Design and Build

The Aspire One has made huge strides in build quality and design since its original iteration back in 2008. What was once a small, awkward, and cheap feeling system has become a respectable netbook that can be mentioned in the same breath as competing systems from ASUS and MSI. Many of my complaints in the first two major chassis revs of the Aspire One have been solved here, including the touchpad, keyboard, and overall styling and build quality of the machine.

In the past, the Aspire One has been offered in a variety of vibrant colors, and in this regard the 532h does not disappoint. Our review unit was rendered in an elegant “Garnet Red” hue, with a glossy finish both inside and out. With the red colored lid, there isn’t much of a problem with fingerprinting, but the piano black interior and LCD bezel are fingerprint magnets. Why manufacturers insist on this type of finish is absolutely baffling, but so be it.

Other than the color, the design of the Aspire One is fairly nondescript, without much standing out as either good or bad. It has a lot of soft and organic curves, reminiscent of the “Gemstone” design used in some Aspire notebooks. This makes it a very inoffensive design, which puts it a few steps ahead of previous Aspire Ones, but it would have been nice to see a few more risks in the design.

I personally preferred the Gateway, which has a more angular design to go along with a handsome white/silver color scheme. The lid is glossy white with a light silver pattern and a chrome Gateway tag, while the interior is matte silver (praise the heavens for whoever decided to go with matte surfaces). The keyboard is white. I honestly think the Gateway has a more interesting design than the Acer, but I also have a tendency to go for white notebooks, so it’s really a personal choice. Your tastes may be different.

From here on out, the two are much the same, so I’ll review them together and note any differences as such.

Build quality is reasonable, with solid plastics used for the interior surfaces and palm rests, but the keyboard does exhibit some flex. Interesting to note here is that the Gateway didn’t have nearly as much keyboard flex as the Aspire One. This is probably just a difference in two specific units rather than a general problem with the design, but YMMV. Also, the LCD lid isn’t all that rigid and will show rippling on the display when stressed. But they’re on a similar level to the MSI Wind and most other netbooks, and not far behind our benchmark, the ASUS 1001P.

The keyboard is a scaled down version of the keyboard used in the Acer AS1410 and Timeline 1810T and is quite usable. The keys do feel a bit small, but with a bit of extra care it’s not hard to adjust to it. It’s somewhat like a chiclet keyboard, but there are holes between keys instead of the keyboard tray like on most other chiclet keyboards. This means it’s easy for things to get stuck under the keys, which over time may be a concern. The touchpad is great, with a large surface and multitouch gestures enabled. The single button has both right and left click sensors, a la ASUS, and gives good feedback.

The ports are another case of “same old, same old”: three USB, VGA, headphone out, line in, Ethernet, Kensington lock, 1.3MP webcam, and a mic. It's similar to the competition and very standardized stuff. The webcam works fairly well and gives clear video, and the mic works without complaint. For video chatting, both of these systems work fairly well.

The speakers are located just under the front edge of the system, which is becoming a popular area to place speakers—my last four test systems have had speakers on the bottom. This makes no sense to me, since it seems like the best way to muffle all audio. I think manufacturers do this for packaging reasons, but I feel there are better places to put speakers. The speakers in these two netbooks work fine, but are nothing to write home about.

Acer 532h and Gateway LT2120u Screen Analysis
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  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    I've got a couple AMD-based laptop reviews in the works. Vivek will be getting the Acer Ferrari One this week (CULV alternative), and I've got M300 and M600 laptops to compare with an i3-430m setup. Honestly, other than a lower price AMD laptops are still a tough sell in my book. The better IGP still isn't that great; the Intel HD i3/i5 IGP is good enough for anything but gaming, while the HD 4200 needs low detail and 800x600 resolution to be playable in most titles. Couple that with generally lower performance and battery life and there's not a lot of benefit.

    CULV with a discrete GPU can give you better battery life and gaming performance if that's what you're after, though it will cost (a lot) more. At that point, the CULV + Optimus laptops end up being the best recommendation. So the choice is pretty much 8 hours battery life with 4500MHD (Intel CULV) or 4 hours battery life with HD 4200 (AMD), for around $400-$600.
  • jaydee - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    But I think the ASUS Eee PC 1201T w/AMD mv-40 ( could give the traditional Atom-based netbook a good run for it's money.

    About $60 more and you get 12" screen, 1366x768 resolution, 2GB of RAM, HDMI out, stronger CPU and much stronger integrated graphics. You lose on battery life, and doesn't come with an OS, but for people with extra WinXP licenses or wanting to put Linux on it, I think it provides a much stronger value than the above Acer/Gateway twins, don't you think?

    How would it compare to Atom+Ion? It'll still be cheaper, but should even out the battery life.
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Hey, I just wanted to throw out a suggestion for the firefox sqlite issue: install a RAMdrive app (I use Dataram RAMDisk - it's free and works flawlessly, even with win7 x64) and move your profile to the RAM drive. I did this on my HTPC as this is something that has been nagging me with a WD Green drive where the drive would noticeably lag when the head is unloaded and I start typing into the address bar. The time to generate "suggestions" as you type is now instantaneous! You can configure it to load the image on startup and save it on shutdown, so it works exactly like normal, but the only time it accesses the HDD is on startup/shutdown. It also saves you the wear of the very frequent unnecessary random writes to the HDD every time you load a page or reads when it fills in what you type.

    Having said that, I would also like to see how SSDs would fare in laptops, and in addition to your suggestions, I hope that Anand would also throw a typical 2.5" HDD into the SSD power charts as a reference for those of us considering SSD swaps into laptops.
  • m4nm4n - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    If I had these connected to my Wifi router, the router would be named Gleek.
  • popej - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    You wrote: "we don't know if the ASUS laptops are truly more energy efficient".
    You probably use ASUS Super Hybrid Engine in auto mode. When running on battery SHE cripple notebook performance. CPU and RAM frequency is reduced by 20% and battery life is longer.

    I think it is a flaw in your test, that you don't check performance when on battery.

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