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.
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!)
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.
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.
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?