In Review – The Acer D260 – Acer Getting it Right

Acer has been really spearheading the netbook charge with trying to get affordable and great netbooks onto the market since the trend really started to take off. The Acer Aspire One series of netbooks has been popular with consumers and reviewers alike, as it combines all of the features people want in their on the go machines with a name that they can trust.

I’ll admit that Acer has had some bad spots in the past where they just haven’t lived up to expectations with the quality of their machines, but that all seems to be in the past. Today on the chopping block is the Acer D260, a dual core machine that packs the punch that other netbooks just don’t seem to have. It has slipped under a lot of radars so far, but hopefully that’s all about to change.

Exterior Shots

From the outside, the striking blue lid of the D260 may be the first thing you notice. But if you look past the color extending all the way down to the keyboard, you’ll also notice that on the underside of the chassis is a nice feature. HP started the trend, but Acer has perfected it; a one piece bottom piece of plastic that can easily be removed for upgrading purposes. While you may not be into the idea of upgrading your netbook, there are plenty of tinkerers out there that find it useful, and we’re glad Acer isn’t just catering to the mainstream market.

One design flaw that may bother some is the air vent. Acer opted to put the air vents for the D260 on the underside of the body as opposed to one the side. We know this helps with cooling more than side air vents, but for those that like to put the laptop on their lap, this may be a challenge. Tests show that the computer reached temperatures of p to 104 degrees Fahrenheit when placed on a lap (where it couldn’t properly cool). On a desk, cooling is fine and the netbook stays right at the cool temperatures it was designed for.

The keyboard design may not be for everyone. The keys are very close together, so typos may happen if youre not used to a smaller netbook keyboard. However, despite their smaller size, the keys are very responsive and I found my fingers just flying across them during work. Hopefully chiclet style keys are here to stay.

Specifications

Although an exterior may be pretty, it’s what’s inside that generally counts. With the D260 you get a dual core processor from Intel’s Atom lineup, which flys by almost all of the other netbook processors out there. If you’ve gotten used to the somewhat sluggish performance of other Atom processors, chances are you’ll be stunned when you fire this baby up for the first time. Programs load quickly and there’s very little lag when it comes time to do processor intensive things. Dual core processors really are the only way to compute, but unfortunately they’re a battery killer.

The battery only lasts 4 hours or so with the D260, which may not be long enough for some netbook power users. The beauty of having a portable computer is the ability to work on the go without being tied down to power plugs. With a 4 hour battery life, the time just seems to fly by and I found myself always rushing to and from wall outlets to make sure I had enough power to keep going. If you work at a desk, this may not be a problem, but for those that move around a lot (me!), 4 hours just simply isn’t long enough. Hopefully a third party will come out with an additional battery pack soon that can double, if not triple, the life span of the battery inside.

Alright, so here’s where things get interesting. Acer has been watching the complaints about other netbooks for a while and finally took the reigns to do something about it. Netbooks have been plagued with what I call “Lack of RAM syndrome” since they were introduced and no one has done anything to fix it. Netbooks generally only come with 1GB of RAM installed and are able to be upgraded to 2GB if the users want to. The thing is, almost everyone does that. 1GB of RAM just isn’t enough to do anything productive and 2GB should be standard. The D260 answers the call for more RAM and comes with 2GB standard in every machine, preventing you from having to spend the extra money once your computer arrives.

There’s very little, if any lag, with HD video content playback, which is a nice change from older netbooks. I admit, I don’t watch a lot of HD content, but it’s sometimes annoying to have to wait until I get home because a certain video clip I’d like to watch is only available in HD. Now though, the D260 has no trouble handling higher quality video files.

One final surprise of the whole netbook was the webcam. I’ve never been impressed with low megapixel webcams, but this one felt very usable. There was very little blur when talking to friends online and despite some color issues where colors seemed a little off compared to what they should normally be, I was pleased overall with the color palette the webcam displayed.

Thoughts

Overall I think the D260 is definitely the new standard in netbook design. It captures everything that a netbook should be in a small package and sells it for a very reasonable price. Although there are a few minor cosmetic flaws like a poorly placed speaker and a mismatched LED on the power button, there’s nothing that makes this computer unusable. The battery length may be an issue for some, but if you’re at work or somewhere with an internet connection to use your Netbook for what it’s intended, chances are you’ll be able to plug it in and keep on browsing.

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