Acer Aspire One 522

Acer Aspire One 522

Summary: When I first saw this Aspire One advertised for 230 Swiss Francs (about £160), I thought it must have been some kind of mistake. I went and looked at it in the shop, and I still thought it was a mistake - it looked like a pretty nice little netbook for such a low price.

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TOPICS: Linux
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When I first saw this Aspire One advertised for 230 Swiss Francs (about £160), I thought it must have been some kind of mistake. I went and looked at it in the shop, and I still thought it was a mistake - it looked like a pretty nice little netbook for such a low price. I went home and checked it on the Internet, and I still thought it must be a mistake, the specs were simply too good for that price. It has the latest AMD Fusion C-60 Dual-Core CPU, AMD/ATI Radeon HD 6290 graphic controller, 1GB DDR3 memory, 250GB SATA disk, and WiFi b/g/n. At that point I decided to go ahead and buy one.

Acer Aspire One

When I started working on it, loading various Linux distributions, I finally realized what was going on, and how the price could be so low. I don't know if Acer is trying to be sneaky, or if they are just being aggressive at the low end of the market, They have put in a very mediocre display (10.1" 1024x600) and a 3-cell battery, rather than the 1280x720 display and 6-cell battery that have been in previous versions of the Aspire One 522. At first I was rather disappointed, but after working with it for a week now, I have to say honestly that I really like it, I am impressed with its power and flexibility, and in particular with its size and weight, at only 1" thick and 1.2kg. I am so impressed with it, and with the way it works, that I am considering replacing my partner's Samsung N150 Plus with it - and in this case I don't think I'll even have to do much convincing to get her to swap, because the AO522 is so much smaller and lighter, and it looks and works so much better. (Note to Moley - the screen brightness controls work GREAT!)

Acer Aspire One

The Aspire One comes preloaded with Windows 7 Stupor Edition. That's unfortunate, not only because it is Windows, but because it is "Lobotomized" Windows. What does that mean? Well, first, for Windows in general, this is the system I was writing about last weekend that took about six hours to load, configure and update Windows. What a royal pain. But even worse, Microsoft has put a totally arbitrary limit of 1GB memory on Stupor Edition systems. Also, even though this netbook has a pretty nice graphic controller and both VGA and HDMI ports, Windows Stupor Edition will NOT let you use two displays as an extended desktop! Oh, and just to top things off in the "Let's be petty about selling this version of Windows that we never wanted to make in the first place, but were dragged kicking and screaming into it" department, you are NOT allowed to change the desktop wallpaper. Duh. Sigh. Is that enough about how awful Windows 7 Stupor Edition is? I think so too.

Acer Aspire One

Load just about any current version of Linux on this little gem, though, and it really starts to shine. First, of course, it doesn't have the stupid arbitrary restrictions of Win7 Stupor. You want more memory? Swap the memory card and you're ready to go. Want to really use an external display? Plug one in, configure and use the built-in and external display separately. Want to change your wallpaper? Sigh, that one is so trivial it isn't even worth talking about. Anyway, you get the picture...

So far I have loaded Linux Mint 11 (and 12RC), Linux Mint Debian 201109 Gnome, openSuSE 11.4 (and 12.1 RC2), Ubuntu 11.10, Fedora 16, PCLinuxOS 2011.09 and Debian GNU/Linux 6.0.3. Every one of them installed with no problems, and everything works. Wired and wireless networking - it has an Atheros AR9285 WiFi adapter which is supported by every one of the above distributions out of the box. The display, including internal at 1024x680, VGA up to 1920x1200 and HDMI up to 1920x1080 (aka HD 1080p or Full HD). I can easily see us using this on a desk with a VGA monitor, and routine stuff on the netbook display while we work on the big external display; or connecting our TV to the HDMI port, running a slide show with digiKam on the netbook display and big beautiful pictures on the TV. As it has a pretty good graphic controller in the Radeon HD 6290 and an equally good CPU, I expect that is should be able to stream video to the HDMI display with no problem.

