Monday, July 21, 2008

Welcome to the world of low cost UMPC Aspire One.

For those who still don't know the machine, it's one of the successor clones of Asus Eee PC, but it's using latest generation hardware with a price comparable to first gen EeePC 701
Main point differing it from first gen Eee are:
- Intel Atom CPU @ 1.6Ghz (hyper-treaded means Linux sees 2 CPU's);
- 8.9" (1024x600) glossy screen, backlight is LED based and it can go from very low backlight (in a dark room it's enough and some TFT's can't dim this low) to prety bright backlight (might help in outside to minimize reflexes) with a decent contrast ratio (seen somewhere about 700:1 - I agree) and it has a reasonable vertical viewing angle (I would say about 90deg) and a decent horizontal viewing angle for normal software gui working (I would say 170deg with a bit of color changing, but when watching videos or pictures blacks tend to get grey when watching at about 30deg or more - this will give it about 60deg of horizontal viewing when watching movies or photographs).
- 8GB of storage space (like a hard disk, but since it's solid state it's much faster on startup;
- Keyboard is almost standard size, and when I press central keys, keyboard doesn't bend.
- A standard SDHC card slot (that add's to internal 8GB storage) and a second slot for multi 5in1 card reader.

Compared to other "normal" laptops:
- Much lighter (slightly less than 1Kg);
- Much smaller (means real portability);
- Also very small AC/DC power adapter (as it doesn't require much power to run and charge);

Although there are a few negative items:
- Glossy screen (on a computer this size it's more likely you're gona use it outside) so a glossy screen attracts light reflexes and forces you to increase backlight to compensate.
- Fan noise - I thought a very low power CPU (Intel Atom) would not require a fan or could use a very silent fan, maybe there is a compromise with aluminum heat think weight - so there is a permanent sound somewhat like a bee. (although you might not notice it unless you are in a quiet environment). UPDATE: (It looks like some people are reporting they have deadly silent fans, so there might be 2 types of fans out there)
- Mousepad keys are too hard to press (their position on left and right of the pad itself, I might get used to even though they should have different colors so you won't try to press mouse pad thinking it's a mouse buton, but they should be much lighter buttons (and should make less noise when clicking) - I bet it's using old button mouse technology. (well for left mouse pressing you can tap on pad like other laptops, and you can always plug an external USB mouse :)

The best:
- Not forcing you to pay M$ TAX - Actually I've been waiting for this chance long ago.
- GNU/Linux - This means there is a lot of software applications instaled and ready to play (including the famous Firefox and OpenOffice suite), and a lot more of other applications for free waiting for you.
- Portability (it fits in my daily bag and nobody knows I'm carrying a laptop - not even me - unless I think about it :)
- Price - Now it's possible for some more people to have a useful and portable computer.

Well, a lot more could be said about this little wonder, but lets keep something for tomorrow...


Mike Silva said...

If you live in Portugal and want to use a 3g USB modem (kanguru from optimus) check this page (in portuguese):

Mike Silva said...

Humm, it looks like the FAN in other's Aspire One are not so noisy as mine :(
As a user shoed in this video:

Maybe I had bad luck with my model, or got a pre-production unit...

Mathew said...

Just got mine a couple of days ago. Love it. I really wanted a black one, but I'm going overseas in September and can't wait; the blue isn't too bad.

My fan is very quiet. I didn't even realise it had a fan until I was in a nearly silent room!

Little disappointed with the image brightness outside in the sun. You'd think they would have these things sorted by now; when I was a kid, I had a pocket LCD black and white TV which worked by reflecting the LCD image in a mirror using available light - the more sun, the brighter the picture...

I assumed I'd have to wipe the SSD off and put on a proper Linux distro until I discovered you can get to a console (Alt-F2). It's very bare-bones, but 'yum' works nicely and I'm slowly getting useful software on there.

Next up is working out how to use my bluetooth dongle.

Mike Silva said...

Yeap, I would prefer an all black unit also, but like you said this blue is not that bad.

The problem with screen in the outside is it's glossy coating is reflecting way too much light :(

I think pre-production units had a mate screen, but maybe they had not enough mate LCD's to start hight quantity production.
I think I have a problem in my fan like some other people :( there sould be a maximum noise db in the specs so I can say it's broken, even tough I'll have to do anything - either swap the fan or swap the computer bacause I have a ultra powerfull desktop with ultra big aluminium heatsink and 12cm fan that produces almost no noise.

h_vdm said...

Can you give me some good reasons why i should choose de aspire one en not de Asus eeepc 901.
I can't decide!

There are only netbooks with an AZERTY keyboard in France. Problem: the OS is a Linpus linux lite FRENCH version. Is it possible to change it to a DUTCH version?


Mike Silva said...

I'm my country (Portugal) I've waited the arrival of an Eee PC for about 9 months.
I was folowing the news every day on other places in the world about the Eee PC 900, the Eee 901, the MSI Wind, and te Acer aspire One. I din't buy the 900 from UK because I was waiting for a Portuguese keyboard version in local market.
But when Asus released the Eee 701 in Portugal, it was too late (at least for those that knew about the later models - 900 and 901) and a week later, we had the Acer Aspire One in local maket for the same price that Asus Eee PC 701 (299€).
About the Msi wind, it starts to get too big/heavy/Windows, there is no date for local launch, and they made Windows their priority (there will not be a Linux version with bluetooth, or other advanced hardware) so I discarded it.

