Top 10 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 751h
Aspire One 751h Review, by Darren Gladstone, PC World August 27, 2009


CPU: Atom Z520; CPU speed: 1330MHz; Display size: 11.6 inches; Hard drive size: 160GB; WorldBench 6 rating: Fair

Good-sized screen
Large, comfortable keyboard

Horrid mouse button

Bottom Line: Acer's 751h is a good-sized netbook that gets marred by a miserable mouse button.

Used to be, people were content with a 10.1-inch screen on netbooks. The Acer Aspire One AO751h is a newcomer that goes bigger--to 11.6 inches. While that seems like the sweet-spot screen size for a portable PC (whether netbook or ultraportable), some design missteps with this model lead Acer astray.

The AO751h isn't just about its "big" screen. It has large, beefy buttons; a rugged (though not ruggedized) plastic shell; and good battery life. It all comes in a sassy chassis that's small and sturdy enough to make a great go-to machine when you're on the go. So why am I not 100 percent enamored with this $450 netbook (price as of 8/27/09; units start at $400)?

Well, let's start with the screen. At 11.6 inches, the display provides ample room to show off its colorful 1366-by-768-pixel resolution. With brightness jacked up--and me looking at the screen dead-on--the AO751h showed good color reproduction. I spied rich reds and deep blues, and the blacks didn't turn a painfully ashy gray. Gander at the screen slightly off-angle, though, and you're staring into a dim, murky mess with some annoying glare coming off the glossy screen.

That's not the only problem. Out of the box, this is no HD marvel. You'll press your luck to hit 720p resolution with the underpowered Atom processor and integrated GPU on board. If you beef up the RAM and ditch the preinstalled bloatware, sure, you'll get a reasonable speed boost. But the 720p video installed on the hard drive had an occasional frame stutter. That said, you'll be able to watch standard-definition YouTube and Hulu video.

The AO751h packs a 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor and 1GB of memory, along with a 160GB hard drive. That CPU is underpowered--even by Atom standards--so don't expect blazing-fast performance. The processor/hard drive combo resulted in a score of 31 in WorldBench 6, a score that hovers near bottom of the barrel among our field of tested netbooks. It is a hair worse in overall performance than Dell's Mini 10.

As for endurance, the six-cell battery delivers: In the PC World Test Center's battery tests, it lasted 8 hours, 13 minutes--not shabby considering it supported the AO751h's aforementioned 11.6-inch LED backlit screen all that time. While unable to unseat the Toshiba NB205-310's top-rung 10-hour battery life, the AO751h is certainly good enough to last you through the average day (or extra-long flight).

Beyond that big, bright screen, the keyboard is one of the other major selling points. The oversize (for the netbook universe) buttons make it a breeze to type. There's no space wasted on multimedia shortcut keys. The function keys are small (no surprise there), but the QWERTY buttons are large.

As good as the keyboard is, the navigation control is another story. Netbooks have this yin and yang balancing act between keyboard and touchpad--it seems they're always at odds with each other. You can shrink the keyboard to accommodate a comfy mousing zone, or plop down engorged buttons and all but give up on trying to navigate. With Acer's AO751h, it's the latter.

The slim little mousebar button is so amazingly, frustratingly narrow that I had a hard time just pressing it. To make matters worse, it's indented. I found it almost impossible to hit the mouse button and get things done. You ever actually yell at a touch pad? I did. I made do by tapping on the touchpad to replace the left click.

The rest of the AO751h has a standard setup: 10/100 ethernet, VGA-out, three USB 2.0 ports, a memory card reader, a Webcam, and headphone and microphone jacks.

Besides Windows XP, the AO751h comes preloaded with a few useful apps (the eSobi news reader and CyberLink PowerDVD), and a boatload of bloat--which might account for some of this machine's lackluster performance. Prime exhibits: the McAfee Internet Security trial (delete) and the Acer Game Zone (delete!)--just the biggest offenders. Others range from standard (recovery software) and annoying (trial of Online Backup) to stuff you could download on your own if you needed them (Windows Live Essentials, Google get the idea).

It's a shame. The AO751 potentially has so much right, but a few key bungles keep me from throwing my weight behind Acer's big-boned netbook. Maybe a deluxe model with a better CPU or a discrete GPU? Maybe less preinstalled gunk to clean out? Whatever the case, as shipped today, this model is tough to recommend.

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