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The Acer Aspire One D250 is the latest 10 inch netbook from Acer. It has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, but fits into a smaller and lighter case than the Acer Aspire One D150.
Joe Rybicki is a freelance writer who’s spent the last 13 years covering the video game and technology industries. He lives in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and laughs at your commute. He picked up his first netbook a few weeks ago and has been using his new Aspire One D250 to work on the road. Read more at joerybicki.com.

When last we spoke, I promised to report back on the Acer Aspire One D250 after spending a week lugging it around downtown Los Angeles. Let me tell you, after just the first day I was pretty much ready to declare this purchase one of the smartest in recent memory. Through a day of press conferences scattered throughout downtown L.A., I walked about five and a half miles with this thing nestled in a shoulder bag…and I barely even noticed it was there.

But it’s not just the weight that convinced me I’d made the right choice. It’s the battery life. Oh yes, the battery life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Design

Let’s be honest: The D250 isn’t exactly the flashiest of netbooks. The sleek lines and brushed aluminum palm rest certainly add a touch of class, but it’s not the sort of machine that’s going to turn a lot of heads. (Except, perhaps, to gawk at the multitude of fingerprints adorning the lid. Why anyone continues to make portable devices with glossy coatings is totally beyond me.)

But head-turner or no, in terms of function it’s exceptionally well put together.

Two USB ports adorn the right edge, along with the power jack, locking mechanism, and memory card slot. The left side gets another USB port — a very sensible design choice — as well as headphone and mic connectors, VGA out, and an Ethernet jack. That lineup may not be earth-shaking, but it’s a generous selection of I/O options given the extremely limited real estate; the space on the sides is barely half an inch thick — thin enough that it has to bell out very slightly to accommodate the VGA connector.

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But this is why I got this machine, you know: It’s just ridiculously thin and light. The official measurements are as follows: 10.2″ (258.5mm) W x 7.2″ (184.0mm) D x 1.0” (25.4) H, with a weight of 2.8 lbs. (1.27 kg) with my six-cell battery. (Acer claims the three-cell version is 2.4 lbs., or 1.1 kg.) Now, as I showed in my initial impressions, that thickness measurement is slightly misleading: Thanks to the bulk and angle of the battery, the 6-cell version actually breaks 1.25″ at the hinge, albeit barely. It’s hard to complain too much about that extra quarter-inch, but if thickness is absolutely paramount for you, you should know you may need to pop off the battery to get it to its thinnest form.

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Keyboard and Touchpad

But that size certainly comes at a price. The keyboard is definitely cramped, especially the keys out on the periphery; I could use bigger Backspace and Delete keys, for example. But the full-sized Shift keys and dedicated PgUp and PgDn keys are a godsend for me. I’m able to touch-type easily, only having to peek when reaching for brackets, Delete, or Tab.

So far my only real complaint, in fact, is the touchpad. It’s just stupidly small. Don’t get me wrong, it’s usable, and Acer makes a valiant effort to maximize its usefulness with “virtual scrolling,” which allows you to scroll through documents by tracing a circle around the touchpad. This method takes just a bit of practice to find just the right motion to engage, and isn’t always 100-percent reliable; clockwise rotation is supposed to always scroll down, and counterclockwise to scroll up, but occasionally the opposite happens, presumably thanks to the tiny overall size of the pad.

Even so, most of the time it’s a useful alternative to manual scrolling. But for those of us who’d prefer to have a dedicated scroll section of the trackpad (like in the Samsung N120, for example), the tiny pad proves a bit frustrating. The trackpad driver includes a setting that claims to allow exactly this type of functionality, but in several tests I couldn’t get it to work with anything approaching reliability. My guess is that D250 owners will see a driver update in our future.

(Incidentally, it’s a similar story with the pinch-to-zoom and other multi-touch features: They work, but not with 100-percent accuracy, and I fully expect to see driver updates down the road.)

As for the single mouse button: eh. I could see how it would annoy some users, but personally I’ve gotten used to it fairly quickly. The button is immobile in the center and springy on each end — so it doesn’t really so much rock as bend — which is an odd feeling, to be sure, but one that makes it fairly obvious which side of the button you’re depressing.

So all in all, I’m fairly pleased even with what I’m most disappointed by, if you catch my meaning. I’ve found typing to be absolutely a breeze, and the touchpad to most often do what I wanted it to. Your mileage may vary, of course; I’ve been told I have slender fingers, so others may find the keyboard prohibitively cramped. Unfortunately there’s just no substitute for getting your hands on one yourself — but if you can’t find a D250 in stock at your local electronics retailer, note that the keyboard feels exactly the same as on the D150, which is established enough that even my local Radio Shack had one in stock.

