The speakers are another area where Asus’ Eee PC soundly thrashes the One, so in the unlikely case that multimedia without headphones or an external sound system is important to you, you know which netbook to choose – i.e. not this one.
The Aspire One uses a custom version of Linpus Linux Lite (based on Fedora), that’s rather attractive and quite intuitive to use. The screen is split into four customisable sections, each of which have three shortcut icons you can replace with others from that section. The four sections are titled Connect, Work, Fun and Files. Firefox is the standard browser and OpenOffice takes care of productivity. Acer has a pretty handy custom feature that combines your log-ins for various chat/IM, mail and web-mail accounts into a single profile, so you only have to sign in once, potentially saving you quite a bit of time and effort. Fun takes care of media management (photos, videos and music), Paint and a neat little Webcam application that allowed me to test the integrated 0.3-megapixel webcam and which is about as mediocre as you would expect.
While not everything is as immediately accessible as on the Eee PCs, I prefer the One’s OS. It is cleaner and more logical in its layout, more customisable, and feels a tad more professional. Like most other netbooks running Linux, it boots up in under half a minute (20 seconds in this case) and shuts down almost instantly. All the tasks I threw are it were performed fast and snappy, despite ‘only’ having 512MB of RAM.
Now we come to the Holy Grail of netbook superiority: price. Because netbooks are an emerging market and new players enter the scene on a monthly basis, it’s difficult to recommend One over another. For its screen size, the Acer Aspire One is pretty much the cheapest netbook out there – but does this make it the best value? In its lowest £230 configuration, it’s a whole £45 cheaper than the Eee PC 901. On the other hand with the Eee you get double the RAM, a 12GB SSD drive compared to the Aspire’s eight, a higher resolution Webcam, Bluetooth, Wireless Draft-N ”and” a six-cell battery that will probably last more than twice as long, leaving the One’s only advantages its superior keyboard and expandable storage.
However, £250 will get you the best Aspire One available in the UK, which negates the storage arguments by giving you a gigabyte of RAM and a 120GB hard drive, plus £25 change. Then it becomes a toss-up between a better keyboard or better battery life… until six-cell Aspire Ones become available and maybe drive the pricing on current models down that little bit more.
If you want the cheapest 8.9in netbook out there with the second-best keyboard, the Acer Aspire One is currently the one to go for – though the Asus Eee PC 901 offers better value if your budget stretches further. However, if the 120GB HDD, 1GB RAM version of the One becomes available with a six-cell battery, at a price that still undercuts the Eee, Asus will have a serious battle on its hands. The future possibility to upgrade to 3G/HSDPA, if it becomes reality, is also a strong selling point, meaning the Aspire might yet become the One to rule them all.