Part I: The Lure of the Netbook Computer

acerWhile shopping at my local Costco store recently (for a new WiFi Router), I came across an Acer Aspire One (751h) Netbook computer. If you’re unfamiliar with Netbooks, they are very small laptop computers designed for accessing the Internet via WiFi or built-in Wireless Broadband (cellular connection). These Netbooks usually have a 9 or 10″ screen, reduced-sized keyboard, and lack the traditional DVD-ROM Drive. They also are engineered for long battery life, so they often employ low-power CPUs (which can translate to a slower PC operation).

Several months ago I explored getting a Dell Mini 9 Netbook (ordering it from Costco online), but ultimately returned it for a refund because of two main reasons: (1) The max vertical screen resolution of 600 pixels resulted in too much screen scrolling when viewing web pages and doing computer programming, (2) Some of the important keys were location in non-standard locations on the keyboard, hindering a touch typist. Since most Netbooks have this 600 pixel vertical resolution, I gave up looking for a Netbook computer.

The Acer Netbook available at Costco had an 11.6″, 1366 x 786 resolution screen, which perked my interest. It also had a nearly full-sized keyboard (about 90%) which was much more comfortable to type on than most of the smaller Netbook computers. Even with the larger screen and keyboard, this Netbook was still very portable (lightweight at 2.75 lbs with battery) and easy to carry around on trips.

Since I’m big on reading online reviews, I went home and did some research regarding this Acer Netbook model. After a few hours of Googling and sifting through several different forum postings, my head was spinning. Several Acer owners were complaining about overall slowness, random freeze ups, low battery life, etc. which began to make me wonder if I should get this Acer model. However, I realized that most people are only vocal when they have something to complain about, and not when everything is going well.

So, I decided to bite-the-bullet and get the Acer Aspire One from Costco for testing this weekend. I figured that if I don’t like it or if it exhibits one of the bad issues I’ve read about in the various online reviews and forums, I’ll just take it back for a refund. That’s the nice thing about Costco– they have a very liberal no-hassle return policy with a 90-day return for computers.

The Acer 751h that I purchased had a 160 GB hard drive (5400 RPM) and 1 GB of RAM memory. It also came with Windows XP Home, which is still available for 1 GB Netbook systems.

My plan, was to strip off all the extras (junk) that was loaded on the Acer and do my best to optimize it for fast execution of Windows XP (I learned a lot from when I worked with the Dell Mini 9 with a 16 GB Solid-State Disk Drive).  I’ll then give it a real testing, doing my usual activities of web surfing, checking emails, forum postings, and computer program coding. If it works for those activities and has a 2+ hour battery life, then I’ll keep the Acer Netbook (barring any system problems). If it doesn’t work out, I’ll return it to Costco on Monday and get a refund, and wait another 6 months before exploring the Netbook market again.

So here we go. My next posting will cover my initial impressions and what I did so far as optimizing the Netbook for peak performance.

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