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
Acer Aspire One D250-1613
Aspire One D250-1613 Review, by Darren Gladstone, PC World October 27, 2009
CPU: Intel Atom N280; CPU speed: 1.6MHz; Display size: 10.1 inches; Hard drive size: 160GB
Dual-boots to Android and Windows XP
Lacks some key Android apps out of the box
Bottom Line: Acer adds a second OS to its Aspire One D250 without adding to the price--but that still doesn't feel like enough.
The latest model in the Aspire One netbook line is fairly nondescript. The D250-1613 has the same 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, plus 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, a tiny keyboard, and a microscopic multitouch pad. With its cookie-cutter netbook design, it fits into the crowd somewhere between the Fujitsu LifeBook M2010 and, say, the Lenovo S10. The only real difference is that, for a $350 asking price, Acer is offering a dual-boot system, with both Windows XP and Android tailored for a netbook. Regrettably, throwing in Google's OS gratis isn't enough to make this netbook a winner right out of the box.
Still, Android is the big draw of this netbook, so we should examine that first. Upon your first boot-up of the D250-1613, it goes into Windows XP, as just about every other netbook does. It's loaded with all the trials and shovelware you've come to love (games you won't play, security software you don't want...you get the idea). Nestled somewhere among those shortcuts, however, is the Android configuration tool. Once you complete the configuration and reboot the machine, it loads up the Acer flavor of Android in about 18 seconds.
The main interface is clean--no arguments there. By default, a few apps line the bottom; you can drag and drop others from a pull-out menu that sits on the right side of the screen. Of course, it has hooks into Gmail--the biggest draw for this netbook--so you have access to all your contacts, calendaring, and e-mail offline. It's a huge benefit for anyone who doesn't have an Android phone (or a Palm Pre, for that matter) but needs offline access to their online contacts. Change any information locally, and the next time you get online (whether through an optional 3G connection or Wi-Fi), it syncs up with your Google account. Unfortunately, this brings me to an annoying quirk that I discovered while typing an e-mail on the bus: In offline mode, you can type with no problem, but the infuriatingly tiny touchpad (more on that in a second) made me hit 'Send' accidentally. "No big deal," I figured, "just go to the outbox and open the e-mail." Wrong. For some inexplicable reason, I couldn't get it to open.
Another big disappointment for me is the lack of useful software out of the box. No word processor. No notepad. No file browser. Maybe I like tinkering with a portable too much, but to me those are all basic functions that I've come to expect with a netbook. The ability to browse a USB thumb drive would be nice, too, and so would printer support. I could brush all that off by telling myself that at some point in the future I'll be able to install Android apps. But Acer doesn't make it easy. A link to an Acer Android storefront would be great; I had a chance to take a look at the Archos 5 Internet Tablet recently, and not only does that have a storefront, but the device also comes loaded with a raft of handy apps like Twitdroid. I'd like to have that!
For now, I'm over this implementation of Android, though I am hopeful for future updates. Camping in the top left of the screen is a quick-launch arrow for heading back to Windows, which is just as well--I'm ready to leave Android and get back to talking about the rest of the netbook.
And this is where the review gets relatively short and sweet, because the D250-1613 has little else that stands out. The netbook shaves a little off the size of previous models (measuring 10.2 by 8.0 by 1.0 inches and weighing a light 2.7 pounds), and it shows. The keyboard is a bit cramped even by netbook standards. Just about every other netbook--the HP Mini 110, the Toshiba NB205, you name it--seems to have a larger setup by comparison. And the touchpad? It's downright painful. Put your two thumbs together for a sec--that's the size of the touchpad's surface. At first I thought it just looked small compared with my meaty hands, but no. It's only slightly better for the dainty. And the mouse buttons are an equally cramped, little strip.
At least the display is reasonably big and colorful. With the brightness cranked up, the D250-1613 ran test videos at a comfortable clip on its 10.1-inch, 1024-by-600-pixel screen. Even Hulu video streamed smoothly--though, interestingly, I found that the same Hulu clip, over the same network, ran just a little choppy in the Android browser. But that's all subjective testing. In PC World Labs tests, the D250 manages to get a 38 in PC WorldBench 6. That may not sound like much (in reality, it isn't), but the average for netbooks running XP is roughly 35. This Aspire One also hangs in for a fairly impressive 7 hours, 12 minutes.Not enough to knock out a battery life leader like the Toshiba NB205, but it's enough to get you through most of the day.
If Acer addresses any of afforementioned beefs with the D250-1613's Android side's shortcomings, this is an update away from a better recommendation. While the company could correct the software letdowns, however, I'd still advise those with big hands to approach the D250-1613 with caution, or at least to test-drive it at a store first.