If you’re interested in portable nettop/netbook computers, you may be wondering which is better between the Eee PC 901, Eee PC 1000H, and the Acer Aspire One.
I’ve used the Eee PC 901 extensively, and this week, I bought an an Acer Aspire One. Using a crafty coupon at Best Buy, I walked out the door with it for $267 with tax. That’s about half what I paid for my Eee PC 901 less than a month ago.
Now, you might think that would be enough to return my Eee PC on its own. But, this is my first Acer computer… and I’ve heard bad things about Acer from around the watercooler at MechaWorks. So, I charged it up and booted it for the first time.
The first thing I noticed, was the keyboard. It is vastly improved over the Eee PC. The keys span from side to side, leaving all of a centimeter on the edges. The result? The keyboard is actually usable.
The trackpad however, is far from good. It’s bad in all new ways. The buttons are on the sides, which is a nice change from the Eee’s thumb-cramping buttons. However, the surface of the trackpad itself is just plain bad. I managed to greatly improve the performance by going into Synaptics’ control panel and increasing the sensitivity level (or rather, lowering it, so a harder press of the trackpaid is used to signal a response). I don’t know what Acer was thinking with the defaults… it made the trackpad into a mouse, and not the kind you plug into a computer.
Also, the Aspire One lacks Bluetooth. For half the price, and the base constraints of the Atom platform… I can see why they did this. Still, it’s going to hurt them in winning over the tech savvy. Dongles are so 20th Century.
However, the Apire One has its advantages too. The 120 GB hard drive flies past the Eee PC’s offerings. And, in addition to the SD slot on the Eee PC family, the Aspire One has two SD card slots. And, the second SD slot on the Aspire One does double duty, supporting Memory Stick (M2, Micro, and MS Pro).
Probably the most irksome problem, is the lack of bundled recovery discs. Today, systems normally come with an option to burn your own recovery discs, using a disc image included on the recovery partition. Not so on the Aspire One. The recovery partition has had the option to burn a Recovery DVD disabled. Granted, the Aspire One has no optical drive… but why prohibit users to burn with an external DVD?
Worse, I don’t even think they can do that per the Microsoft license. What if I want to repartition my drive? Legally, I don’t think I’m obligated to pay shipping and handling for Recovery DVDs (I know, this is an age old debate, but I’m putting my foot down). If I have to pay for the DVDs, I plan to dispute the charge with my credit card company.
But, getting away from all that, I would take the Aspire One over any Eee PC sold to-date. The Aspire One just works better. It just looks better. It just feels better to use. I know this is a surprise considering I’ve spent half the comparison bashing the Aspire, but I want Acer to know just what they need to fix on it.
For most users, none of what I had to point out (aside from the trackpad defaults) will affect the typical user. And, my phone has Wi-Fi to sling the web… no Bluetooth required.
In all, look past the Acer name, and go get the Aspire One. Even at the new full retail price of $349, it’s the best netbook I’ve ever used, factoring in the price,
What probably surprised me the most, was the Aspire One’s utility. I actually find myself reaching for it, instead of my MacBook Pro when I go out. Most of the places I go day-to-day, that I would want a laptop anyways, are usually coffee shops, diners, or my car. Here, the Aspire One usually beats my MacBook Pro. I don’t have to tote around the utter width and weight of the MacBook Pro. This is often why I’ve rallied Apple for a 12-inch MacBook Pro.
Now, Apple might want to call in the MacBook Air into the discussion. I wouldn’t if I were them. I’m having trouble finding much benefit, and nothing that would justify the Air’s additional $1,250 cost. The Aspire One even beats the MacBook Air in the hard drive department, offering a 120 GB drive. With the Air, I only get an 80 GB.
As I finish this review (which has been written entirely on the Aspire One), it’s really simple; if you want a netbook, go with the Asprie One. There’s nothing better on the American market right now.