Netbooks were once touted as small and cheap alternatives to laptops. But, with models like the Acer Aspire One 751, sporting a large 11.6-inch screen, appearing on the scene, it's difficult to know where the boundary between a laptop and a netbook now lies. This is especially the case since, priced at around £380, the 751 isn't that far off the asking price of most low-end laptops.
Acer has applied some of the design ideas used in its slinky Timeline laptop series to the 751. Our review sample had a similar glossy black lid (although red, blue and white versions are also available) and grey keyboard surround. But, it's the slim dimensions that are most impressive -- this netbook is just an inch thick. This makes it look rather sexy, and helps it stand out from the chunky netbook crowd.
Another area where the 751 excels is its screen. It's not just the fact that, at 11.6 inches, it's larger than most. It also has a higher 1,366x768-pixel resolution. The extra vertical pixels are especially welcome as they mean that you don't have to scroll down as often when viewing Web pages and office documents. Acer has also used LEDs for the backlighting, so not only is the display very bright but it should also be easy on the battery.
Keyboard and trackpad delights
As the chassis is that much wider to accommodate the larger screen, Acer has also had more room for the keyboard and trackpad. The result is that both are top-class. The keyboard's roomy and responsive keys mean that even the fastest touch typist will quickly get up to speed, and the largish trackpad also supports multitouch, so you can use a pinch motion, for example, to zoom in on Web pages or photos, just as with Apple's iPhone.
When it comes to its core spec, the 751 follows the traditional netbook blueprint quite closely, apart from its processor. It's supplied with Windows XP and, as a result, only has 1GB of RAM (Microsoft won't license XP for netbooks with more memory than this). As with most recent netbooks, it also uses a traditional hard drive, rather than the solid-state drives found on early models, but, with its 160GB capacity, it at least gives you a decent amount of room for storing applications and files.
Rather than use the Intel Atom N270 CPU that's found in the majority of today's netbooks, Acer has opted for the newer 1.33GHz Atom Z520, which is significantly slower. This fact is reflected in the 751's PCMark05 benchmark score of 1,056, and is noticeable in day-to-day use. It feels slower than rivals like the MSI Wind U115 Hybrid and Asus Eee PC 1000HE and struggles with tasks like smoothly playing BBC iPlayer video in full-screen mode. Its 3DMark06 performance was also poor, with a score of just 83, but we can let that pass because it's the same story no matter which netbook you choose.
The sluggish performance is a shame, as the netbook has good connectivity, with three USB ports, a multi-format card reader, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Certain models with also be available with built-in support for 3G mobile broadband, although our review model lacked this feature.
The netbook's battery life is pretty good too. In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, it managed to keep running for just a shade under 5 hours, which puts it up there among the marathon runners of the netbook world.
We really love the Acer Aspire One 751's slim frame, amazing screen and spacious keyboard, so we find it incredibly frustrating that Acer didn't kit it out with a faster processor. It's still a very neat netbook, but, with a speedier processor, it could have been one of the best on the market.
Edited by Charles Kloet