Acer Aspire 1410 review (dual core version)
Acer recently updated the Acer Aspire 1410 laptop to include a dual core Intel CULV processor and Windows 7 Home Premium. And for some reason, Acer knocked about $50 off the price at the same time, making this $400 laptop one of the cheapest computers you can find with an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display and a dual core processor.
I reviewed the original version of the Acer Aspire 1410 a few months ago, and the folks at B&H were kind enough to send me an updated model to review. The model featured in this review has a dual core 1.2GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 processor and integrated Intel GMA4500MHD graphics. It has 2GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n WiFi and a 6 cell, 4400mAh battery.
The Acer Aspire 1410 is available for purchase from B&H for $399.99.
For the most part, the hardware is identical to the version of the laptop that I previously reviewed, so portions of this review are taken from that earlier article. The primary differences are with the operating system and processor, so I’ve made significant changes to the performance and software sections, along with minor changes to other departments.
Superficially, the new version of the Acer Aspire One looks identical to the earlier version. But the new laptop has a smaller hard drive (160GB instead of 250GB), and a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 processor instead of the 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500 found in the original version of this laptop.
While the SU3500 has a faster clock speed and is part of the Core 2 family of chips, the new model’s dual core CPU helps the computer to perform better at some CPU-intensive tasks. But the Acer Aspire 1410 is not a high end laptop. It’s just a a bit above your average netbook — although with a $400 price tag, you really do get a noticable performance boost and a high resolution display for a netbook-like price. What’s more, the Acer Aspire 1410 ships with Windows 7 Home Premium instead of the stripped down Windows 7 Starter Edition that comes with most Intel Atom powered netbooks.
Of course, with an 11.6 inch display, the Aspire 1410 is a bit larger than your typical netbook. But it weighs just about 3.1 pounds, which is definitely within the standard netbook range.
But if you’re looking for better performance or longer battery life, Acer also offers the Aspire Timeline 1810T and 1810TZ notebooks which run between $550 and $600 and which have higher performance chips and higher capacity batteries.
The Acer Aspire 1410 measures 11.2″ x 8″ x 1.2″ at its thickest point. The thinnest point is near the front, where the laptop is just 0.9 inches thick with the lid closed. It weighs about 3.1 pounds. All of which is to say, it’s barely any bigger than your typical 10 inch netbook, and it’s actually lighter than some models (Asus Eee PC 1000HE, I’m looking at you).
Around the sides of the computer you’ll find 3 USB ports, a flash card reader, Ethernet jack, VGA port, and an HDMI output.
There are also headphone and mic ports, and it’s worth pointing out that the mic jack actually has a metal rim, which should make it a bit sturdier than the cheap plastic jacks found on most computers. Of course, you’re more likely to use the headphone jack on a regular basis, and that’s made of plastic.
The lid has a glossy finish which will show fingerprints, but it’s not the worst offender I’ve seen.
On the bottom of the unit you’ll find two panels that can be removed to upgrade the hard drive, RAM, or WiFi module. There are two RAM slots, and the laptop can handle up to 4GB of memory.
The speakers are located just under the front of the keyboard and there are two hardware switches on the front of the unit for turning the WiFi and Bluetooth on and off.
Keyboard and TouchPad
The keyboard is pretty much a full sized keyboard. The keys are nice and large with a little space between them, and the keyboard stretches almost from one end of the chassis to the other.
My one and only complaint about the arrow and Page Up and Down keys are crammed into a fairly tiny space in the bottom right corner. The more you use the keyboard, the more you get used to this configuration, which is similar to the layout on Samsung netbooks.
But I often have a hard time hitting the Page Up and Down keys in a hurry. The arrow keys, which also double as volume and screen brightness keys, are a bit easier to use.
I took a 2 minute typing test at TypingTest.com to see how this keyboard stacks up against others I’ve used, and I was able to type about 95 words per minute with 98% accuracy. That definitely makes this one of the better keyboards I’ve used, although I find that keyboard layout can be a matter of taste.
You may find other keyboards more comfortable depending on what you are used to. For instance, the keys on the Acer Aspire 1410 are all flat, and you may be more comfortable with concave keys.
The touchpad is small, but it gets the job done. It supports multitouch gestures such as using two fingers to scroll or pinching to zoom in some applications. You can also scroll through web pages and other content using the right side of the touchpad.
The palm rest area of the laptop features a brushed metal finish, while the touchpad is smooth. From a distance, it’s hard to see where the palm wrest ends and the touchpad begins, but you can feel it when your finger moves from one area to the other.
There are two distinct buttons below the touchpad for right and left clicks, and they work quite well.
Performance and Graphics
This is where things really start to get interesting. The Acer Aspire 1410 with the SU3500 processor is significantly faster than a typical netbook when it comes to CPU-intensive tasks such as playing HD video, video games, or transcoding audio and video files.
The new model with the dual core SU2300 processor performed even better in some cases, but not in every test. For instance:
Video test (transcoding 2:22 file from uncompressed AVI to XViD):
- Windows Vista/SU3500 model: 2 minutes, 41 seconds
- Windows 7/SU2300 model: 2 minutes, 9 seconds
Audio test (Converting 30:03 WAV file to MP3):
- Windows Vista/SU3500 model: 1 minute, 10 seconds
- Windows 7/SU2300 model: 1 minute, 18 seconds
So while the new model was faster at transcoding video using VirtulDub, it was a little slower at transcoding audio using WinLame. It’s possible that your results may vary if you use different audio and video files, different codecs, or different trancoding utilities.
It’s worth pointing out that when I ran the same tests on a netbook with an Intel Atom N270 CPU, they took 2-3 times longer to complete. So both versions of the Acer Aspire 1410 blow away a typical netbook when it comes to this kind of CPU-intensive tasks.
