Today, we have Acer’s new Aspire One based on the AMD Fusion platform – the Aspire One 522. This 10.1-inch budget series netbook is targeted towards anyone looking for a trendy and compact netbook under 20K. The recently reviewed Asus 1015PX also falls in the same category so let’s see how well the Acer 522 fares against it.

Design and Build Quality
I quite like Acer’s minimalistic design of the 522, it gives the appearance of a slim netbook without any extra fluff. It’s stylish as well, with a lacquer gloss finish on the lid. It will certainly appeal to the younger generation. Despite its slim profile, it doesn't feel very light weight at 1.3kg. There are a total of three USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, VGA port, LAN jack, microphone and headphone jack and finally the card reader. The battery protrudes a little from the back giving the netbook a slight elevation. It’s not too much to cause an ugly bulge though.

Good paint job

Good paint job

Opening up the lid, we have a glossy 10.1-inch screen with a rather high resolution of 1280×720, not a common occurrence in netbooks of this size. The glossy effect does introduce reflections but it’s not too bad since the brightness is sufficiently high to cancel most of it. The chiclet keyboard packs in slightly larger than normal keys for a netbook which is good for those with fat fingers. There’s just a power button up top with a blue LED light around it. The Acer bundles a carry pouch and charger along with some instruction booklets and the warranty card.

Overall, I really liked the build and finish of the 522. It’s crafted well from good quality plastics and you wont find any creaks even if you press it.

Features
At the heart of the Aspire One 522, we have AMD’s Fusion APU, the C-50, which is a dual-core running at 1GHz. Rest of the specifications include 2GB DDR3 RAM and a 320GB hard drive, good enough for a budget netbook. The OS is Windows 7 Starter which offers all the basic options you’ll ever need on this machine.

Looks smart!

Looks smart!

Acer also throws in some bundled software like McAfee Antivirus (Trial) and Office Starter Edition. They also have some of their own software like Crystal Eye Webcam which lets you capture and record videos and Acer Game Zone which is a collection of mini games. The 522 is also “AMD HD Internet” certified which means the netbook should handle HD media streaming and playback with ease. Finally we have Bluetooth and WiFi ‘n’ built-in as well. Next let’s see how it performs.

Performance
PCMark Vantage gave us a score of 1572 PCMarks which is standard for a netbook. The rest of the scores are in the table below. In SiSOFT SANDRA, the C-50 is not able to keep up with the Atom N570 which runs at a faster speed. The same is reflected in our video encoding tests, it took a whole 4 minutes longer compared to the Asus. POVRay fared better since the on-board GPU of the Fusion chip is superior to Intel’s HD graphics.

Good GPU performance but can't say the same about the CPU

Good GPU performance but can't say the same about the CPU

General and Multimedia
Windows 7 feels really  sluggish due to the lower powered C-50 APU. When it comes to rendering graphics, the GPU is more than capable but sadly the CPU lacks the raw processing power which is why even navigating through Windows Explorer feels slow and there is a noticeable lag. Applications take longer than usual to open and doing multiple tasks tends to bog the netbook down. Although it may be a dual-core, it doesn't feel like it – in fact the first generation Atom felt snappier. I also noticed the bottom left portion warms up pretty quickly even if the netbook is sitting idle. The problem appears to be the lack of proper ventilation on the side. Coming to the screen, the vertical viewing angles are pretty poor as well although the horizontal ones are slightly better.

Chiclet keyboard makes typing easier

Chiclet keyboard makes typing easier

I set out to test the “HD Internet” certification that the 522 flaunts. After installing the latest version of Flash  for IE, I fired up a 1080p YouTube video . The playback was smooth although at times I noticed a slight stutter in the video. Non-flash based HD videos fare much better though. A quick install of K-Lite Codec pack and I was able to play a 1080p MKV with just 40% of CPU usage. This time playback was smooth with out any skipping of frames and there wasn’t any lag jumping back and forth in the movie. The high resolution screen makes watching movies a real treat, however the sound is weak with the built-in speakers so you might want to use external speakers or headphones.
 
Battery life
With Battery Eater Pro, the Aspire One 522 lasted 3 hours, which is lower than the Asus1015PX which managed 30 minutes more. Under normal use, you should expect around 4-5hrs of back up time. This is very average for a netbook and I expected a lot more from it especially since the APU is clocked at a lower speed.

Verdict
The end user price of the Acer Aspire One is Rs.16994, which is fairly decent for a netbook capable of playing back 1080p videos. If that’s all you care about and don’t mind the overall sluggish performance of Windows, then I’d recommend it. However, if you’re ok with just playing 720p and want a snappier performing netbook then the Asus 1015PX offers better value and is quite a bit cheaper as well.

The Acer 522 has some good things going for it like the HD screen, 1080p video playback, HDMI-out and great design and build quality. However, it runs unnecessarily warm, has an average battery life and worst of all, the APU is too weak to handle Windows 7 smoothly.

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