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.

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5 replies on “Acer Aspire One 521, 721 reviewed: Decent performance, meh on battery life”

  1. Acer crippled these machines with 4400 mAh batteries. With a higher capacity 6-cell battery they would have more competitive battery life. Acer ships 5600 mAh batteries on their Core 2 and Core iX light laptops.

    1. And my Asus UL20A has a 4400mAh battery and gets 6 hours of run time. I still want to test these systems myself, but in general, I think Intel is still ahead when it comes to power consumption.

      1. Intel is still definitely ahead in power consumption, but the inability to find an AMD laptop with a decent battery really exacerbates the difference. Intel is clearly superior.

        1. Have you seen the benchmarks of the K125 vs. ANY Atom processor? There isn’t an Atom out there that can keep up with the K125, so I would hardly call Intel “superior.”

          That said, better battery life would be nice, but I imagine that Acer will offer a 5600 or 5800 mAh battery in the near future.

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