Netbooks have a reputation for being rather samey, with their external design often the only point of difference. The Aspire One 533 breaks from the boring norm with a new Intel Atom N475 CPU and faster DDR3 RAM to improve performance. Our review model was supplied by Save on Laptops, where you can buy it for £300.
Not too shabby netbook
The 533 certainly makes a good first impression thanks to its sleek design. The dark grey, glossy finish on the lid goes nicely with the more matte look of the keyboard surround. We also like the curved, elongated screen hinge, which not only feels very robust, but looks quite funky, too. It's slim, measuring a mere 27mm thick. Overall, we think it's one of the better looking netbooks on the market right now.
At just 10.1 inches, the display is obviously quite small, but its resolution of 1024x600 pixels is pretty crisp given its petite dimensions. Despite its shiny coating, the screen is not too reflective by glossy-screen standards. It's also brilliantly bright and capable of producing strong colour. Unlike a lot of netbooks, the 533's viewing angle is quite wide, which will come in handy if you want to share a movie with a mate while you're travelling.
Because the battery protrudes slightly from the bottom of the netbook, the keyboard tilts towards you at a gentle, sloping angle that creates a nice typing position. The keyboard is one of the better ones we've come across on a 10-inch netbook, as the keys are relatively large and the layout is practical with only the cursor keys reduced to half size.
The trackpad sits completely flush with the case, marked only by a grid pattern that distinguishes it from its surround. The pad is actually quite large by netbook standards and it even has a separate scroll area on the right-hand side for quickly zipping up and down through longer Web pages and documents. Rather than having two separate buttons, Acer has integrated them into a single rocker button that sits right at the front lip of the chassis. There's a noticeable click as you tap on either side, so it feels responsive to the touch.
More than just a pretty face
Most netbooks use an Atom N450 processor, but Acer has chosen the newer N475 for the 533. This single-core processor is clocked at 1.83GHz, but, more importantly, it uses DDR3 memory to provide extra performance. Unfortunately, the netbook refused to complete our PCMark05 test, but the speed improvement was noticeable over other netbooks that use the N450 chip. For example, while most netbooks struggle to play 720p videos smoothly, the 533 was able to play even more complex 720p files without any problems. Its 3D performance, however, doesn't rise above the standard netbook level. It uses an Intel GMA graphics card which was only able to rack up a score of 164 in 3DMark06, so although you can use it to play very old 3D titles, it's a dead duck when it comes to modern first-person shooters.
Elsewhere, the specification doesn't stray too far from the traditional netbook template. Although the RAM is the faster DDR3 type, there's still only 1GB of it, which is just enough to run the Windows 7 Starter operating system. For storage, Acer has provided a 250GB hard drive. The line-up of ports is similar to most netbooks, too, with three USB ports, a VGA output for connecting to an external display (unfortunately, there's no HDMI port) and an Ethernet socket for hooking up to a wired network. There's also a multi-format card reader nestled on the right-hand side of the chassis. On the wireless front, there's 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 support -- a handy addition for transferring files from devices such as smart phones.
If there's one area in which netbooks consistently outperform laptops, it's battery life, and the 533 doesn't let its fellow devices down. It managed to keep running for a relatively impressive 4 hours and 11 minutes in our Battery Eater test. Since this test is super intensive, you should get an even longer life from the 533 with ordinary day-to-day use.
Overall, this is a very impressive netbook from Acer. It looks sleek and has a good screen and keyboard. The new processor and faster RAM provide a small, but welcome, increase in performance. If you're in the market for a 10-inch netbook, the Acer Aspire One 533 should be near the top of your list.
Edited by Emma Bayly