New Acer Netbook Challenges Laptops on User Happiness and Price

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Netbook leader Acer on Monday introduced a low-cost netbook that comes close in many aspects to matching the performance and user experience of much more expensive laptop computers. With its 11.6-inch screen, compared to the usual 10-inch or smaller netbook display, the Aspire One A0751h should be a pleasure to use.

The full-sized keyboard and LED-backlit screen may be larger than netbook users are accustomed to, but one thing about the new Acer will remain very pleasantly familiar: Price. With a list price of $350, the Aspire One A0751h near the bottom of netbook pricing.

It wasn't supposed to turn out this way, but netbooks are poised to cannibalize traditional netbook sales. While initially positioned as devices for Web-surfing and e-mail, competitive pressures keep improving netbook design specs. This new Acer, based on Intel's Atom Processor, isn't as powerful as the average laptop, but for such a low price customers seem to be willing to overlook speed.

The lure of an almost dirt-cheap computer that offers Wi-Fi, a gig of memory, 160MB hard drive, Windows XP Home, and weighs 2.75 pounds is tremendous. And, oh yes, it will run for up to eight hours on a charge and comes in a gorgeous sapphire-blue. What's not to like?

If potential customers understand the value-proposition the Aspire One A0751h represents, it may sell to folks who aren't even looking for a netbook, like me.

I've been looking at netbooks for months and have been considering machines from Acer and #2 manufacturer Asustek for several months. I've been put off by the tiny screens and especially the teensy keyboards common to the 10-inch models. Increase the screen size to 11.6-inches wide and things get interesting.

The larger keyboard works for my large hands while the bigger screen may be easier on my post-age-40 eyes. The weight and battery life are important too, as I can carry this machine in my briefcase without a heavy power supply, in many cases, and not notice the added load. Again, what's not to like?

Performance won't match a "real" laptop, but how many apps do I really need to run at one time? I would not be buying this machine to run the Adobe Suite on, just word processing, simple spreadsheets, communications, and a web browser. For that purpose, the Atom processor should be fine. How fast does a word processor really need to be?

That sort of thinking could prove dangerous. While leading the netbook market with nearly a third of all netbooks sold (according to DisplaySearch), Acer has been hit by shrinking profits and falling sales. Is this new machine a case of taking a small loss on each unit, but making it back in volume?

I may just break out my recession-ravaged checkbook and hope for the best.

David Coursey is glad he's held out the long. But, maybe he'll wait and see how Acer's competitors respond. Follow him on Twitter and send e-mail via the form at

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