Acer Aspire One 751
Netbook with an 11.6in, HD screen
Review The new Acer Aspire One 751 has a screen that measures 11.6in on the diagonal with a resolution of 1366 x 768 and that’s mighty big for a netbook. As it happens, we were told a few months back that Intel has strict rules about the sale of Atom N-series processors to avoid cannibalising the sales of Core 2 and Centrino products.
Acer Aspire One 751: a netbook with a notebook screen resolution
One of those rules, we were told, is a ban on using the N270 or N280 in products with a screen size of more than ten inches. Clearly, the Aspire One 751 blows that line into the weeds so we have to accept that the screen size isn’t much use for defining whether a mobile device is a netbook or a notebook.
Happily, Acer has the answer down pat: a netbook is used to consume media from the net, it reckons, while a notebook can be used to create media. It’s a slick PR-produced answer that doesn’t really explain too much, so we’re choosing to understand that you can use a netbook to watch movies but you’ll need a proper notebook if you want to encode or recode movies.
The bottom surface of the Aspire One 751 is flat white and the lid is pearl white but once the lid is open you’re presented with a black keyboard and black screen surround. The keyboard is a decent size and the keys have a good amount of travel, although it flexes when you type hard. The layout of the keyboard has been done properly with the Enter key on the outside edge, and the Shift and Ctrl keys on both the right and the left side. The only quirk that we noted is that the Page Up and Page Down keys are next to each other instead of being one above the other.
The matte black surround to the touchpad is prone to showing greasy fingerprints and the touchpad itself is small - 65mm x 33mm - so your finger may slip off it occasionally. More annoyingly, the tapered strip that forms the two mouse buttons is tiny and less than 10mm deep at its thickest point which makes it tricky to use.
Although the touchpad looks conventional it is somewhat cleverer than you might expect as it incorporates multi-touch technology that allows you to zoom in and out of a page by pinching and spreading two fingers. Hmm, now where have we seen that idea before?
But whereas the zoom on an Apple iPod Touch or iPhone is smooth and seamless, the same can't be said about the 751. Webpages change size in a series of small jerks, for instance. We doubt that the 11.6in screen is the culprit, although there is the possibility that the slowness of multi-touch is emphasised by it as you can get away with murder in terms of image quality when you’re working with a small phone screen.
Handheld-oriented CPU on board
We feel that it's more likely that the Intel GMA 500 integrated graphics core in the Intel US15W chipset lies at the root of the, well 'problem' is too strong a word, so let’s call it an issue.
Acer has plumped for Windows XP Home rather than Linux or Vista. We can argue about the merits of Linux all day long, but XP is certainly a better choice than Vista when you have a 1.33GHz single-core Atom Z520 and 1GB of memory under the bonnet. Although the clock speed is rather low numerically, this handheld tablet-oriented version of Atom - hence the netbook-beating screen dimensions - performs admirably well, although we did hit an initial snag.
For some reason we couldn’t establish an internet connection and the browser crashed with an obscure error message in an oriental language. We’re not being coy here - we simply don’t know which language it was. We had noted that the 751 is delivered with a stack of bloatware on the 160GB hard drive so we started by removing the McAfee Security Suite in case the Firewall was the guilty party, and - bingo - the browser burst into net-connected life.
Once we’d got over that hurdle we were very happy with the 751. It performs well, although the screen is rather shiny and reflective if you’re working under strong light. The machine is very cool and quiet in operation. The stream of warm air coming out of the exhaust vent for the CPU cooler runs at less than 40°C.
We had no problems watching a 720 HD movie trailer on the Apple QuickTime website so in that sense the graphics work perfectly well but gamers will be bitterly disappointed. In 3DMark06, for example, the Acer scored a mere 86 points which is a new low for modern hardware as the GMA X4500 in Intel's G45 chipset score over 1000 marks. However, the GMA 950 core in other netbooks scores between 106 and 335 - at a lower, 1024 x 600 resolution, at that - so it's not way off the chart.
Longer bars are better
Longer bars are better
Acer claims that the six-cell 5200mAh battery has a runtime of five hours, and we found that we could run a continuous loop of PCMark05 for two hours and 13 minutes. You can double that figure to get a real-world battery life figure so we’re happy that the Acer will run for four and a half hours with the screen at full brightness, pleasingly close to the figure supplied by Acer. Recharging the battery took one hour 30 minutes.
The trackpad's multi-touch
The list of ports and connectors takes advantage of the amount of space that is available with a card reader, one USB port and the VGA port on the right side while on the left side we have the Ethernet port, two USB, the power plug and jacks for a headset. In a neat touch, the VGA and LAN ports are located on the angled corners at the rear of the chassis.
Wireless connections consist of 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which can be enabled and disabled by two flick switches on the front of the chassis. Our pre-production review sample had a SIM slot behind the battery for 3G, but this feature will not be immediately available as an option. The non-3G Aspire One 751 has a price of £380 so our best guess is that 3G will raise the price to a penny under £400.
The large - for a netbook - 11.6in screen on the Aspire One 751 takes these little laptops in an interesting direction. However, the price is getting uncomfortably close to the point where you can buy a proper laptop with a proper CPU. ®
More Notebook/Netbook Reviews...
Dell Inspiron Mini 12
Toshiba Portégé R600
Sony Vaio TT