As already mentioned, one of the highlights of Acer’s D255 is its dual-boot OS configuration. Unfortunately Android 2.1 suffers from the same limitations as Toshiba AC100: it’s a phone OS designed for touch-screen devices stuck on what is small laptop with no touch-screen. Nor did we find battery life improved much over running Windows (the AC100’s longevity was due to its use of low-power Nvidia Tegra hardware in conjunction with Google’s OS). With no access to the Android Market and even fewer pre-installed apps than the AC100, Android on this Acer can perhaps best be regarded as a glorified equivalent to the Quick-Boot Linux-based ‘instant on’ systems you get on a number of motherboards and notebooks, such as Asus’ Express Gate.
Indeed, booting into Android is very fast, taking a mere 15 seconds. This gives you access to a pretty decent interface for web-based activities such as browsing (Firefox is on hand, and works much like the Windows version) and email, as well as basic file management and media playback of music and photos (for videos and Adobe Flash it’s better to use Windows as otherwise the netbook’s components aren’t optimally utilised). Hitting a ‘peeled-back’ corner at the top left of the ‘home page’ will bring up a dialogue box asking if you want to boot into Windows, which at around 45 seconds takes almost as long as a cold boot. If you want to skip Android altogether, simply press F9 straight after powering the Acer on.
Most of you will probably be aware of the limits imposed on Windows 7 Starter. There’s no support for fast user switching or multiple monitors (which would be a theoretical possibility using something like the VillageTronic’s ViBook), no desktop Window Manager and, most pertinently for the average user, you can’t change the default wallpaper – though thankfully Acer’s choice here isn’t an eyesore. Aside from this it’s pretty much like running Windows 7 on any other kind of machine, offering a surprisingly smooth experience considering the specifications.
Battery life is merely adequate. We had hoped that Acer would increase the battery capacity to match this netbook’s slightly more power-hungry CPU, like Samsung did for its Samsung NF210. However, considering the D255 uses the same battery as the D260, it’s no surprise that it only managed five and a half hours in our video loop test with screen brightness at 50 percent and wireless radios turned off.
Though single-core models of the D255 with three and six-cell batteries are already available, our dual-core N550-equipped model hasn’t made it into retail quite yet. However, despite an MSRP of £279, it’s currently priced at around £300 for pre-orders, where it’s simply not worth the slight advantages it offers against the £230 D260 and similarly-priced rivals. If it comes down to around £270 it might be worth considering, but only for those who don’t mind its relatively short battery life.
Available in a wide range of colours, this compact and well-built Acer netbook offers not only dual-core computing but also the unique advantage of switching between Android and Windows 7 at will. Unfortunately, both Acer’s Android 2.1 implementation and the D255’s battery life in this configuration leave much to be desired, so at its current price you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
Score in detail
Battery Life 6