First thoughts on the Acer Aspire One

Posted by Rik Hepworth on Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You can’t say that things never change. I nipped out to Tesco last night for a few bits of shopping – you know, some beer, spices for cooking, etc – and came back with an Acer Aspire One. As you do…

To be fair, I have been looking at them closely, and Tesco are by far the cheapest place to get one. I picked up the 1Gb RAM, 120Gb HDD Linux model for about two hundred and fifty nicker, which I thought was pretty reasonable.

So, I hear you thinking, why did he just buy an Aspire One after singing the praises of the Dell Mini 9? The answer – this is for home use. Our home needs are different. We want something to use whilst researching our family tree; we need to be able to store scanned documents whilst out and about; run the family tree software and upload photos from a camera prior to pushing everything onto the Home Server back at home base. The Dell doesn’t have the storage for all that.

Add to that the keyboard on the Dell, which my wife really didn’t like and you have a good case for the Acer.

Out of the box it looks lovely – we got the white model and it’s clean, shiny and sleek. It also comes with a slip-on pouch which will protect it whilst in a bag, something I’ve not seen amongst the competition. Like the Dell, it’s completely silent (I wasn’t expecting that, it having a hard drive which I though would hum gently) and quick to boot.

I must say that I like the feel of it. I’m not so keen on the trackpad, whose buttons are located either side of the pad, rather than across the bottom, the de facto standard as far as I am concerned. It makes it harder to click with your thumb whilst tracking with a finger. The keyboard, though, is great. A full complement of keys and the same layout as my Travelmate meant I could type quickly and accurately with no learning curve, unlike the Dell. However, the keys are slightly smaller so if you have stubby fingers you might prefer the Dell.

I was also impressed with the Linux OS and interface installed on the One. I’m almost sad to say that it will be replaced by XP – for the novice user it really is a clean, task-centric interface. If it didn’t have to run Windows applications I’d leave it alone – I really would.

I don’t like the power charger. No sleek, compact charger like the Dell – it’s a standard laptop-style adapter, which means a cloverleaf power cord and a charger with a lead to connect to the laptop. The extra cables mean extra bulk and as a result I probably wouldn’t want to be carrying it around.

Which leads me to the battery. The OS reckoned it had two hours life available on a full charge. That’s not great, given what we need to use it for. However, the battery is only a three-cell, unlike the Dell’s four cell, which explains, whilst not justifying, the lower life. The upside is that I can get a six cell battery for around seventy quid, which by all accounts on the web increases the usage time significantly (I’ve seen figures like six hours being thrown around).

Overall, I’m really pleased with it. It’s comfortable to use, wasn’t very expensive, looks the business and meets our needs almost perfectly. I think the larger battery will be an imminent purchase, and it will get an XP makeover, but it compares very favourably indeed with the Dell. I would probably suggest my colleagues got the Dell for business use (we need less storage and want to carry the charger around), but if my parents asked, I’d point them at the Acer.

Time for the old pros and cons, then:


  • Small and lightweight.
  • Beautiful to look at (at least, the white one is!).
  • Good size hard disk for storage.
  • Performance is good.
  • Screen quality is great.
  • Keyboard is better for home users (and it has all the function keys!).
  • Linux environment is really good (if you’re happy with Linux and don’t want to install Windows apps).


  • Trickier to upgrade than the Dell (no handy covers here – it’s a strip-down job).
  • Shiny case is likely to be a fingerprint magnet.
  • Standard hard drive means moving parts so a bit more fragile than the Dell.
  • Battery life out of the box is uninspiring.