Display and Multimedia

I’ve turned my nose up at glossy displays ever since I first saw one, but after using the D250 in a variety of lighting situations, I have definitely become a believer. If this is the cost of outdoor usability, by damn, I’ll pay it. Is the 10.1″, 1024-by-600 LED-backlit display a little on the small side? Of course, but that’s a problem you’re not likely to find a solution for in the netbook space. The important thing is that it’s crisp, bright, and readable from a reasonably wide angle. (Though as with many similar screens, the angle is much wider when moving from side to side than up and down.)

If I had any complaints about the screen, it’s that it’s perhaps too bright on its lowest setting. Sitting in a darkened theater during a press conference, I noticed that my screen was noticeably brighter than the 20 or so laptops in my immediate vicinity. (When geeks do conferences, we bring technology. That’s the way we roll.) It wasn’t hugely distracting, but I wouldn’t have minded being able to step it down a few more notches.

As for the rest of the D250’s multimedia offerings, well…it’s clear that’s not what this machine was designed for. The speakers are mounted on the bottom of the case, facing pretty much straight down, which works fine if the machine is sitting on a hard, flat surface, but somewhat less so if you’re holding in in your lap. They’re surprisingly loud and clear, but utterly lacking in the bass department — not that that’s in the slightest bit surprising. If you expect to be using this as a portable music source, well, invest in some decent external speakers.

I was similarly underwhelmed by the onboard webcam and mic. They work, don’t get me wrong; you just can’t say much more than that. Video seems extremely slow and choppy, and the mic is sensitive enough to pick up voice at working distance, but the sensitivity drops off dramatically beyond that — and yet, minute touches on the machine’s casing reverberate loudly in the mic, so if you’re in a windy situation, forget it. Like I said, though, it’s clear that multimedia isn’t what this machine was designed for.

Software

The Aspire One comes with a fairly standard suite of software: MS Works, an online backup option, a trial version of McAfee Security Suite, a bunch of PopCap trial games — basically, nothing you wouldn’t find on almost any other new Windows PC.

The only really proprietary software is the support software for the Synaptics touchpad . This is where you’ll find the virtual scrolling, settings for sensitivity and multi-touch gestures. Just about everything is customizable…but as I mentioned before, some of the results can be a bit unpredictable. I’m pleased to see options for “EdgeMotion” (that is, the option of having the pointer continue to move in the direction last moved when you reach the edge of the tiny touchpad) and momentum (which gives the trackpad the function of a heavy trackball), but personally I have not found them useful. Rather than learning an entire new suite of controls, I elected to deal with the small real estate — and use an external mouse wherever possible. But if I did more traveling I could see taking the time to become familiar with all these fancy trackpad features.

Aside from that, I’ve removed nearly all the installed software that wasn’t part of a basic Windows XP install.

Performance

But here’s where things get really shocking for me: I didn’t have to do any more serious tweaking than that. Because out of the box, this tiny machine runs like a complete champ. Now, I’m probably biased because I’ve been spending the last few years continually stripping extraneous crap out of my old Vaio to get it to run faster and leaner, but to be able to have eight fairly resource-intensive Firefox tabs open, along with iTunes, Thunderbird, and Pidgin, and not have the machine slow down — well, it almost feels like a fairy tale.

I got an even bigger shock when I tried out an episode of Lost in HD at ABC.com: It actually ran. And after only a few moments of stuttering at the beginning, it ran exceptionally smoothly. Sure, quick pans would result in a bit of screen tearing, and that period of stuttering would come back after every commercial break. I should also note that this was not with eight other tabs open, or anything else running on the machine. But it was a completely unexpected treat: This tiny machine can, in a pinch, actually allow me to catch up on TV while on the road.

But of course, that’s not what I bought it for; I got it for word processing, e-mail, and internet, and it does all these things perfectly well. I’ve seen some folks recommend adding another GB of RAM to the 1GB that comes standard with netbooks these days, and honestly, I don’t see why you’d need to.

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Pictured with a variety of household items, for scale

Battery

I’ve saved the best for last. Let’s talk about battery life.

It’s ridiculous.

