Want XP on the Acer Aspire One? Buy the XP version (or why benchmarks can be misleading)

32 Comments

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.

32 Comments

Gordon

I find all three OS run fine one my acer 1 with 512 Meg RAM and an 8GB SDD. I can dual boot XP and Ubuntu, dual boot Linpus or Ubuntu or single boot any of them. All boot to Internet in less than 45 secs, and browse just fine. I stream TV programs at 800+ kbps just fine too. All you need is a bit of skill in tweaking the options! I cut swap to 500 Meg and share same swap between Ubuntu and Linpus. On XP I remove swapping completely. I run on both Samsung and Intel SDD’s, no great difference, though Samsung is faster.

I sell these solutions on ebay in the UK under userid portug04.

NIno Iaccarino

I alsot returned my Acer Aspire One SSD Model after sending it back to Acer twice and them wanting to charge me because it was a “software problem”. Clearly these SSD hard drives they put in these models are crap and almost unusable.

I am scared to buy a netbook now after this terrible experience with this model :/

Sam

Do your guys know how to run Xp in external USB drive? I have tired yesterday, it turn blue screen after the installation step. I am thinking run a full-version of XP pro into a external HDD. SSD read speed is much more slower then SATA. I would think that exHDD it may be enhance the speed for overall. Now I am running Adobe Illustrator on my acer one laptop. It a bit slow when put some effects on my artwork. Can anyone tell me how? Thank you very much….

Sam

I have spend only 2 hours to installer XP home and drivers for my Acer Aspire One loptop. It run very fast for me. When your installing XP, please remember to set the file format as FAT 32, dun go for NTFS, it run very slow. I had tried NTFS before I reinstall FAT32. After the installation, your should stop all the auto-startup process. This is much…. otherwise, your laptop will take more time to run.
Secondly, dun upgrade IE7 or 8.0 beta into your laptop. This will make your browser run much more slower then IE6.
Lastly, close all your Automatic update for windows.

cgeorgescu

XP on AAO with 512MB RAM and 8GB SSD:
– use nTune and strip everything useless from an XP ISO (search for which apps/services/drivers to cut);
– download and apply SP3 to the setup before installing (with nTune you can apply SPs to any existing XP setup);
– add the AAO drivers to the installation kit. Download and unpack the zips, put everything into a single folder and select it in nTune. Then, in the list, be careful to add only the 32bit ones;
– disable prefetching, autoupdate and useless stuff in nTune;
– install only on FAT32;
– eventually disable pagefile;
– eventually disable lastAccessUpdate and 8dot3FilenameCreation (registry).

The setup takes a while but you’ll be surprised after… XP starts in seconds, short and rare SSD-writing lockups, snappy response.

From my experience (2 days of testing): FAT32 was a major step forward due to lack of NTFS journaling, but the main difference was when I’ve put SP3. There must be some SSD-aware cache enhancements in it, looks like it gathers many small writes in RAM and applies them at once when the computer isn’t that used. Now I’m running Word, Excel, PP viewer, Outlook Express, Y!M and Skype without any problem.
Before that, it was hard to even open a web page.

After setup:
– install IE7 (well, you can also do that with nTune) or FF2/3;
– install Daemon Tools: double-click an ISO image and you have it mounted as a the fake CD;
– install AAO Fan Control (or AP1): no more noise, fan starts only at certain temp;
– eventually install Two Fingers Scroll: not that much for scrolling with two fingers but more for one+one right-click (while pointing with your finger you can tap another and voila, a natural right-click, like you’re tapping on a mouse);

Speedy

I’m buying a new AAO, and I do want XP, and I do prefer SSD (++power/noise), but I really don’t know what to think? 3.06 MB/s…!?!? Gosh…

One guy has obviously done some “magic” to his AAO, because XP on SSD runs really *fast*…?

Installing Windows XP on a Netbook Via USB (Acer Aspire One)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vt_8p0VllY

Steelgod

hi I have the 8gb ssd version. with 512.

Installed 1gb extra RAM
Formated in FAT32
Installed Modified Windows xp sp2 (without unecesary services)
Tuned the system

I can say I have nice performance after that but
I was thinking in move out to the 120 hdd version, but when I realized that I just use the one for documents , web, messenger and work I think It`s not necessary due I never fill my hard drives and I had bad experiences with mechanic hdds in laptops too. Still cofused :S

William Jansen

AA1 150L with 120 GB HDD: I used USB_Multiboot_10 to create a bootable USB stick with installable XP SP3 (AA1 drivers and extras -IE7,Tiny Office, Virscan etc). Installed the whole thing in less than an hour. Runs very well.
Note: turn of d2d in the bios before installation, avoid Fat32. Use Nlite with your XP CD and add drivers, SP’s and addons before loading it to the AA1.

