I’ve recently noticed that I’m getting quite a lot of visitors who have been searching for information on the Acer Aspire One (AAO) and its capabilities, so thought it would be useful to write a review of my experiences to date to address some of these queries. If you would like any further information or want me to test something on the AAO please e-mail me and I’ll do my best to help.

I’ve had my AAO (A150-Bw model) for a few months now and have tested it in a number of different circumstances. I’ve taken it to my study school in Aberystwyth, used it at conferences, on the train, at work and at home.

from Aaronage at Flickr.com

from Aaronage at Flickr.com

Good points

Portable

OK it’s an obvious one but it really is very portable, it fits in a small bag although the power pack makes it a little bit more of a hassle (having said that the power pack is also a lot smaller than regular power packs). Now I can easily take my laptop to work with me and I don’t even mind carrying it around in case I use it. Previously it was a major rigmarole to bring my laptop to work and involved a big laptop bag; the AAO fits into my Body Shop bag along with a couple of textbooks and my lunch, brilliant.

Connections

It has plenty of connectors (USB ports, memory card slots etc.), and of course wireless network which I live on (although more on this in the bad points).

Software capabilities

I’m not really a hardcore gamer so I haven’t made many demands on my machine, however I have been using Photoshop and Dreamweaver CS3 on there with no problem at all (except for the small screen which can be frustrating when you have too many panels open!). It brings up a warning when opening Adobe Bridge CS3 that you don’t have a recommended processor, but you can choose to ignore the warning and it seems to work fine.

I’ve also had a go of Second Life on there, which again runs well. The rendering takes a little time which is to be expected really, and it’s far better than the laptop I was using previous to this one.

Most of the stuff I do now is web-based and of course this is what the netbook is designed to do so it’s great for things through the browser. I’ve been experimenting with using Chrome on my netbook too, I’ll hopefully get round to writing a post about Chrome another time.

Bad points

Wireless issue

A couple of months ago I lost my wireless signal. I tried to repair it on the connections menu (which sadly I had become accustomed to as it seems to lose connection every now and again if it’s been in hibernate mode), but it wouldn’t work. I then realised that this was because it couldn’t even see my wireless card. Oh dear. First I panicked, then argued with my boyfriend about whether or not this had anything to do with the fact that I had to change a lot of settings to get onto the network at Aberystwyth in September. A quick internet search seemed to show that it wasn’t anything to do with that and that others with AAO’s have had the exact same problem. It seems to be the fault of the wireless card as it is happening to both Linux and XP models. After a few times shutting down and booting up again, it suddenly reappeared and starting working again. It’s been fine since, until yesterday when the same thing happened again. This time I followed the advice I found on the Acer Aspire One User Forum which told me to uninstall the card (scary!) and then search for it again. It now has two copies but the second seems to work. I also downloaded a new driver for the card and am hoping that might fix things.

No CD drive

Yes, I know it’s obvious and I bought the netbook knowing full well that it didn’t have a CD drive, however it can be difficult without one. Things like a simple task of installing software suddenly become a major task. Luckily, my boyfriend has recently set us up with Windows Home Server and a dedicated server PC so it’s been made a lot easier with that.

Battery life

The battery performance isn’t great and is often criticised – mine lasts for around 2 hours which is OK, but not great if you have a long train journey or are at a conference – a little bit more battery power would be good. You can upgrade to a better battery if it really is an issue but I’m not so bothered that I think it’s worth buying a new one (plus the battery is bigger and thus not as portable).

Would you recommend it?

Yes definitely. Particularly for anyone who, like me, spends a lot of time on the net. It would also be great for anyone who does a lot of travelling. We took it to America with us and used it every night to upload our holiday photos to Flickr (using the hotel’s free wireless connection – God bless America!). It’s not a replacement for a desktop or a main laptop, but for portability and convenience it’s great.

Netbooks in libraries

I’ve noticed that more and more students are also using netbooks to bring into the library with them. It’s ideal for students; they are relatively cheap machines, easy to carry round with all your books and paperwork, and provide quick and easy access to the internet. I think in the future we will be seeing a lot more of these, particularly in University libraries. I’ve heard about some places that have laptops just for use within the building, and I think netbooks would be great for this. You could move around the library to wherever your resources are or where you prefer to study and still have access to all your electronic resources as well as your documents and the internet, what more could you want?!

  • Deanna–USA

    Hey, Thank you for this!

    I started researching the capabilities of this laptop and found your page.

    My laptop that I bought for school is great but, it is very heavy and a hassle to pull out in class. Struggling with cords and bulky cases during a lecture doesn’t go over well with the professor. So, a couple of days ago I started looking at mini laptops and notebooks when I found the Acer Aspire netbook. The price seems too good to be true.

    From what I’ve heard from friends and an instructor of mine is that these computers are slow and (as you mentioned) the wireless connection is shaky and commonly goes away. For school, it is important that I have the internet connection.

    Since you seem to know what you are talking about, what exact problems did you have with yours? Umm….. for example: did it take a lot of computer saviness to fix the problem and is the connection itself slow?

    Thank you for your post.
    DeAnna

  • Hi DeAnna,

    Glad you found the post useful.

    I haven’t personally found the computer itself slow, although I guess if you are used to a high spec desktop machine maybe you would.

    The connection itself is also fine speed wise (when it works!). In order to fix the problem, sometimes I just have to “repair” the connection (right click on the connection and choose repair), other times it’s more serious. I’ve found forums useful for working out how to fix the problem but obviously you either need another PC or a network cable to get to the forums without wireless access! Sometimes nothing works and I just have to restart it a few times or wait and eventually it comes back. I updated my driver for the wireless card recently and hoped that would help things but unfortunately I’m still having problems every now and again.

  • DeAnna–USA

    Well, I’ll try it.

    Thanks a bunch!

    -DeAnna

  • Loretta

    Excellent information! Thank you. I have a friend who is considering buying a netbook. She’ll be thrilled to hear that Photoshop actually works on it as she uses Elements. I’ve heard reports of 5 hrs of battery life…maybe on the newer models??? We have free wireless throughout the city thanks to Google so it’s tempting to get one as well. Thanks again,

    Loretta

    • Hi Loretta, glad you found the review useful. Yes I think perhaps they got things ironed out for the newer versions, mine was one of the original ones.

      Lucky you having free wireless, they are very convenient to carry around so I would certainly recommend it if it they’ve sorted the wireless issues – and even better if there’s a longer battery life. I found the Acer Aspire One user forums very useful, might be worth searching the exact model code on there to see if there are any particular good/bad points before you commit to buying.

  • Loretta

    Thanks for the link! I’ll send it on. Loretta

  • Chris

    Hi, I was reading about your wireless issue. I own an AA1 and run Linux4one CR2 on it. I must say I personally have had no wireless troubles but I remember reading that it has to do with an overheating problem. If the machine gets too hot the Wireless shuts down even though the CPU still runs. The advice was to switch off for a while then reboot a few times until it comes back on-line. Not really a fix or a work around but more of an explanation really. Hope it helps.
    Chris.