Although it isn't superswift, the latest, the Windows XP Acer Aspire One is a fine laptop at a fantastic price.

Acer's first Aspire One mini-notebook was a Linux-based model that impressed us despite its modest components. Now the Windows XP Home version of the Acer Aspire One is here, packed with a larger hard drive and more RAM.

The sizes and prices of models in the mini-notebooks category continue to escalate, but in the States at least, the Acer Aspire One with XP can be purchased for around £299 - a bargain.

Acer's well-constructed, elegant entry measures 249x170x28mm, roughly the same size as the IdeaPad S10. It's significantly lighter than the S10, though, at just over 1kg (as opposed to 1.6kg).

The XP-based Acer Aspire One retains the physical profile, excellent keyboard, and small but crisp 8.9in screen found on the Linux-based model. Significant changes lie beneath the surface, however: A 120GB hard-disk drive replaces the Linux model's paltry 8GB flash drive. An SD Card slot for additional storage supplements the unit's 5-in-1 card reader. The system also bulks up to 1GB of RAM (the Linux model had 512MB). And yet the price is virtuallly unchanged.

Unfortunately, the Aspire One earned a mark of just 34 on our WorldBench 6 speed tests, putting it toward the back of the pack of Atom-based mini-notebooks (whose scores have hovered around 36). The Windows-based Aspire One did easily outpace HP's 2133, whose Via C-7M CPU led it to an anaemic 26; but it fell well short of the Lenovo S10's surprising 41.

Even worse, the Acer Aspire One's three-cell battery lasted for just 2 hours, 16 minutes.

We also have a design complaint: the mouse buttons flanking the touchpad are mounted vertically instead of horizontally - an unconventional approach that makes navigating documents unnecessarily difficult.

A less significant issue is the Acer Aspire One's software bloat: Our test system came preinstalled with (among other items) Adobe Air, Acrobat, a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, McAfee Security Center, and Intervideo's WinDVD (with the MPEG-2 codec for video playback).

We hope that Acer notices what Lenovo did with the IdeaPad S10. Though that machine went the minimalist route, it offered a thoughtful system recovery tool that lets you set restore points and backups to CD (after you attach an external optical drive). The Aspire One's threadbare recovery management software amounts to little more than a reset switch: no restore points, just the ability to institute a full system recovery or to reinstall some of the unnecessary software.


Despite these shortcomings, the Acer Aspire One is a fine little machine. If you need more hard drive headroom or slightly speedier performance, Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 may be a better choice. But Acer's Aspire One is one of the best category bargains around. Just stay near a power outlet or invest in the extra six-cell battery.