Chris Zanoni

A lot of interesting comments here. I’ve had my 512M/8G One for about 2 months now, running the standard Linpus install. Several times Ive been tempted to install XP to give it more depth on apps that I know, but I’m still on Linpus.

What keeps me there is speed. The boot time is 17 seconds til the desktop is up 41 (17 + 24 more) till the wireless connects and is usable. It streams video and audio from the web without trouble, plays local audio and video, runs open office as well as my desktop (Linux OO must be *much* more efficient than the Win version) and does what 90% of what I used to use my other systems for.

And the best part? It was a slam dunk compared to 80211 enabled phones and tablet devices. At 299 (329 – 30 credit for getting an Amazon card) it was *cheaper* than an IPAQ, Palm TX, the Nokia880. Non-hackers wouldn’t *think* about replacing those OS’, and they can’t touch what the One can do.

Now that I’m finally off the fence about what to do with it, I couldnt be happier.

Mike Craney

I spent about a day doing all the little hacks from this and various sites to get XP to run. Here’s what finally worked:

1) The C: drive is slow, so don’t write to it. I set up XP on C:, but the pointed all all temp directories for Windows and any other application software to the SDCard in D:. Further, all expensive applications (Office, Open Office, Notes, Acrobat, Paint Shop, Camtasia……) are all installed on D:, not C:. C is reserved for Windows and some utility software.

2) Once you do all that, you have to have ANOTHER SD card permanently resident in the other slot. XP just isn;t going to perform with 1-1.5 GB without a paging file, which you can’t put on C: because it’s too slow, and you can’t put on D: because that’s where your expensive applications are.

Once you get that second SD for the page file (you can put files out there, too — just no applications) XP really starts to hum on my 1GB system. But, if you need to go cheap, just buy a 2GB card for the E: drive. That’s plenty of page file.

So, you need to invest $50-100 bucks in SD cards in order to make XP work. If you bought the UNIX One without the harddrive (my buy was an impulse buy while traving in Malaysia, so I was stuck with it), and you need to run XP, that’s how to make it work.

I suspect that it would even run faster if I did a fresh install of optimized (see other posts on utilities to optimize and skinny down Windows) and slipstreamed Windows to D:, then used C for rarely access files and E: for the pagefile and other rarely accessed files, but for now, this is good.

Jonny

The reason for the slow write performance is because of the way you formatted the hard drive.

I can’t remember which way round it is, but either NTFS or FAT have horrible read/write performance on SSDs, you just have to format it in the other mode and it will be speedy.

Bjarne

Well I tryed to install XP with ntfs and it was hours … To run the pc up to date was forever – and finaly I was thinking something is wrong.

I googled and found ntfs was totaly wrong. I reinstalled with fat and that was a lot faster – almost like normal.

I have concluded that SSD is not so fit on Xp – at least not the cheep stuff coming with Acer one. And they do supply XP version with a normal disk – it is for a reason.

Even booting from Acer One into XP was slightly faster then on a laptop ith disk – it is terrible to use with this disk. Maybe with a browser that do not write to disk it will be ok to browse internet.

I think HP delivers mini note with hardisk that parks the reading head.
This also have 800 vertical resolution – a much better choise.

Elroy

“Scotty” posted the following and my AA1 with XP went from unusable to usable. Not great but good enough. Thank you Scotty!

“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”

simbeb

First I want to say that if your retailer retains 15% of your bill for ‘restocking’, you are being had. There is no such thing as a ‘restocking fee’. That was made up by dishonest companies who take advantage of most people not being consumer rights and legal experts to keep some of the money you’ve paid them when returning your purchase. Don’t let them do this!
Secondly, I am happy to find out that most netbook users here are happy to use their netbook for what it is supposed do. Looking round forums, it seems like these UMPCs are mainly bought by geeks who can’t wait to rip their guts open to upgrade hardware and change the OS. They then are surprised to find out that they don’t perform well as a result, then once they’ve outrageously voided the warranty, return it.
We’ll never get a gaming machine out of a £200 PC the size of a hardback.. Also, after moaning for years about Microsoft’s supremacy in our PC, let’s not start erasing our Linux OS’s to try and replace it with an outdated Microsoft OS. What sense does it make?
PS: Actually, I will change my OS: I am waiting for an official release of the netbook edition of Ubuntu. At least it still is Linux, I know it works with 512mb RAM, and even better: it is custom-made for netboooks…

