Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Acer Aspire One AO722-0473 Netbook Review

There are a lot of very low end netbooks on the market but there are a few decent models too. I purchased this cheap Acer Aspire One for a relative because it's a good compromise between size, performance and cost. It's certainly not something to do development work or serious gaming on, but for general desktop use it's more than fast enough, and certainly better than some single core Atom netbook.

I chose the Aspire One A0722-0473 specifically because unlike most netbooks this one has a 1366x768 resolution 11.6 inch LED backlit screen, a dual core 64bit AMD processor, an integrated AMD GPU that supports hardware accelerated HD Flash video, and it doesn't come with Windows 7 Starter. Instead it's running Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit. It can also be very easily upgraded to 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM. I consider the above to be significant advantages over Atom based netbooks, especially given that it's not much more expensive than a 10 inch Atom netbook.

Most 10 inch Atom netbooks have a 1024x600 res screen, are single core, have 1 gig of RAM and come with the nearly worthless Intel integrated GMA graphics and Windows 7 Starter. I know that netbooks with Nvidia's Ion improve the graphics situation for Atom netbooks, but all those netbooks seem to cost a lot more too.

The only problem with this machine is the amount of crapware that comes preinstalled. It's not too bad really, it doesn't take that long to uninstall it all, but I do wish this wasn't something that needed to be done at all.

Upgrading the RAM to 4 gigs requires removing a single screw from the bottom panel, removing the panel, removing the 2 gig stick the system comes with, inserting the 4 gig stick you bought and closing things back up. Easy. Certainly beats having to remove the keyboard to get access to the RAM slot like you have to on some other machines. The hard drive and wifi card are also easy to access, they're covered by the same panel.

The webcam is nothing special at 0.3 megapixels, but it's good enough for the person who'll be receiving this gift to chat with her daughter on Skype. The memory card reader is also a nice feature, and so is having both HDMI and VGA video outputs. I also like that it has 3 USB ports, one of which is on the left side so there's space for a wide thumb drive or other peripheral. Having 320 gigs of storage is decent.

Being a small netbook there is no optical drive, so I bought a cheap external DVD burner specifically so I could burn some system restore discs to reinstall Windows if anything ever goes wrong. It took a couple of hours to burn and verify all the backup discs, but thankfully Acer bundled some software to do this for you. Why they couldn't just pack some Windows install discs with the system is beyond me.

The AMD C-60 APU seems to be a decent Atom N550 competitor when it comes to power use and performance, but nothing spectacularly different. The main benefit to the AMD APU is the integrated graphics, which blows away the Intel equivalent. The main benefit of that is the hardware accelerated high definition video playback capability. The higher quality videos on YouTube played fine without frame drops.

All in all, I'm pretty impressed by the hardware this machine comes with, given the cost. It's no speed demon but for its intended use case it doesn't need to be. I think I'd be happy with this machine if I had to use it as my day to day system, and I think the recipient of this gift will be pleased with it.

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