Acer Aspire One D250
Inch-thick successor to the popular AA1
Review Acer made a significant impact on the netbook market last year with its hugely popular Aspire One A110. It recently released a selection of new netbooks in its Aspire One range, and the D250 we have here is bizarrely similar to the D150, which was only launched a couple of months ago.
Acer's Aspire One D250: only an inch thick
It might not be a catwalk queen, but the D250 looks attractive enough and benefits from a well-built chassis that doesn't creak under pressure. Four colour options are available: white, black, red and blue, and on our white review model each hinge features a small green bit of plastic on the side. Whether this is tacky or tasteful is up for debate, but we rather like it.
We're keener on the D250's girth - lack of it, rather. It's only an inch high. That's not as thin as Asus' svelte Eee PC 1008HA - but makes it much nicer than the D150 and lots of other, chunky netbooks.
The D250 we reviewed makes use of Intel's 1.66GHz Atom N280 and Acer supplies it with 1GB of DDR 2 memory. Watch out, though: it's also available with the 1.6GHz N270, and in fact almost all supplier in the UK are selling the latter.
Two USB ports and a multi-format card reader are found on the right, along with the power socket. On the left sit Ethernet, VGA, audio in/out and a third USB port. The vent is also on the left, and although the D250's fan fired up a fair amount during testing - even when doing little more than browsing the web - it's not loud enough to irritate.
The rear is home to naught but the three-cell 2200mAh battery. A six-cell version is also available, though the battery's a bulky affair that angles down from the notebook to lift the back of the machine up off the deck. It makes the machine less comfortable to carry - stick it in a bag and you won't care - but you may find it angles the keyboard better.
Standard netbook spec
At the front you'll find a small Wi-Fi power switch - Bluetooth can be axed using a button just above the keyboard.
Flip the D250 on its belly and three removable backplates are revealed, providing access to the hard drive bay - home to a 160GB 5400rpm Sata drive - memory and an empty Mini PCI Express slot. If you want to improve on the memory, you'll need to jettison the installed 1GB module since the D250 only houses just single SO-Dimm slot.
There's room for bigger, better keyboard and trackpad
Acer completely revamped the keyboard on its recently-launched Aspire One 751, but with the D250 it appears to have stuck with the exact same keyboard as used on the original AA1. On the 8.9in A110, the keyboard took up almost the entire width of the chassis, but on the D250 there's a 1cm edge either side of it. It's not much, admittedly, but even a slight enlarging of the keys would improve usability.
Acer could also have switched to the flat-style of keys as found on its new Aspire One 751 and HP's Mini range of netbooks. As it stands, the keyboard is a mite too fiddly to type on at speed.
The trackpad measures just 50 x 30mm, and Acer has managed to furnish it with multi-touch capabilities, albeit fairly limited ones. You can zoom in and out by using a two-fingered pinching motion, while dragging two fingers left and right will perform functions such as navigating back and forth between web pages and scrolling through an album of photos. There are no Apple-style three- or four-fingered gestures available, but that's hardly surprising since fitting just two fingers on the miniature trackpad is something of a challenge.
The small sliver of a bar underneath the trackpad provides one button for left and right clicks, but it's horribly stiff to operate. If you're going to use this netbook for an extended period of time, do your fingers a favour and invest in a mouse.
The 10.1in screen has a native resolution of 1024 x 600 and is bright, crisp and exhibits vibrant colours. Best of all, though, it performs amazingly well outdoors and even in direct sunlight we were able to see the desktop clearly. The only thing you'll need to watch out for when using it outside is the glossy screen attracting troublesome reflections. Located just above the screen is a webcam, but it's only a 0.3Mp job.
Here's the three-cell battery - a six-cell unit's also available
The fact Gigabit Ethernet has been sacrificed for bog-standard 10/100Mb/s wired networking won't concern too many perspective buyers, but Acer's decision to go for 802.11b/g wireless instead of 802.11n is surprising to say the least. Bluetooth is built-in, though, allowing for regular pairing headaches with your mobile.
So, to performance. The extra 60MHz of processing grunt afforded by the N280 pushed the D250 slightly ahead of the 1.6GHz N270-based models we've tested with PCMark05's CPU test, with a score of 1527. It also managed to outperform Asus' N280-powered 1000HE, but not by much. There were no surprises in the Memory test, although its score of 4615 in the HDD test is slightly above average.
PCMark 05 Results
Longer bars are better
Longer bars are better
Longer bars are better
When troubled with a bit of Gaussian Blur action in The Gimp, it took an average of 4.8 seconds to apply the filter to our standard test image, which is in line with other Atom-based netbooks.
Video Playback Battery Life Results
Battery Life in Minutes
Longer bars are better
On our scales, the Aspire One D250 weighed in at just 1.1kg, making it one of the lightest 10in netbooks you'll find. Taking its lightweight nature into account, the fact it managed to last two hours and twenty-four minutes in our high-strain video playback test is admirable. You'll get much more than this by going easier on the D250, and with a fully-charged battery Windows estimated there was enough juice for just under six hours of action.
Take the six-cell version and you'll do even better, of course.
Forget the D150 - this is the real successor to the original AA1
Usability is paramount when it comes to netbooks, and given the updated keyboard found on Acer's Aspire One 751 it's hard not to feel a little hard done by that the company has opted to use the old Aspire One A110 keyboard on the D250.
The new machine is not without its charms, but with the similarly specified Eee PC 1000HE boasting 802.11n, a better keyboard and a barn-storming nine-hour maximum battery life, we suspect many will opt for Asus' offering, especially since it costs the same.
Naturally, the Eee PC 1000HE's long battery life means a bigger battery and, in turn, a heavier 1.45kg netbook – it's almost twice as thick, too - it's up to you whether you think it's worth the extra 350g. ®
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