By April 29, 2010

Aspire One D250 Review

Aspire ONE D250Acer were one of the first to get on the netbook train with their Acer Aspire One AA0 that we tested some 18 months ago.

As time has gone on they have expanded the range and here we have the D250 which is a dual booting version – in this particular case it’s dual booting Windows 7 and Android.

Android on a netbook you say, isn’t that normally used for mobile phones? Well yes, but as proven here it can also be used as an OS on other hardware.

 

Let’s take a look…

 

What’s in the box?
Aspire One
Power Adaptor and mains cable
Installation CD’s

 

Aspire One D250 Specifications

Full specifications HERE

General

Left

AspireONE-left

Left to right – LAN, exhaust vent, VGA, USB, microphone, headphone

 

Right

AspireONE-right

Left to right – Memory card reader, USB, USB, power, Kensington lock

 

Bottom

AspireONE-bottom

Left to right – hard drive access panel, memory access panel, wifi access panel

 

 

Highlights

  • dual boot
  • quick boot into Android

Lowlights

  • hardware hasn’t really moved on in 18 months
  • still feels underpowered in Windows

 

Review

AspireONE-front-open

Before I start I’d just like to say that you might notice in the photos that the keyboard is a European one. Initially we were sent the Italian version of the D250, but as my Italian is pretty much limited to the names of pasta we got it switched for an English version. We didn’t get a chance to retake the photos though – but they are essentially the same unit.

 

After the initial tour around the outside I started off as I normally do by running a factory reset.

The initial Windows reset takes about 30 minutes, then it takes you through the normal Windows setup stuff. The installed version here is Windows 7 Starter 32-bit edition. After this initial setup there is a script that runs after the first boot, this installs all the other stuff that Acer want installing on top of the base OS. This takes about 40 minutes. Once all the Windows side of things is installed it asks you if you want to activate Android – an install that was quick enough that I didn’t really notice the time it took.

The hard drive in our test unit was a Hitachi HTS545025B9A300. Once both operating systems are installed we end up with a 216GB Windows 7 partition with 200GB free, and a 4GB Android partition with 2.7GB free.

So now everything is installed, let’s go through what this gives us.

After installation Android becomes the default boot operating system. You can bypass it with a quick press of the F9 key, or if you let it finish booting in to Android you can click in the top left corner which closes Android and then boots into Windows.

From cold, Android boots in just 15 seconds which includes the BIOS checking itself – that’s pretty quick really. The hard drive activity light stops flashing after about 30 seconds, and the WIFI connection is live after 40 seconds. All in all you can be online browsing in under a minute from cold boot.

The version of Android that you get here is 1.04.00.0102 – which is one of the earlier versions, and certainly shows it’s age as Android has moved on a lot since then.

The Android desktop has 4 icons on it – Firefox (which is actually Minefield 3.0.10), Webmail, Google Talk and Calendar. Obviously Android is from Google and to get the most from it’s various pre-installed applications you need to be setup with Google for your email, calendar etc.

This is the first time I’ve used Android on anything apart from mobile phones, and I have to say that it really shows it’s mobile origins. You can’t help but think that the interface is still designed for the phone, or at least would be more usable with a touch screen, things like swipes do not come naturally when using a touchpad. I say touchpad because an external mouse is not detected by the OS.

The mouse is not the only thing that doesn’t quite work as you’d expect on the netbook. The built in Android web browser is obviously designed to function on a mobile phone, and doesn’t even understand things like the page up and down buttons. The Firefox browser (Minefield) is a ‘full browser’ and works as you’d expect – though I did have a problem where trying to quit the browser just caused it to close and restart, the only solution was to shutdown – but it wasn’t every time, and with a quick reboot this was a minor inconvenience but does speak to the maturity of the OS and apps.

In general the feeling that I get from the rest of Android is that it for mobile phone use, it really isn’t attempting to be a full OS per se. You can probably install apps to offer other things, but out of the box it feels like it’s intended quite literally as an internet OS and the UI shows it’s touch screen origins.

 

So Windows 7 Starter is the other OS installed.

Boot time is about 45 seconds from cold, 60 seconds until the hard drive stops flashing, and 80 seconds until the WIFI connection is made. So slower than the Android boot, but still hardly slow.

