Part IV: The testing begins…

acer3From my previous postings, you will see that my latest adventure is to test out a new Acer 751h Netbook that I purchased from Costco. It seems to be a good little machine, so now I’m about to put it through some of my standard operations.

Normally, I use a laptop on my kitchen table that is connected to my Desktop PC via Remote Desktop Connection. This is done wirelessly through my home router. I’ve been able to duplicate that scenario this morning, and have been using the Acer Netbook in “production mode”, where I’m doing some C++ programming on my Desktop PC via a remote connection. At the same time, I’ve been running on battery power and monitoring the drop in battery level over time.

During testing, the Acer appears to be an adequate machine for source code programming. The keyboard typing was just fine and the speed of the Netbook was more than adequate. The only thing that was bothersome was the limited amount of source code that I could view on the screen. I was using Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 as the IDE, and a lot of the vertical space is taken up by the main menubar and toobar/ribbon at the top. I guess I’m spoiled by the 21″ wide-screen monitor I have on my Desktop PC.

I also noticed that my remote connection would stall if I switched away from the remote desktop to my Acer Netbook. It would take 10-30 seconds before the remote connection would become responsive again. Now, I don’t know if this is a problem with the Acer’s WiFi module, OS setup, or with my Desktop PC’s settings. I’ll have to investigate further, but having this stalling is a bit troublesome. (I discovered that the issue was related to my new Belkin router, not the Acer Netbook. I disabled the “ICMP Pinging” option and remote desktop connection worked fine).

With regards to battery life, below is the data I collected as I was using this Acer Notebook while constantly using the WiFi adapter:

acer_battery_log

So the standard 3-cell battery can go for about 2.5 hours with the WiFi adapter on and continuously active.

As of now, I’ve logged about 20 hours working with and testing the Acer 751h Netbook.  I have say it’s a very nice, portable machine that should work great for those who travel and want to connect to the internet. The higher resolution screen makes it very usable compared to the older Netbook machines. I didn’t see any instability issues with the system freezing up or being too slow to be usable (remember, I made some standard tweaks to speed up the OS). I will say that I wouldn’t use this Netbook as my primary computer because of the low graphics memory.

Final Verdict:

This is the 2nd Netbook machine that I’ve seriously considered getting for my own personal use. As I mentioned in my previous related postings, I wanted to get a Netbook for web surfing, email checking, and to work on my computer programming while I’m in the kitchen of my home (and remotely connect to my office Desktop PC). I used this fine Netbook quite heavily for 20 hours, and in the end I found the smaller screen to be a real eye strain for long-term use. It was fine for the first few hours, but to use it for 5 or more hours straight was hard on my eyes. The network connection dropping from my Desktop PC was also troubling, and hindered me from using this Netbook effectively for remote desktop connections.

After using the 11.6″ Netbook screen for several hours,  my 21″ Desktop PC monitor seemed so roomy in size, making me appreciate the larger screen. As such, I don’t think I’ll be keeping this Acer Netbook.  It’s a great portable machine, but for my intended use but I don’t think it will do well for my old eyes. If I was someone who travelled frequently and wanted a good portable machine for web surfing or email checking, I would definitely recommend the Acer Netbook. It’s extremely cost effective at $290 US, so much so I’m still tempted to keep it. The only caveat for my recommendation, is that I only used this Acer Netbook for 20+ hours which isn’t a very long time. This Acer model might still have the system freezing problems reported by other users, so I would be sure to purchase it from a source that had a good return policy.

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