Asus may have been the company that introduced the netbook segment in the market but Acer has beaten Asus with larger sales figures with its cheap line of netbooks called Aspire One. A spinoff from its Aspire series of laptops, the Aspire One series is something to reckon with when it comes to sheer affordability. The Aspire One series netbooks are priced around the $300 bracket and have features similar to all the other netbooks in this segment. However, there are areas where Acer has had to skimp in order to bring the price down. I am slightly saddened to note that these two areas have been the battery and the Bluetooth when it comes to the recently released Aspire One D250.
Not to start a review with criticism but netbooks are the ultra-portables in the world of mobile computing. People carry them so that they do not have to scramble for the nearest table to work on their large laptops. Mobile devices are meant to last us through the time we spend away from our desks. But with a 3-cell battery I do not see the Aspire One D250 lasting very long. And without Bluetooth, there is no wireless cell phone tethering either. Hopefully your phone has WLAN to share its Internet connection with. The other workaround is to use mobile broadband USB dongles that are available with most mobile broadband packages.
Now that we have gotten that out of our system, let’s look at what’s under the hood. The Acer Aspire One runs on the Intel Atom N270 processor with a 512KB L2 cache, which is only slightly less powerful than the N280 processor. Usually the performance difference between the two is imperceptible. The benchmark tests done by many reviewers show that they differ only by a few points here and there. So if you are stuck at choosing two similar netbooks featuring the N280 and N270 respectively – you can easily buy the one with N270 if you like the features better on that netbook. You will hardly notice a difference.
The Acer Aspire One D250 has a 10.1-inch WSVGA TFT LCD screen displaying 1024×768 pixels. It comes with something that Acer calls ‘CrystalBrite technology’ that apparently makes the viewing experience better. This screen is nothing out of the ordinary or special in anyway. It is a standard screen that will give you the visibility and viewing angles that you can expect from similar screens. It is a LED backlit screen and hence is equipped to save power. It is also nice to see a standard native display resolution. That means softwares that need that specific resolution to run will not have a problem running on this system and you will not have to compress the display either to match the resolution. This feature is found in some other netbooks that use non-standard display resolutions.
It comes with onboard Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 950 chip – a standard with the Intel Atom boards. The D250 carries 1 Gig of RAM (DDR2 at 533MHz) and a 160GB 5400rpm SATA hard drive. These are really the standard fare in Atom based netbooks and as noted in an earlier review – all the Atom based netbooks perform similarly. So you have the same set of limitations and the same amount of computing power. You can surf the net, you can do basic word processing, you can listen to music and you can play videos. You can also use VoIP and IM as well but beyond all this you cannot do much. Those who use netbooks do not use it for anything else anyway. However, do not try to do these things all at once or else you will have a painfully slow system. Knowing Windows’ affinity towards killing itself, you might also be greeted with the famous BSoD (Blue Screen of Death). So be realistic about what you expect from your netbook and spare yourself the heartache okay?
Coming to the design, this netbooks is really upgradable and I really mean it. The bottom of the laptop has 3 different detachable panels that give you access to the hard drive, the RAM and the mini-PCIe slot respectively. The mini-PCIe slot actually makes it possible for mobile broadband providers to install their own wireless data devices on to the netbook and thus bundle the D250 with their data plans. So if you get it from a carrier, you might not miss the ‘missing Bluetooth’ all that much. But this easy upgradability may also be a structural problem in case the panels prove to be faulty. Oh well, this why they say ‘you win some, you lose some’. It is all about the balance in the Zen you see!
The included 5 in 1 card reader acts as a way to expand the storage capacity without changing the hard drive. However, if you really want to speed up your netbook, you might consider going in for an SSD solution. But that might cost you the same amount that you spent on the netbook. So you have to be pretty insane to do that. If you really want something that high end in a netbook, look for the Sony Vaiio P with an SSD installed.
The Acer Aspire One D250 has the usual selection of connectivity options – WLAN 802.11b/g (no a), 10/100 LAN and there actually is Bluetooth! There is Bluetooth 2.0 and with EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) at that. But the catch is that it is available with ‘select m
odels’, which means you have to pay a pretty penny to get a higher model. That defeats the whole ‘it is very affordable’ sales pitch, so effectively there is no cheap Acer Aspire One D250 with Bluetooth.
There are 3 USB 2.0 ports, one VGA port, one DC in (for power), one RJ-45 LAN port, headphones, microphone and lineout ports. It also has speakers but my advice is that you go with headphones if you want tolerable sound quality. Being an audiophile really does not help here.
The touchpad on the netbook supports multi-touch and gestures. So you have circular scrolling, pinch action zooming, etc. Some reviewers find it a tad bit too small and I would agree especially because of the gestures features. You need some space to use multiple fingers and gestures.
The best way to describe the keyboard is ‘cramped’. The keys look like they are joined at the edges till you take a closer look. Needless to say, this will create some problems for many users.
All in all, it is a decent netbook to have, especially if you are getting it as part of a bundle from your mobile broadband provider. It is a low cost solution that allows you to do all the necessary communication related tasks with some mobile entertainment possibilities thrown in for good measure. Try and wait till a local mobile broadband provider offers it as part of a bundle and possibly subsidizes it.