Updated: August 22nd 2012 with links to the Linux article.
My longstanding Acer Aspire One finally became a little less safe this week when the power socket broke. This forced me into my pet annoyance e.g. having to spend money on another computer when the old one did pretty much what I needed. Anyway I decided to cap my budget at around €350 for a new netbook and see what was around. In addition to this price my other key considerations were:
- Comes with Windows for those Office moments.
- Be compatible with Linux Mint in particular with decent wifi
- Be quite light but with a bigger screen than the old one on my Acer
- Decent video playback
- Something that I can use for basic programming tasks
The DM1 is not much heavier than my old Aspire One; but that is in part due to it not having a huge long life battery attached. It’s also a bit larger, which is mainly down to the screen. The keyboard is more spacious as a result and it generally feels pleasant. In terms of overall build quality. The casing feels adequate but does not feel as thick as the One. In the box you get the minimum that is needed to get going; for example there is no recovery media – that said you can make recovery DVDs or a USB key; for the latter you will need a 32gb key or higher.
The specs are not bad for the price and it includes 4GB RAM coupled with an AMD E450 dual core clocked at 1.6ghz with an integrated Radeon 6320 graphics chip. This setup is compatible with Linux – unlike the power VR chipset built-in to the new Intel Netbook chips. This is not a high end computer so don’t expect the fastest device on earth, if you keep that in mind you will probably be quite happy. I will write about the Linux experience at some later date.
For normal netbook tasks e.g. surfing the web, using the free and included MS Office Starter or using YoutTube it works pretty much ok. There were perhaps a few stutters in the HD Batman trailer in full screen I watched but this could be down to the cloud virus scanner I am using or my Internet connection. The reason for qualifying this point is that there was no lag or consistent problems as was the case with the One. SD videos also work without almost no problems with one obvious stutter. Normal SD video files also played without any problems.
One major annoyance is that the DM1 comes pre-installed with Norton anti-virus which according to many other reviews slows it down quite a bit. I removed Norton and for now I am using the faster Panda Cloud Anti-virus. This basically has only a minimal impact on the computer but does mean more of your data is going to end up being scanned online by a third party – so you must trust Panda. I had forgotten what a pain Windows can be and it didn’t hold off from reminding me with no fewer than 50 updates within 24 hours, I switched it on again and another 8 updates also magically appeared last night. The bloatware that HP add was no speed booster either. That said Windows 7 is pleasant enough.
The display is pretty good too, being sharp and indoors atleast is more than bright enough. The trackpad is ok but not the best out there. You also get bluetooth and 3 USB ports, but not USB 3 or Firewire.
To sum up, so far this is quite a nice little device and handles what I throw at it with ease. It is much more responsive than my old N270 based netbook so is a worthwhile upgrade. Also netbooks whether they use Windows or Linux remain far less locked down than either iPad or Android based-tablets. In my case I plan to use it for small programming projects especially once I have installed Linux and got it connected to my Raspberry PI.
TIP: If you are from the UK you will pay in pounds what we overhere in mainland Europe are paying in Euro for this netbook. So if you are on holiday in Europe it’s worth grabbing one then although you may need to get used to one of the many non-UK keyboards.
Added August 22nd 2012. If you want to upgrade to Linux Mint 13 (which is rather nice) please check out this review first.