This weekend I had the honor AND the pleasure of going out to buy me some new gear. After renovating our laundry room over the holidays, I had planned on getting me a second 28 inch monitor, but Einstein got in the way. According to some teeny weeny "law of phisics" 2 atoms cannot occupy the same room in normal spacetime. As a result the edge of my "Second" 28 inch display would occupy the same atomic space as the wall of my office. ( I just didn’t have the room for 2 screens). So that purchase was canceled. This DID free up the next item on my list for purchase : A new(er) Pc laptop to run Ubuntu and Windows 7 to replace my TC1100 Tablet pc. I love the device, but at over 2 kilograms its a little heavy to lug around ALL the time.
The parameters for "what I wanted" out of this new laptop were a little conflicting to say the least. I wanted the power of a full size notebook, but wanted something distinctly smaller than the standard 15.4 or 17 inch size notebooks out there. I had even been hitting the bargain sites for a second hand 13.3 inch Macbook, but still found it too large. With nostalgic memories of my old 12 inch Ibook in my mind, i went on the impossible quest of finding this mix between high power-small formfactor – affordable price.
The "Small form factor" was not an issue. There are hundreds of Netbooks out there in every possible color, ready and able to become your portable companion. From 7 inch screens (nice but too darn small) to 9 and 10 inch screens (getting there, but still too low when it comes to screen resolution) to the newer 11.6 inch models. These last models sport displays with a screen real estate of about 1300 by 768 which is pretty decent. The additional bonus of this form factor is that you get a full sized keyboard.
So I did some looking around and was a little disappointed to find a few models out there (From Acer, Packard Bell etc) but all of them once again with an Atom Processor ( Some with the new Atom 520 chip set that means HELL when you want to run Linux on them). So Friday afternoon I hooked up with @woollymittens on twitter and we talked about the notebook HE got for his trip to Australia. Apparently Packard Bell had created a special DOT MA model that had the same "look and feel" of a netbook, but sported an AMD instead of an ATOM processor and came with 2 gigabytes of ram. I was intrigued about this "Uber-Netbook" and did some more Googling around. We found the Packard Bell M.U model with 1 gigabyte of ram and a peculiar Intel Intel CULV processor in the Local Mediamarket, and for about 400 euros it was quite a bargain. After checking out some reviews online (Tweakers.net) it appeared to be a very interesting notebook. Mind you : This is NOT a netbook, Because the machine did NOT have an Atom CPU, its ram capacity was NOT limited to 1 gigabyte AND it came with an HDMI connector on the side. (and an ATI Radeon videocard). This gave it the edge over the ‘regular netbooks’ by stepping away from the " Crippled/underpowered Atom architecture " while still holding true to the compact formfactor. So it was time to hit the road and go take a look at the machine.
The great thing about having a Geeky wife is that you have a "buddy" that loves to go with you on your "Laptop Quest". So I talked the "desired specs’ through with Nyana (just so she knew what we were hunting for) and we dashed off to the nearest MediaMarket in Herstal (French speaking part of the country). to go see if we could find one of these Packard Bell M.U notebooks. Unfortunately they were sold out BUT they did have one very good looking Acer Aspire 1810 model on the shelves. A little bit higher in price then the Packard Bell , but it was one sweet little notebook. I had read online that the Packard Bell dot MU series were actually the same machines as the Acer "Timeline" Netbooks. So I asked the shop-dude for details.
Surprisingly THIS friendly Mediamarkt shop clerk DID now what he was talking about and he explained that the Acer Aspire 1810TZ came with an even newer processor then the Packard Bell MU series. With a 1,3 GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core ULV SU4100 processor this baby came with 2 gigs of ram AND a 64-bit version of Windows 7. The led screen , the low powered processor, the 6-Cell (8 theoretical hour), the 4500HM graphic card AND the HDMI port make this little laptop a very VERY powerful dwarf that puts its Netbook-family to shame.
All in all, this isn’t a Netbook, The Acer Aspire 1810tz is a small form factor laptop. 3cm thick, fast, fairly silent, very fuel-efficient and extremely portable it is a dwarfed-down version of your run-of-the-mill laptop.At 499 euros it was a pretty high price for a Netbook .. but its NOT a Netbook. So if you compare the price to a ‘regular’ laptop ..its pretty cheap and portable.
First impressions of the device are very positive. The display is nice, the cpu is fast, the keyboard is wonderful and the Windows 7 needs to be de-crapified after installation (plenty of useless software provided by acer) But beside that its a great machine ! What i like is the 5 in 1 card-reader , The wireless b/g/N card and the fact its only 3cm thick (and very light).
The real fun however started when I installed Ubuntu 9.10 on it. Every single thing worked out of the box. EVERYTHING. The wifi , the sound , the video drivers, (ok i still need to check the HDMI port) the card-reader … EVERYTHING .. And its lightning fast ! The bad press 9.10 has gotten so far has nothing to say on this install of Ubuntu. The laptop is supported flawlessly. Even my Mobistar 3G modem (for which i Still need to find 64 bit drivers to get it to work under Windows7) works like a charm. And did I mention it was Fast ? like in : Really fast.
All in all the combination of fast hardware, a small form factor and flawless software support by both Ubuntu AND Windows 7, elevate this little notebook to one of the better ones I’ve owned in a long time. I even dare to say this is the BEST PC-laptop i’ve owned up until now. (Looking at bang for the buck). Over the next couple of days i’ll be pushing the limits of the Graphics card by trying Half-Life, I’ll hook up our TV on the HDMI port and " Release the power of the dwarf".
My own UNBOXING set.