I mean, ridiculous. I knew when I picked up the 6-cell model that I could expect solid battery life, but I had no idea how solid. Here’s how I used this machine in a real-world scenario: I’d check e-mail in the morning, then hibernate the machine and disconnect from power. For the next eight hours, I’d pull it out and wake it up for about half an hour at a stretch every two hours or so, leaving the screen set as dim as possible (which as I say is still quite bright) and WiFi off, where I’d use it to take notes during demos and press conferences. At at least one point during the day, for one to two hours, I’d turn on WiFi and check e-mail, go online to research some facts for my previews, and turn those notes into full write-ups.

So on average the machine would get about two to two and a half hours of very light-power-consumption use, and then another one to two hours of heavy WiFi and web access. And yet, there wasn’t a single day when the power meter reported less than 60 percent power remaining by the end of the day.

It’s hard to appreciate how useful this is until you realize that without the fear of a battery going out on you you can take all your notes via typing rather than longhand. There’s a very, very large difference between hoping you’ll have enough battery life to get you through your day, and having no doubt whatsoever that you will.

“Fine,” you say, “but what about heavy-duty use?” Well, I was able to get through four episodes of Lost, streaming in HD from ABC.com, before I got a warning about battery life. That’s constant WiFi use and heavy-duty video load, with screen brightness turned up all the way, and I was able to go nearly four hours before even getting down to the 10-percent warning. Your standards may vary, but to me that’s damn good battery life.

Verdict

And so, overall I’m profoundly pleased with my purchase. For less than $400 including shipping, I’ve got a light, thin, reliable, and sensibly designed little road warrior. Sure, there are things I’d change: mainly the trackpad and that obnoxious fingerprint-magnet of a top lid. But aside from those minor annoyances, this thing does everything I want it to do, exactly as I’d hoped. To my mind, it doesn’t get much better than that.

You can read more about the Acer Aspire One D250 in the Liliputing Product Database, where you can also compare it with other netbooks.

The Acer Aspire One D250 is available from Amazon for $345.99.

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21 replies on “Acer Aspire One D250 Review”

  1. Speaking about it 10 years later the amazing abilities of this laptop is how many OS’s this laptop can handle. It handles Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 and Linux just fine. You must use the 32 bit version and you must max out the memory. I also recommend installing an SSD hard drive it also helps the speed of the laptop. I admit those capabilities shocked me. Don’t expect some juggernaut it’s not it’s a basic laptop. Go through the laptop and squeeze it down as much as possible remove anything you don’t need, remove any type of program that runs on startup. Make sure the virus scan is light and stream lined. Don’t use some monster virus scan gobbling up resources. Do that and you will be impressed.

  2. I purchased I netbook D250 with 3 cells battery. I would like to know if it is possible to upgrade it to a 6 cells battery. Is it possible?
    What is part number of the 6 cells battery?
    Thanks
    Fabricio

    1. I did it following the manual. It is in the laptop- you dont have to download anything. I believe pressing Fn +F2 before booting starts was the trick. But please check the manual. If you have lost the paper version- there is a soft copy right in your computer

  3. i covered the top with a cheap skin – $6. pretty blue bubbles, no more fingerprints.

    but the webcam sux. i wanted it to capture and replay my sign language practice, and….it can’t. not fast enough. [not a pipeline problem]

  4. This is a great, accurate review. The best feature appears to be the battery’s geriatric proclivities! Heck, it goes on forever and will outlast its users…..but the key pad is surely too small and could have used edge-to-edge fuller pad!
    I am struggling with learning how to use the “gesture pad” which is not too receptive to my gestures, anyway! Not bad for the cost and i may add another gigabyte of RAM memory from 1 to bring up to 2 to see perchance if the video performance gets a bit better. Altho the real reason I bought this trusted assistant is to use the Wordprocessor/typewriter and to do emails and research on google. Still don’t know if firefox and google can co-exist!!!!

  5. I just purchased the Gateway variant of this machine (LT2005) and am very impressed. The 6 cell battery lasts for longer than I could possibly need, and unlike the Acer D250 it has a scroll bar on the touch pad. All other functions and features appear to be the same. It was the one complaint I had with the Acer when I looked at it, and this made it the perfect netbook for my needs. For the $230 I spent, I couldn’t be happier!

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed your review. Here’s my experience: I had an AAO, the A110 model before, and mostly enjoyed it — if not for the slooooow solid state drive. But… then I purchased my Acer Aspire One D250 just 2 days ago. Love it. I took out the stock 160GB mechanical sata hard disk and installed a 60GB OCZ sata solid state drive — one that has an excellent write-speed rating. The unit just flies along wonderfully. Loaded Ubuntu Linux as the host OS, and then used the XP license in a virtual machine. Nice! Power-on to ready to use on wireless in 30-35 seconds, and boots up the XP VM in another 15-20 seconds. I could not have asked for a better netbook. The 6-cell battery gets me a true 5 hours actual continuous work time, and 8-12 on/off time with my usage habits. Finally Acer listened and gave access doors on the bottom, and a 2.5″ standard drive size. Thanks Acer! This is a keeper.

