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Acer Aspire One 532h Notebook Review

by The Review CrewMay 30, 2010

Like other netbook makers, Acer is refreshing its line with the new Intel Atom N450 processor (Pine Trail), which promises similar performance but greater endurance. Also like its competitors, Acer has tweaked the design, adding a keyboard with the same style as its larger notebooks and trimming down the chassis. But most significantly, it’s also trimmed the price: though our review model came in at $349, the Aspire One 532h starts at $299, a hundred bucks less than competing brands. But does price trump all, even in the commodified netbook market?

Design
The 532h is a bit of a departure from Acer’s previous 10.1-inch netbooks, the Aspire One D150 and D250. In fact, it looks more like Acer’s 11.6-inch netbook, the Aspire One 751h. Instead of a solid color, the lid of the Onyx Blue 532h fades from a dark metallic blue to black. Other color options included Garnet Red and Silver Matrix. This treatment makes the netbook look much more refined. However, the glossy finish, which is also found beneath the keyboard, picks up fingerprints quickly. There’s now a lot less room at the top of the deck; the keyboard is shoved right up to the top, and the power button is crammed in by the left hinge.

Like the Toshiba mini NB305-N410, Acer saw fit to change the design of the six-cell battery on the 532h. No longer does it jut out the back; it’s now tucked in underneath, shaving three quarters of an inch off the footprint. The area beneath the display and between the hinges has a sharp edge as opposed to the smoother curves of the D250. At 10.2 x 7.3 x 1.0 inches and 2.8 pounds, the 532h is about the same size, shape, and weight as most 10-inch netbooks.

Heat
After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad on the 532h registered 92 degrees Fahrenheit, the space between the G and H keys was 91 degrees, and the middle of the underside reached 97 degrees. While we don’t consider any this heat to be troublesome, the temperature of 110 degrees in the left front corner was a cause for concern.

Keyboard and Touchpad
Instead of a traditional keyboard as on its older netbooks, the 532h has Acer’s FineTip keyboard, which is completely flat on top, and has a slight space between each key. Also, it’s larger than when compared to older netbooks: whereas on the D250 there was approximately half an inch of space on either side of the keyboard, on the 532h there’s less than a quarter of an inch unused. While it looks identical to the layout on the 11.6-inch 751h, the 532’s keyboard is smaller and the keys have a shallow pitch to them, which made typing somewhat more difficult. We much prefer the keyboards on the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P (Seashell) and the Toshiba mini NB305, which have island-style layouts and more space between the keys.

We’re also pleased to see that the touchpad on the 532h is much larger than on previous Acer netbooks. At 2.6 x 1.4 inches, it’s positively spacious compared to the previous generation—though still not as large as that on the Toshiba mini NB305. The multitouch-enabled touchpad is covered with a number of tiny dots that distinguish it from the glossy deck, making it practically friction-free. While we wish the metallic blue mouse button beneath was split into two, it’s sufficiently large and has a nice response.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The six-cell, 5600-mAh battery in the 532h lasted 8 hours and 36 minutes, over 3 hours longer than the netbook average, and just a minute shy of the Toshiba mini NB305. The 532h’s time also bests the D150 by about 40 minutes. While we’re pleased to see that Acer’s netbook endurance improved since the last generation, it’s still two hours shorter than the Eee PC 1005PE-P.

The 532h took a leisurely 4 hours and 8 minutes to completely recharge. During that time, it drew an average of 28.5 watts, for a total of 7068 watts. Its Battery Efficiency rating (total watts divided by battery life) of 13.7 is better than the category average (18.4), but not as good as the HP Mini 5102 (11.0).

At 15 feet from our access point, the 802.11b/g/draft-n Wi-Fi card on the 532h delivered throughput of 20.0 Mbps, which falls just below the average of 21.1 Mbps. At 50 feet, the throughput fell to 18.1 Mbps, which is slightly above average (17.3 Mbps).

Configurations
While our version of the 532h costs $349, Acer is also selling a $299 version with a smaller 160GB hard drive and lower-capacity 4400-mAh battery. If extra storage is not essential, this represents a real bargain. Users can also easily upgrade the RAM and hard drive themselves, as both are easily accessible through covers on the underside.

Software and Warranty
The 532h comes with a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, McAfee SecurityCenter, Norton Online Backup, and Microsoft Works, as well as desktop shortcuts to the Acer Games portal, eBay, and Netflix. Acer backs the system with a one-year limited warranty. To see how Acer fared in our Tech Support Showdown, click here.

Verdict
In most respects, the Acer Aspire One 532h is a lot like every other netbook: specs include a 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, Windows 7 Starter Edition, and a 250GB hard drive. Its performance, too, is almost identical to such netbooks as the Toshiba mini NB305 and the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P. Where Acer has everyone else beat, though, is price. At $349, the company has undercut the longer-lasting 1005PE-P by $30, and the NB305 by $50. If you don’t mind a smaller hard drive (and presumably less battery life), you can pick up a 532h for just $299. That’s a price that would let us overlook the less-than-ideal keyboard. Overall, the 532h’s stylish design and excellent endurance make it a strong value.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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