Dual boot notebooks are nothing new. But getting Android into a netbook is new, and I was interested to see how Acer’s Aspire One D250 with Android coped.
The other operating system on the sample I was sent was Windows 7 Starter edition. Android essentially functions as a secondary OS. You aren’t meant to use it all the time, but it is there if you want to do stuff quickly and don’t want to wait for a full Windows boot.
The notebook itself is rather nice. A 10.1-inch screen, fetching deep red lid and deep red and black colour scheme internally, 250GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, webcam. There are three USB ports, a memory card reader, microphone and headphones slots, VGA-out port and an Ethernet connector. It runs on Intel’s N270. There is no optical drive – but then this is a netbook.
As far as usability is concerned, the 10-inch screen is fine for Web browsing and some wordwork, but obviously its small size does hamper what you can achieve.
The keyboard is reasonably well sized and although there is a little more flex than we’d have liked to see we were able to reach 80 percent of normal touch-typing speed easily.
When it comes to dual boot, there’s a utility in Windows that lets you set the default OS. Opt for Android as the default and you can tell the D250 to boot to Windows if you don’t press a key or move the cursor within a set period of time. That way you can choose the boot option every time.
Booting into Windows 7 took about 58 seconds, while getting into Android took a rather more acceptable 18-ish seconds. Switching to Windows from Android took the same 58-ish seconds from choosing to switch to having Windows ready to use.
So, Acer has got the dual boot business right. But Android itself disappointing because it has been somewhat hampered both by what has been left out and by the ergonomics of the netbook screen.
Most notably on the ergonomics front, obviously there’s no touchscreen support. So you have to do things like use the right click key under the touchpad to get to menus, click the cursor in the top bar which on a phone you’d just drag down to see notifications, use Esc to go back to the home screen, use the arrow keys to move between the three main screens and also use the arrow keys to move though long menus.
You can put shortcuts and widgets on the main screen and the menu is accessed with a left button click. To get items on the screen from the main app menu you just hold down the left button and they pop onto the screen ready for positioning where you want them.
You get used to all this, and Google sync works. Also Firefox is present as well as the Android Web browser, the former providing support for Flash. There are apps for webmail, for using the D250’s Wi-Fi and for using its built in camera – though just for shooting photos not for VoIP.
But what is mortifyingly annoying is the absence of the Android market. Now, that could well be because apps just wouldn’t be compatible with the Intel based architecture of the D250, but it is a mighty shame and in one fell swoop makes the D250 feel almost irredeemably compromised.