In everyday use, the m/a feels faster than the majority of Atom netbooks we have tested, be they running Linux or Windows XP. In fact, it feels very much the same as the 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo machine this review is being written on, which makes it one of the few netbooks we reckon you could live with as your only computer.
The m/a's display may be glossy by its 1366 x 768 resolution beats most netbook screens
By way of illustration, while BBC's iPlayer works on Atom netbooks it doesn't do so quite as fluidly as it does on full-size machines with more memory and faster processors. On the dot m/a, though, everything was silky smooth with no stalls.
That said, HD video playback proved somewhat worse than we expected. Using VLC, the m/a proved incapable of playing 1080p AVI and H.264 test files, even in a window. After installing a trial copy of the CoreAVC codec we managed to play the same H.264 video at full screen using Windows Media Player 11, but it was touch and go and certainly not running as happily as the same file ran on an N280-powered, 1204 x 600 machine using the same codec.
The same was true when we used the dot m/a to view the Apple-hosted trailer for Avatar. At 720 x 480, the QuickTime file played at full screen with no problem at all. At 720p it just showed the first signs of struggle with the occasional stall. At 1080p it all went pear shaped.
Running the 3DMark06 benchmark produced a figure of 121 which is above par for a netbook but still means that you won't be doing any serious gaming on your m/a. Turning to the PCMark05 results, the dot m/a returned a rather poor memory score, an average HDD score and a better-than-average CPU rating.
The m/a has the usual array of netbook ports
While HD video playback may have bee a bit dodgy no apologies have to be made for the sound. Not only are the stereo speakers rather better than the norm but the Dolby 5.1 emulator generates a pleasant pseudo-surround sound listening experience if you're using headphones. Usefully for anyone suffering from auditory hyperesthesia, the m/a is a very quiet runner, the fan spinning up to speed with barely a whisper.
Packard Bell for many a year put out so many underpowered laptops that they make Acer look high spec in comparison. PB as a name conjures up thoughts in my mind of some very poor quality kit and I wonder why Acer want to use the name.
@ cornz 1
my acer aspire 4720z running fedora core and xp on top of virtualbox is a gem. i'd call it the best value for money deal you can get.
1 year later, i see other greenhorns such as you, pay double for a big brand laptop with vista, and they still turn green at my old acer. and xp is needed for the odd occasion when a client insists on me connecting to their network from home using a windows machine or when i need to edit an office document that has lots of graphics and tables in it.
i take it, you are not aware of how to actually use / configure a computer.
Why no video acceleration?
The 690G has hardware acceleration for video decode, and works well in HTPCs. Is this capability missing from this model?
Damn! 2 months too late
This was pretty much the netbook I was looking for, but failed to find. I ended up paying 500 notes for a Dell Vostro 1220: nice, zippy enough, but just a bit heavier and bulkier than I really wanted.
I could've had one of these AND a better battery for a fair bit less.
The return of CrapHard Hell
I remember working for Dixons Mastercare PC service (Hangs head in shame, hence AC) back in '96.
Absolute, monumental, over-priced junk.
Hopefully, the new, Acer-flavoured kit will give them a better reputation.