Following Asus' lead, Acer continues to churn out netbooks like tomorrows are in extremely short supply. The 10.1-inch Aspire One Pro 531 is billed as a business machine, with enough battery power to last all day away from the mains. It's available in four configurations. Here we review the mid-range 531h-06k, with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. It's available for around £330 online.
We're not quite sure what distinguishes a business netbook like the 531 from mainstream offerings from other manufacturers. Maybe it's non-descript design. But that's not to say the 531 is unattractive, and the matte black case looks sleek. We suppose bland is best when it comes to business use.
This model ships with a relatively large, 5,200mAh battery. While this adds to its overall size and weight, the cylinder that houses the extra three cells at least pokes from the back of the case rather than the underside, so it's not as awkward a shape as some other big-battery netbooks.
Runs with the pack
Claimed battery life aside (and more on this in a moment), there's not a great deal to distinguish the 531 from other 10.1-inch netbooks. The matte, 1,024x600-pixel screen is crisp and clear, but the keyboard isn't quite as wide as those on netbooks from Asus and Samsung, and the keys feel slightly cramped as a result.
The tiny trackpad is also awkward to use. Occasionally, it misinterprets a pointer-moving finger swipe across its main area as a scrolling drag along one side. That's annoying, but not the end of the world.
Screw-on panels cover the hard-drive bay, single SODIMM slot and mini PCI Express slots on the 531's underside. The latter was empty on this particular model but it can be filled with an optional 3G modem.
The 531 refused to run our PCMark05 and 3DMark06 benchmark tests. But, with an Intel Atom N270 processor, 2GB of RAM and Intel GMA 950 GPU, it will perform more or less like every other similarly specified netbook.
It did, however, run the Battery Eater tests quite happily. The good news is that Acer's claim of up to 7.5 hours of battery life isn't overly ambitious. In the demanding Classic test, the 531 ran for just under 5 hours and 15 minutes, and put in 8 hours and 18 minutes in the less punishing Reader's test. This puts it among the most road-friendly netbooks we've ever reviewed, and it's only bettered by the Asus Eee PC 1000HE and Samsung N140.
The Acer Aspire One Pro 531's battery life is very good, but that's about all that differentiates it from the netbook herd. If you appreciate a no-nonsense design, it's worth a look.
Edited by Charles Kloet