This is a small review for a small laptop. You might remember that I bought a MacBook a few months back, and may ask yourself why anyone would need two laptops (or even one for some people). Well, I can’t answer that question for everyone, but think about it the next time you buy an expensive cell-phone just so you can go online, read emails and listen to music with it.
If it weren’t for the low price-tag of about 200€ I wouldn’t have bought the Acer Aspire One in the first place. Of course there are different configurations and I bought the smallest one. This means the smallest processor, 3-cell-battery, 512mb RAM and an 8gb flashdrive as HDD. I didn’t try, but I don’t think you can install Windows XP on this one.
Not only is the Aspire One affordable, it also weighs in at just 990g. Combined with the fact that is has no mechanical harddrive you can literally toss it around while using it, you can carry it on the hinge connecting display and body.
The screen is crisp and bright enough, although it is glossy. The 1024×600 resolution is no problem if you use the right window-manager and dial down the various GUIs at some spots.
The keyboard was another important factor for me, and I read that it’s better on the Aspire One than on other netbooks of the same size. True enough, I can type quite fluently (I’m writing this post on it right now). It even got the row of F-keys, which is cool for using ion. The mousepad is probably the smallest I’ve ever seen, yet it manages to be usable. You can scroll at the right edge of it.
The battery is the only thing I might consider upgrading in the future, as I can’t get 3 hours out of it right now. Fortunately the power-adapter is small and light.
Something you should buy alongside your Aspire One is an SD-card to extend your hard-drive capacity. I bought an 16gb card which contains my homedir, and the card doesn’t stick out of the body so it’s fine for permanent use.
Linux / Performance
I have to say I was positively surprised at what I’m able to do on this machine. I can listen to a shoutcast-stream, have an IM running, a few shell sessions and still use Firefox ok. The processor in most cases isn’t the limiting factor, but the slow speed of the internal HDD. This is another reason for putting your (big) files, like photos, onto the SD-card, which will be faster in most cases.
I went with Debian GNU/Linux on the Aspire One, I couldn’t even imagine Gentoo on it. Debian just released Lenny and with the default install almost everything worked out of the box. I’ve got suspend-to-ram and hibernate working fine and fast. There are pages dedicated to the Aspire One from multiple distributions and it’s best to read all of them. One thing you’ll probably have to do is build a custom kernel, as the stock ones will eat the data on your left-side SD-slot when suspending (yep, it happened to me ;).
The best resource I found was the ArchLinux-Wiki at: http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Acer_Aspire_One. Pay special attention to the part about the Card-reader!
When installing Debian you should also check the Debian Wiki: http://wiki.debian.org/DebianAcerOne