In the mean time, I always have been a Linux enthusiast (in the past 10 years), and I watched the Asus Eee 900 with Linux being launched at the same price as the Windows version, even though the Linux version didn't need as much storage as the windows version, it had more. This made me think Asus have been controlled by Micro$oft in later Eee models. So, why pay for more when you actually need less? - I mean not everybody need that fash storage space, why don't stick with the idea of a cheap, yet useful Laptop?
When acer launched the Aspire One, they said their priority was Linux, and I always prefer to support Linux. Otherwise there would not be a choice of a small laptop (by now M$ would want Windows Vista in every computer, and the more expensive the hardware, the better for them - because the windows license cost might pass unnoticed to end users).

- The keyboard of Eee (I think the 701/900/901 are the same) is smaller and when I tried in a store when pressing the central keys, the whole keyboard bend slightly down.
- It has an extra SD card slot that allows me to have an additional permanent and easily upgradeable storage - freeing another 5in1 card slot reader for occasional use.
- Acer has continuous 8GB storage boot device (Eee has only 4GB for boot storage and the rest of space in other device) - this might be useful when your installed operating system and related software grows more than 4GB.
- The Linpus Linux (Fedora Core based) seems more open to advanced users.
- Since Acer has a bottom expansion door for future 3g module, I had hope to buy it myself and plug it in there, but it seems there won't be this upgrade path available to users.

Mike Silva said...

Forgot this: about the OS language. the first time you boot the computer (factory image) it opens a wizard that lets you choose the Language, Password, Location, so if the keyboard is fine, the OS language you can decide. (I don't remember what languages I had available, but it was about 8 options or so - if I'm not mistaken it had at least these: English, Portuguese, French, German, Italian).
Later you can always restore the factory state using the CD that comes with the computer to flash its disk image. - Like re-installing the operating system. (but booting from a USB CD-rom or USB PenDrive - I've done this because first time I selected Portuguese language, and a few days later I restored to select English) Obviously, this will erase everything you have done in the internal 8G SSD.

h_vdm said...

thank you!
You helped me a lot!
I think I buy de Acer.
I let you know!
Just one question: Can you upgrade the Ram?

Mike Silva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Silva said...

:) actually, I just upgraded the RAM to 1024MB (1GB) in my One.
I did it because I aleready had this spare 512MB DDR2 533Mhz DIMM (some one gave me from an upgrade of other laptop), so it is better to use it inside my One than laying around :) but I didn't feel the need, I had been happy with the original 512MB.
It's not an easy task because the board has the free DIMM slot under the PCB and the case has no removable cover underneath it.
I did it myself because I had done similar tasks before, but for a comon user, the thin connectors, etc might be a problem to unplug and replug to access the DIMM slot.
Though I think there are some stores that can make this work for you.
I think now I'll install Google Earth and try it in my car, I would like to see it working as a GPS navigator, but don't think it does this.

h_vdm said...

thanks for the advice and success with your "GPS"

Steve said...

I just bought a One and took it on a trip to NYC. I got the Windows/120GB/1GB version for $399+tax at Micro Center in Cambridge.

I was able to install Ubunutu 8.04.1 onto a USB stick and boot from it. No special procedure is required---the One's BIOS recognizes USB storage devices at boot time and makes them available through the boot menu (F12). There are two catches: (a) you have to install 8.04.1, not 8.04, or else the kernel won't recognize the network devices, and (b) you have to download and build the wireless network interface driver manually.

Battery life is awful: I can barely go two hours on a charge. Considering that I got this primarily for use while on the road (transpacific flights, hotel rooms and/or hotspots), this is bearable.

Fan is very noisy. The fan noise is a bigger irritant than the lousy battery life. Doesn't matter whether I'm running Windows or Linux, the fan sounds like it's on at full speed, all the time.

Despite these two big annoyances it's a great machine. I can even touch type with relatively few mistakes compared to on a full-size keyboard.

Mike Silva said...

Steve, 120GB is nice indeed, but I wonder how long does your HD take to boot compared to the original 8GB SSD, and obviusly the same OS.

One of the thinkgs I really like is the FAST boot times - I press the power button, and while I go to the back of the table to plug the AC adapter on the wall, the computer is ready to work ;)

I'm using an 8GB SDHC card, but when the price of 32GB SDHC cards come down, I'll buy one of these.

Steve said...

Booting into Windows takes a minute or two, same as on any other laptop with a HD. Booting into Ubuntu from USB storage takes somewhat longer, but still on the order of 2-3 minutes. I suspect that has a great deal to do with the USB device itself---in my case, this is a 1" microdrive for which "hdparm -t -w" claims about 5MB/s throughput. I think this is bogus; it's much faster than times like that suggest. Maybe hdparm isn't the right tool to measure read/write speeds on USB disks?

Fn-F4 suspends Windows quickly, and it comes back quickly too. (I just tested it: 21 seconds to resume, and then after logging in again I suspended it---7 seconds.) I tried this with Ubuntu and got all sorts of filesystem warnings, and that scared me from trying it again until I have some more free time.

By the way, Acer's FAQ says that the maximum size SD card you can use is 8GB. Quote:

Q:What is the maximum card size (memory storage) supported? A:8GB for both SD slots -- left and right.

(Does this mean 8GB for both slots combined, or 8GB for each? I don't have any SD cards large enough to test.)

Fan noise is a big problem, especially in quiet environments. I wonder if the fan is necessary when you have a HD installed instead of SSD. I desperately hope a BIOS update addresses the fan issue and soon.

Mike Silva said...

Steve, USB mass storage devices use much more CPU than other IDE-DMA/SATA/SCSI devices, so that might slow down a booting process because there are frewer free cpu cycles.

About SDHC 8GB capacity limit, I think Acer (like many other brands) says 8G because maybe it was the maximum available when they projected the board.
I think there could be a problem jumping from an SD-only device to SDHC card.
If you look in this forum:
there are several users using 16GB SDHC cards on Aspire One on either lef/right solts.

xJaike said...

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robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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