Acer Aspire One: the new sub-laptop to beat?
A quick play with it and we're hooked
Early reviews of Acer's £220 Aspire One were none too complementary about the Small, Cheap Computer's build quality, but have spent a brief time with a unit that's not a pre-production model, we'd say Eee PC creator Asus has a real challenge on its hands.
We've not had time to conduct a full review - our unit's on the way, Acer says - but after a quick preview, we're very impressed already.
You can see from the pictures that the One's a nice-looking laptop, and for many buyers that price is all the persuasion they need. That appeals to us, but a number of things attracted us.
Acer's Aspire One: object of desire
First, there's the keyboard. The 901 has the best Eee keyboard yet, but it's still some way off a true laptop keyboard. There's not much travel, and the action requires a firm press. The One's keyboard is much more fluid - it's something we feel we could really type for long periods on, and type quickly. And each key feels larger too.
Without the two machines side by side, it's impossible to say for certain which is the biggest of the two, but we've no doubt the One's keyboard is the better of the two.
The One's Linpus Lite incarnation of Linux is less well known than the Eee PC's Xandros, but it's a good alternative to it. Asus has the better UI, but the One has a Windows XP-like skin which should help it win over users coming over from the Microsoft OS.
The One has a very neat trick: one of the machine's two SD card slots has been included specifically to expand the built-in storage. To that end, Linpus' File Manager allows you to extend the main file system over the SD card.
That's handy because the base One only has 8GB of solid-state storage, a lot less than the 20GB Eee 901 has. Mind you, the 120GB HDD-equipped One is only down as £30 more and comes with 1GB of memory rather than 512MB, though that's plenty for Linux and do you really want a hard drive in a machine that's going to be chucked around a lot? Well, at least you have the choice.
Stylish... and cheap
The One only has 802.11g Wi-Fi - the Eee 901 has 802.11n - but we can live with that given the price. Both machines have a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, three USB 2.0 ports, VGA out, an Ethernet port. The One's other memory card slot can take not only MMC and SDHC but also Memory Stick and xD.
We're not expecting much from the battery - it'll be a lot less than the 901 with its 6600mAh power pack. Again, that's a trade off we personally don't mind making for the price. The One's probably not going to be much worse than the original Eee, and we'd be happy with a laptop that has the same battery life as a full-size model but is a fraction of the size and weight.
The build quality feels good and solid. Cheap it may be, but the One doesn't feel flimsy or unable to take the rigours of life on the road.
Anything we don't like? Only the trackpad, really. It's small and the two buttons are place at each end rather than underneath. That leaves you forever pausing to ponder what to press. The 901's trackpad is a big improvement over previous models' versions, and is definitely superior to the One's. The Acer is a machine that really needs a mouse.
We're looking forward to trying out the One fully, but on the basis of a quick look, this is the machine the Eee and other SCCs have to beat. Watch out for Register Hardware's full write-up soon.
Available now in PC World...:-)
My gf bought one the other day for £249.99 and I checked it out.
1. Reasonable build-quality;
2. Impressive sceen - quite awesome I would say;
3. Keyboard a bit flexy;
4. Battery life about 2.5 hours - maybe a tad more after time;
5. Linpus Linux is naff IMHO. Few apps and the usual hassle installing more/updating etc. Linux geeks will be okay with this though...if they can get a connection to the update server (which we couldn't);
6. Will run Win XP Pro SP2 fine (we tried it). Drivers from Acer Thai site;
7. Webcam is rubbish (only 0.3 megapixels);
8. Under Linpus neither the internal nor an external mic will record sound to local apps like webcam (apparently mics only work with Skype and Messaging services). An external mic works ok with XP Pro. But sound quality is awful. The internal mic still produces only a hissing noise. Even in the highest quality setting webcam video was dead jerky. So altogether webcam is pretty useless;
9. Connected effortlessly to local WLAN;
10. Easy to restore damaged installations. Will boot from a USB stick. Instructions included;
11. Documentation extremely sparse;
12. Acer UK support is virtually non-existent. No one there had 'even seen an Aspire One yet'. So they couldn't help. We were invited to call a premium rate number next day for more info. Although the hardware is guaranteed for a year, the software is not, apparently, guaranteed at all. So you has to pay plenty for help with it;
13. Sapphire Blue colour looks really cool.
In summary quite a dinky little unit and just about acceptable - to some perhaps - for the originally intended launch price of £199. But, given the above, way OTT at £250. So - back to the shop it went, and she's now saving for an Asus eeePc 901. A wise move methinks.
Like many people I've been hanging back waiting for an eee901 but I noticed the Aspire One has appeared on display in my local branch of PC World (Tunbridge Wells). The guy on the counter confirmed that they had 8 of them in stock (blue linux 8Gb).
The sample on display looked really quite good. The only snag is they've priced it at £249, which seems to be an uplift on the RRP for the base model.
They also had a plainer-looking own brand Advent machine with 80Gb hard drive for £279 (winXP).
Any news on when/how/how much the larger battery will be available?
Just noticed Play has shifted the date from 25th July to 7th August. Also the basic version on Play.com is £229 not £219. Amazon is the cheapest for the base version (512 ram 8gb SSD HDD)
amazon.co.uk have it down for Aug 11, play.com for Aug 7th. Both want £219.99 for the base version.