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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  • Lonyo - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Is there any news on what Pinetrail can be used for?
    Are there going to be 11.6" / 1366x768 Pinetrail netbooks? Or indeed any 1280x720 10" netbooks with Pinetrail.

    All these 1024x600 screens are not particularly enticing, and it's higher resolutions which really give some appeal (plus 11.6" chassis mean a bigger keyboard, which is nice if you actually want to be productive, same for a higher resolution screen).
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Anandtech did a preview of a lenovo S10-3 with a 10" 1280x720 screen a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it's not available yet, nor is the 10" 1366x768 EEE 1005PR.
  • Vivek (AnandTech) - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    There are a few 10"ers out there with 1366x768 screens. The Dell Mini 10 and HP Mini 210 have it as an option (combined with the Broadcom HD chip). All of the forthcoming Ion 2 netbooks have wxga screens as well, as does the Asus Eee 1201 update.
  • jabber - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Yes okay okay they are netbooks but at least give us a little more screen depth!
  • CSMR - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Very good review.
    But I disagree that higher brightness is better.
    In specific situations (outdoors in bright light) it can be useful, but normally LCDs are too bright and you can measure benefits to users from reducing brightness. See the Eizo guide to eye fatigue:
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Sure, but a bright screen can always be turned down, while a dim screen is dim no matter what. Given that these are netbooks and not DTRs there is a decent chance they will be used outside, and a 120 nit screen might well be unusable there. Plus color accuracy is already bad here, so any drop from dropping screen brightness isn't a big deal.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    The labels in the relative battery life chart are all messed up. The number labeled HP Mini 311 should be the ASUS 1005PE, the one labeled Gateway 5409u should be labeled HP Mini 311, the one labeled Dell 11z should be the Gateway 5409u, the one labeled ASUS 1201N should be the Dell 11z, and the one labeled ASUS 1005PE should be the ASUS 1201N.
  • Qubix1 - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Relative Battery Life chart needs a look:

    HP Mini 311 = 5.47 m/Whr (9.48)
    Asus 1001P = 9.48 m/Whr (9.42)
    Acer AO532h = 7.75 m/Whr (7.75)
    Gateway LT2120u = 7.48m/Whr (7.48)
    Acer 1810T = 7.47 m/Whr (7.45)
    Asus 1201N = 3.92 m/Whr (7.15)
    Dell Inspirion 11z = 7.11 m/Whr (6.89)
    Gateway EC5409u = 6.90 m/Whr (5.47)
    Asus 1005PE = 9.37 m/Whr (3.95)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Sorry... I updated the spreadsheet to list the battery capacity, and then copied/pasted the labels. I thought all of my tables were in the same order, but the relative chart was jumbled and so I screwed up the labels on most of the laptops. The chart is now correct.
  • jaydee - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Could we PLEASE see a review of an AMD-based netbook? Like the ASUS Eee PC 1201T-MU10? Should be better cpu, better graphics, bigger lcd, less battery life at a tad higher price. Anandtech even had a giveaway of a Lenovo x100e with the AMD MV-40 processor, but no review. How do these cpu's compare?!?!?


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