Acer has boosted its arsenal of affordable netbooks with an updated version of the Aspire One 532. The ultra-portable Aspire One 533 gets an improved processor with Intel's Atom N475 running at 1.66GHz while the faster DDR3 RAM also makes it stand out from the crowd. It has also got the same 250GB HDD as the previous model and is equipped with Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 3150. It also comes with Windows Starter 7 edition.
Available in black, white or dark red, the 533 sports a compact design with a chic, glossy finish and the Aspire One moniker embossed in silver (not real silver, obviously). On taking it out of the box, we assumed that our shiny black review model would be a fingerprint magnet the second it was exposed to human hands. However, we were slightly surprised and very pleased to see that it actually seems fairly resistant to collecting too many smudgy fingerprints, at least more so that many other glossy models on the market. And if it does become a problem, at least Acer has provided a handy cleaning cloth in the box.
Weighing in at 1.25kg, the netbook is certainly light enough to be carried around all day and at just 27mm thick, it's svelte enough to fit into a fairly small bag. The 6-Cell battery does protrude slightly (as with many netbooks), so that you don't get a totally flush finish to the underside of the unit, but we can't really mark this affordable device down for that. The 533 also feels pretty sturdy and in particular, the screen hinge appears to be reassuringly robust.
The generously sized trackpad has a slightly raised finish which makes it a cinch to use and also includes a separate vertical bar to the right which can be used for scrolling, although we found this to be a tiny bit temperamental. The remaining palm rest area is fairly sizeable, although you may want to use a separate mouse if you're planning to use the netbook for any extended amount of time as it could become uncomfortable. The trackpad button bar is responsive enough, although we found that it needed downward pressure to be relatively square on, and wasn't so effective if pressed from a slight angle.
The keyboard stretches the whole width of the netbook, which means that the keys are almost full size, while the slightly mottled finish gives them an ideal texture for typing. The keys feel very responsive and not cheap and flimsy, like those found on some budget netbooks. However, the flat design and the resulting lack of a slanted edge to each key makes it that little bit harder to type. It's particularly noticeable when touch-typing, as it's difficult to feel where one key ends and the next begins. The function button enables access to plenty of keyboard shortcuts so that you can tinker with all the usual settings, such as screen brightness, without having to delve into the computer's menus.
Sporting a 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, the 10.1-inch CrystalBrite backlit LED screen is sharp and bright and also promises to improve battery life. Although it's designed to be anti-glare, we found that the glossy screen didn't fare too well in very bright conditions. Having said that, it does benefit from a relatively wide viewing angle. The screen is surrounded by a glossy black bezel, with a webcam integrated into the top-centre portion of the frame.
The device features built-in speakers which are actually pretty good for such a small-screened product, and a great deal better than those found on some larger and more highly specified laptops.
As mentioned earlier, the 533 benefits from Intel's Atom N475 CPU, which is more powerful than the CPUs found in previous models, while the faster DDR3 RAM (1GB) also improves performance. The extra processing power was really noticeable when playing 720p HD videos, which most netbooks tend to struggle with, resulting in lots of freezing and generally clunky playback. On the 533, high-def videos played smoothly, without any noticeable glitches. The netbook also features a 250GB HDD which should be more than enough space for all your mobile computing needs.
When it comes to connections, most of the usual suspects are here, including a generous three USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, and a VGA for connecting up to a monitor as well as sockets for headphones and a microphone. The 533 boasts Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), LAN and Bluetooth 3.0, which is handy for transferring content from your smartphone.
The 6 cell Li-ion battery power offers a claimed battery life of up to 8 hours, which we found to be a fairly reasonable assertion. We managed to get several hours of work from one charge, without the battery levels looking anything like they were about to give up. The provided AC adaptor not only boasts a very compact design, but also offers shorter charging times.
The svelte, lightweight design, large keyboard and bright screen, along with the pumped up processor and faster RAM make this is a great little netbook. This is definitely one to consider if you're in the market for a device that will enable to work for lengthy periods while away from your home or office, or any power sockets.
Thanks to saveonlaptops.co.uk for the loan of this review unit.