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About two weeks ago I made an impulse buy of a netbook PC. Consider it my contribution to stimulating the economy. I was at Fry’s pricing some hardware and getting ideas for a new TV for a Media room I am working on when I saw all the tiny netbooks and just became fascinated with them. It is one thing to see pictures online or even see the occasional netbook while traveling, but to see a couple rows of tiny machines and think that each one has more power than the gigantic (by comparison) machines we were buying just a decade ago is a bit mind-boggling.
While I had not planned on buying one upon walking into Fry’s, I have done quite a bit of research on different models and the pros and cons of a netbook purchase. I had mad up my mind I was going to get one but had also come to the conclusion that I wanted to wait until Windows 7 netbooks were available. I use Windows 7 on every client machine I have at this point and it is absolutely fantastic. The idea of rolling back to Vista, much less Windows XP seems silly to me at this point. But I also decided that if I waited on Windows 7 I would probably then tell myself to wait on the next flavor of Windows and so on and so on and…. I just hadn’t planned for the purchase. I did it anyway, and here is why….
First – What I Purchased
Box smaller than my Lenovo Laptop! Acer Aspire One (Model ZG5 – Config: A0A150-1635) Intel Atom N270 CPU 1.6 ghz 1gb DDR2 RAM (upgradable to 1.5gigs) 8.9” WSVGA Screen 160gb Drive Lan and WiFi of course Built-in WebCam Windows XP Home Edition
Box smaller than my Lenovo Laptop!
Acer Aspire One (Model ZG5 – Config: A0A150-1635)
Intel Atom N270 CPU 1.6 ghz
1gb DDR2 RAM (upgradable to 1.5gigs)
8.9” WSVGA Screen
Lan and WiFi of course
Windows XP Home Edition
Next – Why I purchased
Weight/Size – This unit weighs in at 2.3 lbs. But lets add some context to this. Practically all of the netbooks weighed about the same to me when I was picking them up. With few exceptions I could not tell a noticeable difference in weight between different machines. It weighs less than half the weight of my T61p which is a welcome change. The Acer is very small. Almost too small for me. There were one or two units that were smaller but I am a big guy with big hands. I don’t care for standard laptop keyboards anyway so when it comes to netbooks, ALL of their keyboards are too small to me so I reconciled myself to just dealing with it.
Left – Lenovo T61p / Right – Acer Aspire One
Feel – I am a big fan of substance. Again, some context. When software manufacturers stopped putting paper based user manuals in the boxes with the software and instead placing them on the CD/DVD itself – BUT! – the packaging size remained the same and the cost of the software remained the same, I felt a bit ripped off. Back in the 80’s when you picked up a piece of software it had some weight to it. The heavy user manual inside gave the box some substance. I felt like I was getting something for the hard earned cash I was plunking down. Granted 1980’s software was the Constanza Wallet of software with unnecessary stuff piled in and it killed a bunch of trees to boot, but I felt I was getting my money’s worth.
This unit has a good weight to size ratio for me. The combination makes me feel as if I am getting my money’s worth. Compare that to my iPhone which cost *more* than the netbook and I feel like the iPhone is a complete rip off. Not exactly a fair comparison but I think you will get my point. The netbook weighs enough to make me feel like I paid for something real and little enough to make it very easy to carry around.
It also feels good. All the edges are soft and round and the unit fits comfortably in my hands. It is very easy to carry and so far has proven to feel very natural when toting it around. There is one exception to this – the rubber feet on the bottom of the unit are too large and hard for my taste. Particularly the foot on the front left of the unit (it’s actually not the rubber feet themselves. It’s the way they are mounted). I would prefer they be smaller and softer/stickier. But I think all laptops suffer from this issue. Dear Laptop Industry – develop a material that mounts flush with the bottom if the laptop, prevents slippage and absorbs shocks and you will be praised.
Performance – The Acer Aspire comes with Windows XP Home edition with 1gig of RAM and a 1.6gig Intel Atom proc. I haven’t used XP in ages and I have never used XP Home edition outside of basic testing (XP Home doesn’t join Windows Domains which I run at home). I am also spoiled by the performance of Windows 7 on my Lenovo T61p and Windows 7 on my Quad-Core 8 Gig Ram Media Center at home so nothing will meet my expectations. But I am pleasantly surprised by how responsive the Acer is with XP. Netbooks are designed to get the most out of the batteries they have and that comes at the sacrifice of power. However, web pages come up just fine (Using IE7) and Office 2007 (I upgraded it) apps run great. Outlook is responsive (connected to home mail server where I have significantly less email to deal with). Since this machine is going to be used for browsing, email, and light media use, I have not loaded a bunch of other apps to it and don’t intend to. I am sure that over time it will begin to pile up as it does with most systems but I am determined to keep it as light weight as possible.
By the way, from power off to Outlook 2007 up and running to compose an email and my home pages open in IE is about 4 mins. Not bad time if you ask me.
Price – Fry’s had this unit for $299. Even as an impulse buy, I have been unable to find a cheaper price anywhere on the web that is worth mentioning. The cheapest price I found was $270 and it goes for as high as $370. Go to Fry’s if there is one near you.
To sum it up, I bought a netbook because I wanted light weight portability in a basic web/mail PC. I bought this particular unit because it felt good in my hands, it was neither too heavy not too light, and the price was right (being my fave color of blue didn’t hurt either!). It is great for what I use it for and I have no further expectations from it so I am good.
Chris, it looks like you bought the right form factor for your needs. I recently bought a Nokia N810, which is much smaller - about 3x5x 0.5 and weighs less than 8 oz. However, I bought it to take on bike rides/trips. It suits my needs perfectly.
That is too small for me! My hands are way too big for a unit like that. I like the idea of a full PC in a small unit though. It's amazing how comapct we are making a full PC these days!
The keyboard is where most subnotebooks get it wrong. They shrink it down too much or not enough. They make the keys a little bit smooshy, or they over compensate like the HP Mininote, creating a satisfying and solid feel that unfortunately drives the price up. The Acer though is different. The keyboard is decently sized, firm and easy to use. Our standard keyboard test involves writing articles, playing some games and writing the Jabberwocky poem over and over again – and we had absolutely no problems with any of them when it came to the Acer Aspire One.
Reading your post makes me wish I had waited to get the Acer Aspire One instead of the Toshiba A135 that I bought in 2007.
I had to get new hardware though as my 2001 vintage laptop was way too underpowered to run current apps.
Like you, I am a big fan of Windows 7. I have removed Vista from the A135 and now run build 7000 (Beta) of Windows 7.
The photos of the Washington countryside are great. I used to travel to Tacoma on business and always enjoyed going there.