The desktop icons are Acer 3G connection manager, Acer configuration Manager for Android, Acer games, eBay, McAfee, MS Office 60 day trial, Netflix and Norton Online Backup.

These are mostly what you’d expect.

The 3G connection manager allows you to manage the 3G connection if you’ve installed a SIM card.

The Acer configuration Manager for Android allows you to change the boot behaviour. One option you can setup is for Android to auto boot in to Windows if you don’t touch the keyboard or touchpad for a number of seconds after Android is booted. If you decide to forgoe Android completely then you can change things to boot directly into Windows. Whichever boot option you opt for you should be able to find one that suits you. You can also do a recovery of the Android partition, do updates etc – all in all a useful tool for managing the ‘secondary’ Android partition.

Acer Games is a rebranded version of Wild Tangent games interface.

eBay is a obviously a link to eBay.

McAfee is the default A/V trial software installed.

MS Office is the commonly installed trial software.

Netflix is a link that goes to the Netflix website – note that is does go via the Acer site first and gets forwarded on from there, so Acer are watching to see how successful such a desktop link is.

Norton Online backup is just that, a tool for backing up your data in ‘the cloud’.

And that’s about it, a fairly straight forward install.

 

So software covered, what about the hardware.

One button that did catch my eye as unusual was the one with the Bluetooth icon on, this is specifically for Bluetooth enabling and disabling – something that is normally tied in with a more generic wireless connections interface. Whether you actually need a separate Bluetooth button is down to you, but it doesn’t exactly get in the way either way.

 

AspireONE-keyboard

 

The Synaptics touchpad is multi-touch with a whole range of controls in the software. Personally I disabled most of the multi-touch behaviours as I find them less useful on a laptop than I do on say a touchscreen phone. This touchpad does have buttons that are separate, so at least you aren’t getting behaviour crossover between where you are touching and when you are clicking like some other multi-touch pads. One of the options in the software that I did notice is the ability to switch the touchpad from right handed to left handed – something that the left handed users might find useful.

The battery is a 4400mAh unit. As usual I tested the battery life under Windows using fullscreen video playback and it looks like the Aspire One is capable of about 5 hours of video playback with the WIFI on, so for basic text editing and the like you are likely to be able to stretch that into most, if not all, of the day.

We have a LAN connector that is what I would consider the right way up – the tab is accessible from the top.

The VGA connector is what we’d expect on netbooks and laptops, though the current trend seems to be for HDMI connections.

The rest of the hardware is very familiar to someone who saw the original Aspire One that we had 18 months ago.

This new unit has a bigger battery, slightly larger screen, 3G connection capability, larger hard drive and dual boot with Android – but apart from that, things remain pretty much the same.

We have the N270 @ 1.6GHz CPU, with 1GB RAM. The screen is still 1024×600 though this version is a 10.1" screen and the graphics chipset is the same Intel 945 we saw before. Although slightly larger, the keyboard is much like other netbooks, a little spongy and still a bit snug – but that’s down to the limitations of the physical size of the unit as much as anything else.

At least the hard drive, memory and WIFI parts are easily accessible should you want to change them or get at them in the case of an emergency.

 

wei

Windows Experience Index

To backup my feelings of sluggishness I ran the Windows Experience Index and as you can see from the above image, it’s not exactly a speed monger.

 

Conclusion

Whilst you could argue that the speed of boot and potential lower power consumption justify Android’s presence on this dual boot system. Personally I don’t think that the version of Android installed here is quite mature enough, and it’s UI certainly needs some rejigging for use on something other than a mobile phone. At the moment it feels like what it is, a mobile phone UI on a netbook. On the plus side of things the Aspire One is plenty fast enough to run Android snappily.

The Windows side of things is much the same as we saw 18 months ago, and the Atom chipset still feels a little bit underpowered. I’m a little bit surprised that the CPU didn’t see an upgrade or at that there wasn’t a RAM boost at the very least.

If Android is the big thing you are looking for here, then I’d imagine you could find information on the web as to how to set this up yourself – and you are likely to be able to install a more up to date version.

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