Acer Aspire One

What else? Well, as I said, everything works - even the Fn-control keys for volume up/down/mute, brightness up/down/blank, WiFi off/on, touchpad off/on and Sleep. Good stuff! It has a "normal" touchpad, with buttons, so no worries about that, and the keyboard, while not likely to be one of my favorites, is solid and comfortable. It has three USB ports - that seems to be the norm for netbooks these days, but only USB 2.0, I wish at least one were 3.0 but I guess you can't have everything. It really shines on the media-card reader, though - it can handle not only the usual SD, xD and MMC, but also Memory Stick and Memory Stick PRO! Wow, honestly, I haven't seen a low-end notebook that could do that for quite a while, I'm impressed. Oh, and the built-in webcam works just fine with "cheese", and the audio seems clear and loud, and likewise works fine with every distribution I tried.

In summary I would rate this netbook well above average. It has one very significant drawback, the disappointing 1024x600 display, and one smaller drawback, the 3-cell pack giving rather short battery life. But it has a LOT of pluses; it worked beautifully with every version of Linux that I tried on it, it is small and light, the display really had a very good quality once you get over the resolution, and at this price, how can you go wrong?

jw

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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8 comments
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  • Can you please advise where you picked up one of these units for 230CHF? The cheapest I can find is microspot @ 250CHF with a lesser specification.
    anonymous
  • It looks pretty smart. Instead of buying a netbook, we bought a refurbished Thinkpad X60 for around the same price. It seems to run everything fine on it - I just loaded Ubuntu 11.10 onto it, and am pleasantly surprised. It's not a work computer, so the colourful interface works quite well on the coffee table...
    duncan j murray
  • @Robert France - It was at Interdiscount, with a list price of about 280 francs, and they were running a 20% off Acer products promotion, which brought it down to about 225. I believe that promotion is over now, so you are probably right, 250 at Microspot is probably the best you could do right now. I also looked at the ones at Microspot, and I thought they were the same, what do you see that is a lesser specification?

    @duncanjmurray - You are right, buying a good refurb from a reputable supplier is always a viable alternative. It depends on your expected use - the advantage of the AO522 is that it is incredibly small and light; the advantage of a refurb notebook is that it is going to have much better specifications.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    jw
    j.a.watson@...
  • Windows 7 Starter allows a maximum of 2GB of RAM. As for some of the other limitations, there are workarounds and free addons that allow the additional niceties that most people want (ie - custom wallpaper, etc).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7_editions#Comparison_chart
    anonymous
  • That's odd. From the Acer Support Netbook Specifications:

    System memory1, 3, Dual-channel DDR3 SDRAM support with one soDIMM module4

    Up to 1 GB of DDR3 system memory (for Windows® 7 Starter for small notebook PCs)
    Up to 2 GB of DDR3 system memory (for other operating systems)

    Now, I don't particularly care if it is Microsoft who is imposing this ridiculous limit, or if it Acer, or if Microsoft is publicly saying 2GB and privately twisting OEM's arms to limit it to 1GB. Whatever the reason, and whoever is doing it, it is stupid, arbitrary and unnecessary.

    As for workarounds and free add-ons, I have the one I want, thanks - it's called Linux, and it gets rid of all of those idiotic limits with one swoop.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    jw
    j.a.watson@...
  • Samsung N145P Netbook - 10.1ins - 1GB RAM - 250GB - ASDA's in the UK £189.99 online, knock £10.00 off if bought in store (£179.99) it would be nice if we could redeem more off by telling them where they can stick Panda Anti-Virus & Windows 7 Starter but sadly no such luck.

    13hrs Battery Life, Intel Atom Processor. Yes - 4 in 1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC) Intel GMA 3150 DVMT - 128MB Integrated Graphics, 10" flat screen + Free Carry Case.
    icefire-28d7a
  • Prices are on the UP everywhere as Christmas is around the bend, wait till January Sales... ;)
    icefire-28d7a
  • 2 GB is the physical limit for the Stupid Edition. To be able to sell the Stupid Edition, the following restrictions apply:
    http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=619&pgno=6#max_netbook
    These restrictions are great. It really helps Linux!
    anonymous