For the past two years, virtually every netbook released has shipped with an Intel Atom processor and integrated graphics. A few mini-laptops with 12 inch displays shook things up a bit with NVIDIA ION graphics or Broadcom HD video accelerators, but the truth is that if you look at the performance section of most of my netbook reviews over the last few years you won’t find a lot of surprises.
That could all change this year, now that we’re starting to see 10 and 12 inch mini-notebooks with AMD processors and ATI graphics. Engadget has posted the first detailed reviews I’ve seen of the Acer Aspire One 521 and 721, which have 10.1 inch and 11.6 inch displays respectively, and one of the latest AMD chips for low cost, low power ultraportables.
While neither model got spectacular battery life, each laptop was able to run for 3.5 hours or longer on a charge which isn’t horrible — and it’s a big improvement over previous budget laptops with AMD chips.
But the biggest difference between these notebooks and most Atom-powered netbooks is performance. Engadget’s Joanna Stern ran some benchmarks and the new Acer laptops outperformed Atom models in every single one. They’re not as powerful as computers with Intel CULV processors, nor do they get the same kind of battery life. But with prices ranging from $350 to $430, the Acer Aspire One 521 and 721 are a lot cheaper than most CULV-powered notebooks as well.
I’m hoping to get my hands on one or both of these models soon to kick the tires a bit myself. But in the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing a little diversity in the netbook space, you should definitely check out the Engadget review.