I’ve been living with my new Acer Aspire One D150 netbook for a while now, and now that I’ve actually used it for a bit, I have some observations to make.
First, let me say that using this netbook with Ubuntu Netbook Remix is awesome. The UI is like something out of science fiction, and even from a cold boot it starts up way faster than Windows does. However, there have been a few glitches.
First was the built-in microphone – it just didn’t work for some reason. Fortunately, the support community for Ubuntu is freakin’ huge, so I was able to track down an answer fairly easily – I just needed to upgrade to the latest ASLA drivers for the sound card.
It’s worth noting, however, that Acer themselves doesn’t exactly help with troubleshooting problems with these netbooks. The actual model number for my netbook is D150-1577. If you can figure out what that all means, then you’re cleverer than I am. I figure the “D” stands for the fact that this is a disk-drive based model (as opposed to a solid-state drive), but the rest of it is a bit of a mystery to me. The “D150″ bit seems to be the general model, with the 1577 saying something about what specific revision of that model it is. But I’m guessing here – it might be something else; who knows?
The problem is that these different model numbers (and there are a lot of them) actually do mean that the computer underneath is different – different sound card, different wireless chipset, and so forth. So when there’s a problem, it might be with certain models – or it might be a similar problem on different models, but what works for one person with one particular model might not work for you, with a slightly different model. Whether this is true of other brands of netbooks I don’t know, but it’s certainly true of the Acer Aspire One netbooks.
That aside, this really is a sweet little machine. The keyboard is easy for me to type on (I’m actually writing this article on my netbook, and my typing speed is not appreciably affected by the slightly smaller keys) and the touchpad, although small, is easy enough to use. The touchpad button is one button with two “ends” that you click on, so it’s not quite as easy to click as two distinct buttons would be, but it’s not hard to use, either. Most laptop buttons are rubbish anyway, in my opinion – your mileage, of course, may vary.
The advertised battery life of around 5 hours is right on the money – I’ve gotten very consistently that sort of life from it, with the wireless turned on all the time. And it is so lightweight – just under 3 pounds with the 6-cell battery – that you hardly even notice it’s on your lap.
Of course, all the glowing things I’ve had to say about this netbook stem from the fact that I’ve been using it under Ubuntu, not Windows. In fact, I’ve hardly ever switched over to the Windows installation I left on it, except to play a game of Alpha Centauri with my wife this past weekend.
Ubuntu really is a great replacement for Windows – it was incredibly easy to install (and it even kept the original Windows installation on hand for me, in case I need it for anything). In fact, installing Ubuntu was even easier than installing Windows (and I’ve installed Windows more than a few times over the years). It boots up fast, everything works (with the one exception of the microphone) and it’s just great to use. And having a huge repository of really excellent (and free!) software readily at hand is a great bonus, too!
All-in-all, you really can’t go wrong with the combination of the Acer Aspire One and Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Of course, if you’re in the market for a netbook, I strongly urge you to try out the keyboard on several different models if you can – given that most netbooks have pretty much identical specs (CPU, RAM, hard drive space) these days, the comfort of the keyboard and the touchpad will probably be the biggest deciding factors for most people (well, that and price of course!). Fortunately, Ubuntu Netbook Remix runs just fine on almost all of the major tier-one netbooks, so you can take your pick, and then combine whichever one you choose with what is quite possibly the sweetest OS for netbooks out there today.
You really won’t be disappointed!