Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why we can’t recommend the Acer Aspire One


By Heather Wardell

As my previous laptop began to near the end of its lifespan, I began looking for a replacement. As a writer, I need portability for writing anywhere I feel like, but I also like a computer with good graphics and sound for video games. In the end, I replaced the laptop with two computers: an HP desktop and an Acer Aspire One netbook. This review focuses on the netbook.

I was frankly skeptical that a machine that fits into my purse would be able to do what I needed. But I fell in love with the Acer Aspire One at the store and couldn't talk myself out of buying it. Consumer tip: If you, too, are the type of person who names your gadgets, do not name a gadget before buying it, because after that you'll have to have it whether you want it or not.

"I have never been so unimpressed with a company."

Mine is the Aspire One 8.9, with a screen measuring 8.9" diagonally (hence the catchy name). (There is also an Aspire One 10.1, but the store where I shopped didn't have them.) The entire unit is 9.8" long, 6.7" wide, and just over an inch thick when closed. Figure A shows the Aspire One sitting beside my old 15" laptop for size comparison.


The Aspire One is significantly smaller than my old 15" laptop. (click for larger image)

Hardware elements

The 2.2-pound Aspire One comes with either an 8GB or 16GB solid state hard drive or a 120GB traditional hard drive. Since I intend to use it almost exclusively for writing, I went with the cheaper 8GB drive. The netbook came with Windows XP (a Linux version is also available), and now that I've loaded it with Microsoft Office, anti-virus software, my three previously finished novels, the myriad of files for my current one, and MP3s of the two CDs I listen to while writing, I have only 615 megabytes free.

However, the unit has one SD card reader and one multi-card reader built in, and came with an 8GB card, so I'm not concerned about space at this time.

The three-cell battery is supposed to offer approximately three hours' life, and that seems to be pretty much accurate. I use the device on its lowest (but still easy to see) brightness setting, which helps with battery life.

The screen, obviously, is small, but I find it functional. I have moved the Windows taskbar to the right-hand side of the screen to maximize the vertical space, and that helps. Figure B shows a screen shot of the device, with my first novel (available for free download from my Web site!) open in Microsoft Word's Read layout.