Acer, the world's third largest PC vendor, is a big believer in the future of mini-laptops, or netbooks, and the company gave me a chance to try out its first device, the Aspire one, in an interview last week.
It's one of the best mini-notebooks I've tested for the price -- which ranges from $399 to $499, including software and other features.
[ For more on products in the hot mini-notebook category, check out our hands-on looks at Asus' Eee PC 901 and 1000, Cloudbook Max netbook, Elitegroup's G10IL mini-laptop, MSI's Wind low-cost laptop, and Giga-byte's M912X mini-laptop. ]
From boot-up to shutdown, the Aspire one was a pleasure to use. Boot-up took just 12 seconds due to the Linpus Linux Lite OS it runs. That compares to 30 to 40 seconds on other mini-notebooks I've tested running Microsoft Windows XP. Aspire one can also come with Windows XP, but after trying out the one with Linpus Linux, I'm not sure I'd want XP.
What Acer did best with Aspire one was focus on the Internet.
The Aspire one is designed for Internet use and comes loaded with software. The home page that opens on boot-up offers software options right away, including a browser, an all-in-one e-mail box, unified messaging center, media software, and Office-like software.
It will show up to six separate e-mail accounts on one screen. On first opening the application, it prompts you to type in your name and password for each e-mail account, then sends all incoming mail to one box. It works similarly with the messaging software.
Only Hotmail does not work on the Aspire one system, I'm told, though MSN Messenger does. Of course, Hotmail users can get their e-mail through the Web browser instead.
All of the Office-like applications are from Open Office and are compatible with Microsoft Office software, an Acer representative said.
Other conveniences include allowing you to choose the software that shows up on your home page and a "home page" key on the typing pad that returns you to the main menu immediately. You can't get lost.
The Aspire one I tested used a 1.6GHz Intel Atom microprocessor, 1GB of DRAM, an 8GB NAND flash memory storage drive and ran on a three-cell battery able to last about three hours. For a higher price, there are options for up to a 120GB HDD (hard disk drive) and six-cell battery that lasts around seven or eight hours. I'm not sure why anyone interested in a netbook would go for a three-cell battery. The devices are designed for mobility, so a six-cell battery seems necessary to me.