 901 touchpad was much better). …well, it’s a good excuse to start using RP. Upgrading the memory took about 90 minutes, but that was kind of fun, so that’s ok. The write speed to the SDD is really really slow — but bearable once things are tuned. The keyboard’s nice. The screen looks pretty at first, but it’s too sensitive to viewing angle. Yes, the fan is annoying.

As to the screen resolution, I had switched to Ubuntu right away, where the max external resolution was 1280×1024. By default, there wasn’t any way to show a separate screen on the external port — the internal screen was simply duplicated on the external port.

AllanCJ

I think I can hold out until the new Lenovo subnotebooks arrive. But, is there any reason to believe they will be significantly different from the current crop? All the manufacturers are operating in the same niche, with not much room to move. Consequently the products come out much the same. Nevertheless, if the Lenovo doesn’t have noisy buttons that would be a big plus for me.

Kurt

it is quite funny to see people admit they were previously interested in the device until they read this 1 blog article from Kevin. i dont mean this in a bad way, but Kevin really needs to consider the lowest common denominator braindead posters like this that cant really think for themselves & give them rebuttal/counter points in the SAME article. otherwise they will just skim over the article getting a “general impression” & then decide not to buy the device even though none of the negative aspects of it apply to their usage scenario.

media outlets always say that their audience is smarter than what they would think, but you also have to consider lots of them are dumber than what you would think also.

something very funny about the situation is, everyone of Kevins dislikes could have been avoided if he had just payed an extra $20 for the XP, 1GB, HDD version. yes even the loud mouse buttons as you can just use the trackpad tap zones instead.

Calab

lol i’m guessing Kev500 owns 1, dont get so butthurt buddy.

besides if you look a little deeper i dont think Kevins dislikes mean that much. the Linux implementation sucks, so what i will be using XP. the external monitor resolution sucks, so what i will be using XP. the SSD is slow, so what i will get the HDD version. RAM slot is difficult, so what i am getting the 1GB version. mouse buttons are too loud, so what i dont use them anyways.

but unfortunately Kevins dislikes can sway the mainstream that dont look deeper into them. like the few idiots who replyed in this thread saying they were just interested earlier until they saw Kevins dislikes today. although my gut feeling tells me none of those dislikes will even apply to them (just as they dont for me).

whatever92

Kev50027, I believe your comment was unnecessarily harsh..

There’s nothing wrong with Kevin posting his thoughts on the device as he gets to know it first-hand.

As Kevin and James have said, these devices are at a price point where they can be an “impulse buy”. Kevin’s lead-up to reviewing this device is not unlike how many people will buy it on a whim and then figure out what it’s about when they get home..

Kev50027

Kevin, you obviously know so little about the Aspire One that you are not in a position to say what is good or bad about it. Reading up on something before you post a video of you making a fool of yourself is advisable. Then you don’t get the hint, and write a pseudo review full of more false information about the One. Please, spend a week to read about the One and learn what it can and cannot do, THEN post about it on your site.

Wenson

I got an Aspire One at Circuit City on Sunday, but noticed that the fan is quite loud, with the high-pitch whining noise. Anyone who got it from Circuit City also experiencing this problem?

From the http://www.aspireoneuser.com/ forums it seems like many people are having this problem as well.

Charbax

Hey, thanks for the nice reviews of this.

I wonder if there is somekind of video player software that comes with it, and if it supports up to 1280×720 resolution H264 video. At least it’d be cool if you could test some DivX 1280×720 video, I’ve got some available on my URL.

Why I wonder if it supports 1280×720 video playback, I tested the MSI Wind in my video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkxnvQSswTQ I can make it play 1280×720 video pretty smoothly but I have to use Coreavc codec and Media Player Classic, while VLC doesn’t seem to support it.

I wonder why Acer isn’t providing an easy to use and customized applications repository for this Linux Linpus version. There should be just a basic Add/Remove programs icon somewhere and it would pull from the Internet a global list of all the compatible software that is also maintained by trusted sources so you can be sure all that software is secure and works well. If Acer doesn’t provide such a built-in apps repository, I wonder if Acer will add this feature in somekind of software update and
pre-installed in future models to be shipped.

A 120GB 2.5″ hard drive costs below $40, not too far I guess from the cost of an 8GB flash memory, perhaps $30 difference, so it is nice Acer gives that choice to get the 120GB hard drive version for not too much more.

In your video you said SD card limitation capacity is 8GB per card. I wonder why they would limit it to 8GB per card. SDHC standard should allow up to 32GB per card, and those cards are nearing the $100 each currently.

Built-in HSDPA would definitely be nice. Has Acer announced price and availability for that?

MarkP

The Aspire One SSD is either an Intel (real world performance; 25MB/s 8MB/s) or Samsung (real world; 38MB/s 15MB/s).

Linpus Lite is indeed very closed down by Acer. XP is officially supported and drivers are available, although performance on the Intel SSD seems poor. Ubuntu 8.04.1 is working (with quite some tweaks – newbies might want to wait for 8.10, card reader only accepts SD(HC) in ubuntu), but you’ll loose the quick boot and long battery life of the Linpus install.

Andy Beal

Thanks for all the great info Kevin. I almost bought one, but it looks like the Linux version doesn’t support my Verizon USB EVDO – did you get yours to work?

lkjh

people still use buttons? why dont you just set the bottom right tap zone to act as a right-click?

Ricardo

About the screen resolution, you could try changing the /etc/xorg.conf file. I’m sure getting higher resolutions on the vga output wouldn’t be a problem. But Acer really could have already enabled more options to be acessed through the GUI.

Kevin C. Tofel

Scotty, the second link in my post is to the AspireOneUser site you mention. :)

Bear in mind that I got the device late on Sunday afternoon and wrote this post on Monday morning with a good night’s sleep in between. It might take me more than just a few waking hours to find out all I need to know. ;)

Scotty

Kevin, with your Google/cloud expertise I’m surprised you didn’t find http://www.aspireoneuser.com/ Most of what you are seeking is there. I’ve got my One tweaked up just the way I want it. I’m even busy using the new Intel C++ compiler that has the Atom optimizer to re-compile optimized binaries on the One itself. :)

bluemonq

Ugh, everytime I see a decent netbook and get interested in buying one, something has to go wrong: HP – VIA cpu. Asus – cramped keyboard. MSI – price bump. And now, Acer – slow SSD (I prefer SSD to HDD for these portable guys). Guess I’ll just have to wait until Dell comes out with their model to see what’s wrong with *that* one.

I suppose this is one way to stick to a budget…

GeorgeB

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-)

Kevin C. Tofel

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

Nina

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!

Brian

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?

Greg

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

John in Norway

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!

Sean

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.

MiKeN

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.

Brandon

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

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