Top-rated netbooks

Netbooks are perfect travel companions and meet basic computing needs, including e-mailing, Web surfing, and simple document creation. Best of all, these low-powered machines cost less than the standard-issue laptop

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Acer Aspire One 532h-2326
Acer Aspire One 532h-2326 Review, by Sarah Jacobsson May 11, 2010

Rating:

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Pros:
Machine has a sturdy overall feel
Inexpensive

Cons:
Keyboard very slippery and hard to type on
Touchpad/mouse buttons poorly designed

Bottom Line: The Aspire One 532h is reasonably priced, but the keyboard and touchpad could use a makeover.

REVIEW:
Acer is looking to stay ahead in the netbook market with its Aspire One 532h. Though it's not a tremendous upgrade over the previous Aspire One models, the 532h is a solid, decently priced netbook. Acer may have skimped a little on the keyboard and touchpad--but hey, at least it looks cool.

Our review unit, priced at $299, features a 1.67GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and an Intel NM10 chipset. It's available in silver, blue/black, and red. It also features 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, an integrated Webcam and microphone, and a multigesture touchpad. It runs Windows 7 Starter.

The Aspire One 532h has a shiny cover (navy blue fades into black) that is very fingerprint- and scratch-prone. The six-cell battery is tucked under the chassis, but still creates a bump underneath. The netbook features three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA out port, an ethernet port, a multiformat card slot, and headphone and microphone jacks.

Weighing 2.8 pounds and measuring 10.2 inches wide by 7.3 inches high by 0.8 inches deep (1.4 inches deep at the battery), the Aspire One 532h is pretty standard for a netbook of its class. The whole machine feels sturdy, except for the cheap plastic rocker mouse button.

The keyboard on the Aspire One 532h is somewhat disappointing. The Aspire One 532h features chiclet-shaped keys, but implements them differently--instead of the wide spacing usually found on chiclet keyboards, the Aspire One 532h's keyboard looks more like a mashup of a chiclet keyboard and a standard keyboard. The lack of space between the keys makes for bigger keys--which is nice, but not terribly helpful in this case. The keys are flat and slippery, and touch-typing is pretty much impossible.

Instead of the usual indentation that denotes the touchpad, the Aspire One 532h's multitouch touchpad is just a textured block on an otherwise smooth palm rest. While this looks slick, it's a bit annoying--the touchpad is almost too textured, and moving the mouse is a chore. Instead of two distinct mouse buttons, the Aspire One 532h has a shiny blue rocker. The rocker is easy to click, but all the shiny slickness makes it hard to remember what's what.

The Aspire One 532h has a 10.1-inch glossy screen with 1024-by-600-pixel resolution (standard for a netbook of its size). As on similar netbook screens, the Aspire One 532h's bright, glossy display is both a blessing and a curse. It's bright, and colors pop--but if you move even slightly to one side, the screen goes dark, and you get a bunch of reflections thrown back at you.

Like other netbooks with the N450 processor, the Aspire One 532h isn't great at video playback. However, it does stream standard-definition video clips from Hulu with little problem--a standard-definition episode of Dancing with the Stars was seamless at full screen. High-definition streaming video plays, but with stutter (I managed to get a 480p episode of Lost going). As for audio, the onboard speakers are quite loud and located on the underside of the chassis.

Acer provides a suite of its own software, which includes Acer Launch Manager, Recover Management, and Video Conference, in addition to a Microsoft bundle. Besides a 60-day trial of Microsoft Home & Student 2007, the latter bundle gives you a full version of Microsoft Works and Windows Live Essentials.

The only thing holding this netbook back is the weird chiclet-slash-regular keyboard and the unindented touchpad, both of which are cool-looking but take a lot of getting used to. Still, the Acer Aspire One 532h is a sturdy little netbook with a good price.

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