You can call me many things, but one of the things you are surely going to mention is "early adopter". Yes, I am one of those cyber pioneers thats gets his hands on the new toys out there and who boldly swipes his Visa through the magnetic card reader and goes for the purchase of a brandnew and unproven product just because its new. Never mind the prices will drop in a few weeks, never mind the risk its total and utter crap, never mind the early bugs .. Everything dwindles into nothingness in comparison to the sheer moments of glory where we pull out our brand new toy and bathe in ghasps of surprised onlookers.
With the whole "netbook" thing, I have been no different. An early adopter. Could not wait for the Asus EEEpc to come to Europe and managed to get it shipped in from the states. Darn cool thing. But after owning it for a few months (and loving it) it was time for something new. Prices drop ( so you can"t hold on to your gadget for too long ) and new stuff comes around the corner. So I sold off my Asus EEEpc and went for the new Acer Aspire One.
Wasn"t that a shitty kind of brand ? True, I’ve owned an acer a few years ago and was far from pleased. Acer is pretty cheap but low in quality and they just make crap-in-a-box mostly. Especially their low end laptops are overweight, have crappy finishing and die of fright once you pop them in a laptop bag to carry them around. But I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and go for a model that was light enough to carry its own weight. And for 300 euro"s it was a pretty spiffy thing.
You can find out the exact technical specs about the product here . What however convinced me for going for the Acer Aspire One and not for the Asus 901 is the fact that its ever so slightly bigger. ”The One" is about a centimeter wider then the Asus 900 but its keys are 9/10th the size of regular laptop keys. To me : This means a world of difference. Where the Asus 701 was an ultra portable, ideal for dragging with you everywhere , offering the pleasures of mobility.. It wasn’t realy a productive machine in the sense that it took quite a lot of getting used to when you wanted to type something. With the Acer Aspire One the keyboard is slightly larger. This turns the device from a "gadget-like ultra small computer" (like Toshiba’s Libretto : Cool but unpractical) to a supersmall "laptop" when it comes down to productivity, elevating this 300 euro device to level of its 1400 euro counterparts who form the super small ultrapowerfull range of laptops, offered by several brands. Very true, with the 8 gig solid state hard drive its not going to be a monster when it comes to storage and preformance, but on a laptop of that size, you don’t NEED that either. The liberty of portability combined with the decent size keyboard make this a very very interesting gadget. Furthermore the "One" has , aside from 3 usb slots, 2 card readers. Thus overcoming the idea of a small hard drive storage capability by being able to add an SD card. Not super fast, but super small and super cheap. Where the Asus 901 also offers this feature, the kicker with the aspire one is it also has ANOTHER 5 in one SD cardreader. This adds creative juices to the heap, where you can import the pictures from your camera, process them, but no longer be held back by limited disk space since you can hurl them over to the other SD card or a connect usb mass storage device.
Furthermore there is of course an Ethernet port, Wireless lan (pretty good coverage) Webcam (hello !) Built in speakers and and headphone / external microphone connector. The downside is the touch pad which has (for some strange reason) the buttons alongside of it instead of underneath it. This makes right-clicking a very unnatural experience and this is definitely one of the downsides of the laptop. Battery life is fairly good (depends on what you do with it) The machine plays decent video (Vlc + external harddisk + divx = Portable Private Porno Pad ) and the audio is not bad either. The DOWNside is that they had to insert a fan into the device. This little addition is just somewhat noisy and I find that annoying. The general feel of the device is slightly "plasticky" Is it because the device is lighter then the Asus 701 or is it because its slightly bigger , it doesn’t feel as sturdy and would have me freaked out if I accidently dropped it. (Did this with the Asus 701 , Asus was fine).
As for software : The device came with a highly customized version of Linux, and that surprised me. ( The Asus was only shipped with XP here in Belgium) After running the customization wizard ( that thinks BELGIAM is a country) I got a clean looking interface, written for the mentally challenged, computer illiterate or people who just need to surf and do email. The manual that comes with it is very good, and to be frank, an average internet-only user will do very well with this device, just out of the box.. But i’m no average user.
Dual booting the sucker.
When I tried to think about what I wanted to do with the device, Running Linux came to mind right away. No problems there : I wanted to run Ubuntu on it and by golly, you can do that. I just Googled around , followed the steps on how to do it and ended up with a nice working laptop ! Even the Netbook Remix worked and looked very very fine ! However since I had 8 gigabytes of ram I wanted to play a different ballgame. So I cut up the harddrive in two partitions and installed XP on one partition and Ubuntu on the other one. With an SD card of 4 gigabytes I could use for storage it would not be such a bad thing if the internal HD was filling up. Installing XP did ask for some creative thinking. I slipstreamed SP3 into a version of XP that I had and threw out ALL the rest just to have an XP edition that is as small as possible, extra crap like minesweeper and stuff was discarded. But in all XP still munches up 3 gigabytes (!) of data these days. Too darn much if you ask me. But still. This being a netbook I rely on the cloud to provide me with applications. A vlc mediaplayer, firefox, and Abiword, together with a virusscanner was all I used. Googleapps, Meebo, Twitter.. Whatever you could find in the cloud, I did not need to install. Ubuntu does not take up that much space so I was able to install the standard Ubuntu installation and some extra’"s (and still had some room to spare).
At the end of the road.
With this being my second "ultraportable" I can realy feel the evolution of technology in these devices. For me the Acer Aspire One is now no longer a "subnotebook" but quite a diverse device that can enable me to do a great amount of things. It broke free of the childhood limitations of the 701 by offering me a bigger screen, bigger keys and more options for internal and external storage. But in doing this it did not brake the boundries of price or size. Perhaps not as sturdy as the Asus counterpart , the Acer Aspire One is surely a worthy competitor.