Vitaly

Ds anybody know is it possible to arrange dual boot with Linux on SD-card in a “storage expansion” slot (XP/HDD version)

Kevin C. Tofel

David, if you go with the hard drive model, you should be able to setup dual (or even triple-boot). I can’t speak to how quickly Linpus Lite would boot up on the hard drive over the SSD because I didn’t try it. I suspect it would be a little slower, but not buy much if at all.

grad student, you are correct. XP was slow due to the SSD write speeds. You should be fine with the hard drive unit. I also can’t see why Ubuntu would be an issue for the unit, but there’s bound to be some driver challenges.

grad student

Just to clarify, this was meant to address installing XP on an SSD-based Acer One, right?

I just ordered the 512M, 120G HD equipped Linux model ($320 CDN this week@NCIX)- I’m planning on replacing the factory Linux OS with either Ubuntu or XP – I’m assuming the slowness of your experience was based on using the SSD, but having an HD should be less of an issue… hopefully… ? Or is XP extra slow because of the low 512MB of ram? (wasn’t 512 enough ram for XP a couple of years ago?)

BTW, I haven’t seen alot about Ubuntu on the Acer One – is it not a good fit?

David Friedman

The Linux/Flash disk model is said to boot very fast–some people report 15 seconds. I have not seen any figures for the boot time of the XP/HD model, or for the boot time of the HD model if you install Linpus Lite on it.

Ideally, I would like to get one of the XP models, set it up to dual boot XP/Linpus, use the latter most of the time for the fast boot, but have XP available to run Windows programs without having to mess with WINE. Would that give me a 15 second boot or something close? How hard would be to do?

Still more ideal would be for Acer to offer a dual boot HD version.

Dave

The Acer Aspire One is supposed to augment your other computers, so why is every one so hell bent on putting XP on the thing when it will do what is expected of it as it stands. That would just make it another pc you own that needs an anti virus program on it. I really like my AA1. It does what I need it to do when I turn it on and I don’t have to worry about viruses.

I saw a video on You Tube that showed the bootup time differences between an AA1 with XP, the 120 gig hard drive and 1 gig of RAM and one with Linux Lite. The one with Linux Lite was booted up and surfing the net long before XP was finished booting.

Now the AA1 with Linux seems to me to be the one to get. First of all,isn’t that what having a Netbook is all about. Booting up quickly and getting you online in a hurry? Second, you won’t be using it as your only computer in the house and third, since it boots up so fast and increasing the file storage space is as simple as popping in an SD Card, why would anyone want to spend more money to get yet ANOTHER computer with XP? Like I said, the way it is is fine and for my other computing needs I can go to my bigger laptop or my desktop.

Also, I don’t think the 3 cell battery is so bad. It lasts me 2 hours and 55 minutes with lite web surfing, checking e-mail and using the Messenger chat program. I think that is pretty good for a battery that small. If all you want is yet another computer with xp then buy one that comes with xp and stop complaining about Linux Lite which is a perfectly capable OS on its own.

David

I have ordered a zif to CF adapter and a 350x 8GB CF by A-Data and once I get them I’ll swap them in to replace the slow (I already have the faster Samsung SSD and not the slower Intel SSD) SSD inside, and it’ll be much faster than any HDD based netbooks and even a tad faster than the Asus EEE PC series (which has a much faster SSD, at least the first 4 GB).

True if you aren’t good enough to do hacking then best is to buy the HDD version and it will be ok, except that battery life won’t be as good as SSD, a bit more noise and a bit thicker and heavier than SSD version. But you also get a much larger size storage.

In order to cut down SP3 installation it should have been slip-streamed into the install disc, and not installed separately. Any decent IT admin person should be able to help you to do that if you can’t do it yourself.

I tried all the tweaking tricks except the embedded Windows hack (Write Filter), and I’m still not satisfied w/ the performance. So I’m spending another $100. and after that it’ll smoke everything else except a true high speed SSD drive!

Bob

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.)

Ryan

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.

Spidubic

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.

Brian

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

Scotty

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. :-)

Joe

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.

Mike Cane

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!

Steve Paine

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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