Acer Aspire One 532h-2588: A Merely Adequate Rendition of the Now Familiar Netbook Platform
At a Glance
Acer Aspire One 532h-2588
In the 532h-2588, Acer has produced a very average netbook at a relatively low price, with all the drawbacks and strengths of the class.
When the Apple iPad shipped, pundits noted that netbook sales declined. In fact, the iPad had little to do with the decline in netbook shipments--the decline had already begun well before Apple's tablet arrived in the hands of enthusiastic users.
As for the real reason why netbooks have lost their allure, the Acer Aspire One 532h-2588 is exhibit number one. Having a tiny, inexpensive laptop ($310, as of June 10, 2010) is obviously appealing, but other factors limit the utility of this netbook.
The key problems involve the machine's display and keyboard. The screen offers the now-familiar 1024-by-600-pixel resolution, which in my experience is simply too low for doing work tasks and even limits Web browsing. And though I recognize that netbook manufacturers have to make compromises in order to cram a functional keyboard into a compact package, I still found typing a chore on the 532h-2588, even with my relatively small hands.
Then there's the 532h-2588's touchpad, which is one of the more frustrating touchpads I've used. It was imprecise, and it often "phantom selected" items before I was ready, even if I hadn't lifted a finger from the surface. Pushing the buttons required too much pressure, as well.
Performance in our tests was better than expected. Though the 532h-2588's WorldBench 6 score of 60 is nothing to write home about, the system's responsiveness, even when we opened about 16 tabs in Google Chrome, was surprisingly good. Given that the machine's target market consists of people who need only to browse the Web and do very light office tasks, the overall responsiveness is a pleasant surprise.
Some of that responsiveness is due to the stripped-down Windows 7 Starter Edition operating system, which makes Windows performance tolerable with the scant 1GB of system memory. On the other hand, Starter Edition is painful to use, particularly if you're familiar with any higher version of Windows 7. The utter lack of configurability--you can't even choose system icons to place on the desktop--is notable.
Also helping out is the dual-threaded nature of Intel's Atom N450 CPU. Note that this netbook won't set any benchmark records, and that any attempt to run a 3D game is hopeless. Overall, however, the 532h-2588's performance is about as good as you can expect from a netbook priced at the lower end of the spectrum.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for its video performance. The 532h-2588 has neither a Broadcom Crystal HD accelerator nor the nVidia Ion chipset. Playback of WMV HD files looked good in terms of color rendition and sharpness, but we saw numerous frame hiccups and stuttering. Even standard-definition playback was less than robust, though Flash playback from sites such as YouTube performed adequately.
The 532h-2588 does offer easy expansion through three USB ports. That third port is critical: If you want to attach a USB optical drive, for example, it may require two ports--one for power and the other for data. As a result, the third port becomes necessary for any additional expansion. Two of the USB ports are built into the left side, adjacent to the VGA connector. The third USB port graces the right side of the unit, along with a 10/100 fast ethernet connector, a five-in-one flash memory card reader, and two audio ports.
Audio quality was a little better than we expected, too, though to say so is damning with faint praise. Accuracy was surprisingly good--neutral and clean--though the sound also suffered from a complete lack of anything that could be described as bass. Volume levels were extremely low, however, so you'll really want to have headphones, particularly in noisy environs.
Storage is pretty average, as the 532h-2588 integrates a 160GB drive--but 30GB of that is taken up by the restore partition.
In the end, the Acer Aspire One 532h-2588 is a boring, adequate rendition of the now familiar netbook platform. It breaks no new ground, and it has some notable usability problems. On the other hand, it has the benefit of a low price. If you really do need "just a netbook" to keep around the house or to toss into a briefcase or purse, the 532h-2588 will fit the bill. Just don't expect it to rock your world.