  7. I have some one of these d250, kav60 machine. Its OK! works really good, so fine. In Mexico, me costò 4773 pesos, muy barata! caramba…

  8. Nice review and mirrors my own experience (I was searching for reviews to make sure I didn’t buy a lemon..)

    The other thing I was looking for is how to turn wifi scanning off, as the thing irritates by telling me, every damn time, that it’s found some local network.

    I’ve changed the desktop to the same local beach scene as my full size computer, set the main icons the same – now it really is just a little mini-me of my main machine. I’m liking it a lot :o)

  9. – After uninstalling Google Toolbar and McAfee and other useless software came with the netbook, it is really fast. 1 GB is enough, if you do that cleanup.
    – Thinner than D150 model, very light weight.
    – keyboard is small still usable

    Another thing that’s quite amazing about this laptop is that it’s very lightweight and thin compared to many other laptops . It also runs quite cool for so much power and an acceptable ~3 hours battery life.

  10. As I said before, your ‘real world’ reviews are as technically insightful as they are delightfully refreshing as a new-user’s perspective.

    I have to say that I played with the multi-touch controls on my Samsung NC10 before just abandoning them for straightforward touch pad controls. The pinch, gesture, and momentum functions always seemed unreliable when I used them on my Sammy. Some of this had to do with an odd delay often associated with the multi-touch as opposed to more typical moves. For instance a pinch might work, but sometimes was delayed or erratic if done twice in succession. After awhile I learned to pinched, then lifted my hand, and then wait to pinched again. After more time I found that normals touch pad moves would register as gestures that put my machine in a frenzy that I would have to more calmly undo. After more then my share of episodes like that, I went into the control panel and such off all the gestures and even the scroll-bar. This provides less fancy options but brought my computer under more reliable touch pad control — also without the scroll bar I had 1/6th more touch pad to use.

    Sadly, I would not hope for an update. I’ve had my Sammy for six or seven months without seeing the ‘pad issue fixed’ to my satisfaction. Maybe, Acer has a better link to Synaptics group and can resolve it, but I would not dare to hope.

    I also agree with your assessment of a netbook for online TV watching. I use my Sammy for Hulu all the time and as long as my internet connection is brisk everything is very watchable even with 480p turned on. Am I missing frames? Maybe, but what I do see is more then adequate for my needs on the road.

    P.S. You did mention you found the 10.1″ screen cramped, but you didn’t think there was a solution while keeping it a netbook. But I would ask you, “If you had an option for one of the upcoming 11” screen would you have taken it if the case size and weight were within reason. Or, having now used a netbook, does the size and weight seem more important because you’d even want a lighter system?

    I want to know your answer since you make you living not only off writing, but also on doing that writing on the road.

    1. Personally I wouldn’t go with a screen bigger than 10″ simply because the main benefit to me is portability, and a bigger screen would no doubt compromise weight as well as size.

      But don’t get me wrong: The screen is totally usable, especially thanks to the dedicated page-up and page-down keys that make the necessary scrolling easier.

      If all other things were equal I think an anamorphic screen ratio could be a little more usable than the widescreen format that’s standard on most netbooks…but again you most likely compromise somewhat on size if not weight.

      1. Well the compromise weight as well as size is not to be discounted in terms of Acer it is half inch of wideth, an inch of length, and about 4-5 ounces of weight. (See below)

        Acer Aspire One AOD250 (3-Cell)
        product Dimensions: 7.8 x 11.2 x 1 inches ; 2.8 pounds

        Acer Aspire One AO751h (3-Cell)
        Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 10.2 x 1 inches ; 2.4 pounds

        When you put a six-cell in both the AO751h would top out at 3.4 or 3.5 lbs and likely another additional bit of depth and width to accomindate the six-cell sticking out. For me that would be a little too much, as well.

        Maybe we will see an 11″ unit that can shave off some of the bulk seen above, but I would be happy if only the weight issue could be reduced by half a pound. As soon as an 11″ weights under 2.7 lbs with a six-cell I’ll bite. Then again, at the point a 10″ could weight under 2 lbs, which would make them very attractive as well.

  11. …It has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 10.1 inch, 1024 x 60 pixel display…

    LOL, & I though I had vertical resolution problems!

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