As the dark winter nights draw in, Acer is aiming to dispel our thoughts of suicide with the Aspire One Happy, offered in four cheery pastel shades. But that's not the only thing that's different about this netbook. It also comes with dual operating systems: Windows 7 Starter and Android 2.1. If you're feeling tempted, the netbook will set you back £250 from Laptops Direct.
All the colours of the rainbow
The main difference between the Happy and other netbooks in the Aspire range is the variety of colours on offer: pink, purple, green and blue.
We had the pink version in for review. It certainly looks quite striking. The finish feels cheap compared to that of the pricier Samsung N220, but the netbook feels robust overall. The small, 10.1-inch screen means it's very portable and certainly small enough to carry around in a backpack or a large handbag. At just 1.3kg, it won't weigh you down either.
The screen might be small, but its resolution is reasonably good by netbook standards, at 1,024x600 pixels. Its LED backlighting helps it to produce very bright images and, thanks to the glossy coating, colours are impressively rich and dynamic. But the glossy finish does make it fairly reflective, which is noticeable when you use it indoors in bright lights.
Like most of Acer's current line-up of laptops and netbooks, the Happy uses an isolated keyboard design. The design differs from that of other manufacturers because the keys seem to float above the surface of the netbook.
The keys are quite large and wide by netbook standards, and they feel responsive, so they're a pleasure to type on. We like the trackpad too, as its rectangular shape gives you plenty of room and the single rocker-style button responds with a positive click when it's tapped.
On the storage front, the Happy packs in a 250GB hard drive. Connectivity-wise, there's both the newer, high-speed version of Bluetooth, as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi. You also get three USB ports, as well as an SD memory-card reader.
Like the Aspire One D255 that we looked at last month, the Happy comes with two operating systems: Windows 7 Starter and Android 2.1. The latter is more commonly found on smart phones and doesn't work well on this netbook. Although Android loads much faster than Windows, it feels awkward to use, which isn't surprising, as it was designed primarily for touchscreen devices.
For example, to exit an application, you have to reach over and hit the Esc key -- you can't simply click on an 'X' in the corner of the app, as you can in Windows. There are actually times when Android feels more sluggish than Windows 7, and you don't get access to the Android Market, so installing new apps isn't straightforward. But, if you don't want to use Android, you can simply turn it off via an easy-to-use application in Windows, after which it won't be offered as an option at boot time.
Slow speed, long battery
As the Happy uses a single-core Intel Atom N450 processor, rather than the dual-core N550 found in the D255, its performance is more in line with that of a traditional netbook. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, it managed to post a score of 1,244. This indicates that it's fine for simple tasks like emailing and Web surfing, but, like most netbooks, it feels sluggish when it comes to multitasking. It even struggled to smoothly play standard-definition video feeds on BBC iPlayer.
Graphics duties are handled by an integrated Intel GMA GPU. This doesn't have the grunt to deal with 3D gaming, something which is evident from its lowly score of 149 in 3DMark06.
In the Battery Eater test, the Happy managed to keep running for 4 hours and 45 minutes, which is pretty average for a netbook in this price range. But this test is very intensive, constantly running the processor at full whack, so, under real-world conditions, you're likely to get closer to the 8 hours battery life that Acer quotes for this model.
The Acer Aspire One Happy is a decent netbook, but, apart from the range of colours that it's available in and the presence of Android 2.1, it doesn't really offer anything that you can't get elsewhere for a similar price.
Edited by Charles Kloet