When it comes video playback, the laptop can handle 720p or 1080p video playback fairly well. I felt like there might have been a few dropped frames here and there, but overall playback was smooth and pretty watchable.
The laptop could also handle HD Flash video from YouTube, something which most netbooks with integrated GMA 950 graphics choke on. What’s interesting is that standard definition video from online video site Hulu gave the Aspire 1410 a little more trouble than HD YouTube videos.
Some TV episodes and movies from Hulu played back flawlessly. But others were a bit jumpy. Overall, this laptop performed noticably better with Hulu video than the Windows Vista/SU3500 model and significantly better than most netbooks with Intel Atom processors and 1366 x 768 pixel displays.
But playback wasn’t perfect. So if you’re looking for a machine that can handle Flash video as well as local videos, you might want to spring for one of the higher end models or grab an NVIDIA ION powered netbook like the HP Mini 311.
Right now that ION graphics processor won’t help with Flash video, but Adobe is expected to release an updated version of Flash Player later this year or early next year that will support NVIDIA graphics, enabling 1080p Flash video playback on low power netbooks and notebooks.
I also ran my new set of benchmarks, which I plan to run on most new computers I test, at least until I run out of systems with different processors and graphics (There’s not much point in benchmarking yet another netbook with a 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive, and so forth). Here are the results from the new benchmarks:
- Audio transcoding test: 36 seconds to transcode a 13:24 WAV file to MP3
- Video transcoding test: 3:56 to transcode a 4:34 file
- Folder copy: Between 0:55 and 1:05 to copy and paste 2186 files totaling 478MB (I ran this test several times)
- Folder zip test: 1:38 to create a 453MB ZIP file containing 2186 files
For comparison’s sake, the Asus UL30A, which has a dual core 1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor completed the audio test in 32 seconds, the video test in 3:22, the folder copy test in 10 seconds, and the folder zip test in 1:02. The UL30A is clearly faster, but not a lot faster.
On the other hand, the Asus UL30A received a Windows Experience Index score of 3.4 and had higher subscores than the Acer Aspire 1410 in almost every category. The Aspire 1410 got a 3.2, with the lowest scores concentrated in the graphics and gaming graphics areas.
One problem I had with the older version of the Acer Aspire 1410 was that the webcam seemed to have a milky/foggy quality. It turns out there was a tiny piece of plastic covering the camera that I missed. This time around I made sure to remove the plastic, and the webcam image quality improved significantly.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how good the webcam is. If you’re overdue for a haircut, you’re still going to look like you need a haircut.
Aside from the processor and graphics performance, the thing that sets the Acer Aspire 1410 apart from a typical netbook is the 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display. And overall, it’s just about the perfect size and resolution for an ultraportable.
I’ve used several 10 inch or smaller netbooks with 1280 x 720 or 1366 x 768 pixel displays, and they usually give me a headache when I stare at the screen too long. To be fair, the problem is with the operating system and software which don’t scale properly, not the screen itself.
But when using Windows Vista XP on a 10 inch netbook, the text tends to be super-sharp and difficult to read from a comfortable distance.
The 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display, on the other hand, was sharp, but not too sharp. Text and pictures were crisp and clear, and video looked great, but we’ll get into that more in the performance section.
The screen is glossy, which means that it turns into a bit of mirror in brightly lit settings, especially if the display is turned off.
The main thing that sets the new version of the Acer Aspire 1410 apart from the previous model on the software front is the fact that it runs Windows 7 Home Premium instead of Windows Vista. This is a huge step up, since the laptop generally feels more responsive.
You also get new features like Aero Peek (which lets you look at the desktop by temporarily minimizing all windows for just a second without actually changing their position) and the new and mostly improved Windows taskbar.
Windows 7 Home Premium also includes Windows Media Center functionality, something which you won’t find on the Windows 7 Starter Edition that ships with most netbooks. While Windows Media Center is designed as a full screen interface for music, movies, and photos that looks good on a TV, it also includes some features like an Internet TV section with content from CBS, MSNBC, and others that makes it a welcome addition to a portable notebook like the Acer Aspire 1410.
Acer also made the somewhat baffling decision to throw in a copy of Cyberlink PowerDVD 8 for watching DVDs on this notebook that ships without an optical disc drive.
The rest of the software is pretty much par for the course. You get free trial versions of Microsoft Office 2007, McAfee Internet Security and Norton Online Backup as well as a full version of Microsoft Works.
There’s also an Acer Gaming Console to access online games, and GridVista software, which lets you separate your display into zones so that you can snap windows to the right, left, upper right, lower left, or what have you.
The new processor and operating system doesn’t seem to have affected battery life very much. The US version of the Acer Aspire 1410 comes with a 6 cell, 4400mAh battery. I was able to get 4 hours and 57 minutes of run time when surfing the web and writing some documents with WiFi turned on and the screen brightness set at about 50 percent.
That’s almost identical to the experience I had with the single core version of this notebook when running Windows Vista. Interestingly, when I tried installing Windows 7 RC on the original model, battery life went down by about thirty minutes.
You’re probably not going to get 5 hours of run time if you use the laptop to watch video in a continuous loop. But for light weight tasks like web surfing and maybe watching the occasional online video, you can probably expect 4 to 5 hours from the dual core Acer Aspire 1410.
The Acer Aspire One strikes an excellent balance between power, performance, price and battery life. The updated model offers marginally better performance and a much improved operating system at a lower price, which makes this $400 laptop look pretty attractive.
But it’s not perfect. It’s bigger and bulkier than a 10 inch netbook, and there are plenty of other machines that offer better performance or battery life. But I haven’t seen another machine that offers as much as the Aspire 1410 at this price point.