The Acer Aspire One Netbook

Minibooks, or netbooks as they're often called, have really come of age. The Acer Aspire One is a major reason for that evolution. It is compact, as all of these units are, but it's also packed with most of the features you would expect in a regular laptop. In fact, the power and capacity is about equal to a high-end laptop of only a few years ago.

Minibooks are not intended to do everything their full-sized cousins do, nor do those tasks with the same speed or flexibility. But the trade-off to gain increased portability is very minor. If - like most laptop users - you spend the majority of your time surfing the web, writing memos, or updating spreadsheets - you won't be disappointed.

The Acer Aspire One makes all those tasks and many more very robust thanks to Intel's 1.6Ghz Atom processor. Not the powerhouse of the company's Dual-Core monsters found on full-scale machines, it nevertheless delivers plenty of speed to perform the usual range of tasks.

There's plenty of RAM to run word processing software without becoming frustrated. At 512MB, you can use Open Office Writer (the whole suite comes pre-installed) and edit 500-page documents with no problem. Some configurations come with 1GB RAM pre-installed. If you need to fire up a Calc spreadsheet from the same set of productivity tools, you'll notice only a slightly longer load time than you would on a regular notebook.

There's plenty of storage space onboard for holding those documents, too. While the 8GB SSD hard drive is tiny compared to contemporary laptops, at a few dozen kilobytes per document (or even a few megabytes each) it will take a long time to fill up what is built-in.

If you do hit that wall, there's a slot for an SD card that can quickly solve your problem. High capacity SD cards are becoming cheaper every day, so inserting an extra 16GB or more is a literal snap. Move your larger files over and you'll be ready to go again in no time.

There's a second SD slot that can be formatted to 'look like' internal hard drive space, so you really don't have to suffer. Alternatively, you can order an Aspire One with a 160GB standard hard drive instead for a slightly higher price.

The system comes pre-loaded with Linux Lite, which is ultra-easy to learn and use. But if you just can't break the Windows habit, you can install Windows XP and use either the windows version of Open Office or install Microsoft Office.

Some netbooks have a hard time running fast enough to watch YouTube videos. But the Aspire One can handle it. And, thanks to the wireless 802.11g support, connectivity is no problem. You can run Firefox just as you would on a regular laptop and go anywhere on the web you desire.

Naturally, it's best to have the right expectations. The Acer Aspire One is not the equal of the company's high-end laptop model. But, then, that's not what it was designed to do. Still, at a mere 2 lbs and 9.8" x 6.7" x 1.14" it does provide a superb small, lightweight platform for general computing.

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