Linux Blog

Review: Acer Aspire One

Filed under: General Linux,Linux Hardware — at 11:00 am on Friday, September 9, 2011

Acer Aspire One LinuxEarlier this year, I was shopping around for Netbooks and purchased the Acer Aspire One Netbook. I was specifically looking for a Netbook that was fairly small and portable, but with a keyboard that was actually usable. BestBuy had a few, a nice HP with an awesome keyboard…but it only came in hot pink… Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but as I’m not a 13 year old girl, it wasn’t really for me. The oh so helpful sales clerk informed me that, if I really wanted it, I could pay the extra $100 for the exact same thing in blue, but I’d have to wait for as it was out of stock. No thanks. There was a Toshiba with decent specs, but the keyboard wasn’t that great so I skipped on that one too.

The next day I checked out another BestBuy store since that’s all we really have around here, no Fry’s, Nothing! While I was out, I had to pick some stuff up from the nearby Walmart. Yes, yes, I know, I’m fueling the destruction of small businesses, but there are incredibly few options around here. After watching some People Of Walmart candidates, I decided to check out the electronics department. It seemed rather small for a Walmart, tucked right at the back or the store with a TV to employee ration of 50:1. I found the Netbooks, well, one Netbook, The Acer Aspire One, near the other computers. It was $260 which seemed pretty reasonable. When asking the clerk if I could get one unlocked, he told me they had the same one but in black in the storage area for $199. Sold! Most Helpful Walmart Employee Ever.

After removing it from its lunch box sized container, the first thing I noticed was how it looked like Acer had taken notes from Apple with their fancy packaging. That’s cool I suppose. It comes with Windows 7 starter. You’ll probably want to fix that. I tried calling Acer about the refund (hey I didn’t accept the EULA guys) but they didn’t understand my question and tried to step me through reinstalling Windows without a CD Rom. Apparently you have to request the CD from them and buy an external optical drive. I should have messed with them and asked them how to plug my parallel CD burner in, as there is no parallel port.

After booting up and getting thoroughly frustrated with Windows 7 Starter (What the hell, only 3 processes and you can’t change the background), I decided to give that Ubuntu Netbook edition a go. It was only slightly more bearable than Windows 7. Once it was installed, I booted and gave it about five minutes before deciding to install a non netbook specific distribution.
For the size and price, the specs are pretty decent:

10.1″ LED (1024×600)
Intel Atom N450 1.66Ghz, 512KB Cache – Dual Core!
1GB Ram
160GB HD
Intel Chipset
Atheros AR9285 PCI-Express Wireless network adapter

These serve me well for its intended purpose and actually exceeded my expectations. It is perfectly capable of running Virtual Machines with VirtualBox without any noticeable decrease in performance. Pretty much everything worked right out of the box with two exceptions. First, the Ethernet adapter (with Linux) and second, the built in microphone doesn’t work with Skype (on Linux), however an external does. Suspend and Hibernate even work!

Battery life is amazing for the standard 3 cell battery that comes with it. You can buy one with more cells, but I can normally find a power source in the four or more hours I manage to squeeze out of it. Powertop FTW! With the stock battery, it doesn’t weigh too much and is perfect to carry around all day without being a burden. The charger is somewhat small and has a click/snap plug on it. You can position it so that the adapter goes left to right, or top to bottom. The changeable tips also means you can swap them out to use the adapter in different countries (you have to buy them separately though.) Since I couldn’t find the tips I didn’t buy any, but to be honest I didn’t really look. After travelling with it I think the interchangeable tips would be well worth the investment, as it just doesn’t work well with a travel adapter. In England, it worked all-right as long as it was plugged into a surge, but if you plugged it into the wall, it would fall out of the adapter. In France, it didn’t fall out of the travel adapter but rather the travel adapter fell out of the wall. It wouldn’t charge via the adapter in a regular wall outlet, but if I propped it up in the bathroom into the shaver plug it would. I could blame this all on the plug, but to be honest the click/snap tips probably would have fixed it all.
Really, the only things I don’t like about it are the microphone and Ethernet issues (though I think those can be fixed), and the touchpad is entirely too sensitive when typing. You kind of have to type palms up, or be very careful not to touch it or you’ll end up typing somewhere else. You can fix that by getting a USB mouse or by turning the touchpad off temporarily (FN F7). Overall I’m very happy with it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent reasonably priced Netbook that can pack a punch.