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The Acer Aspire One 522 is the first netbook to ship in the US with a 10.1 inch display and an AMD C-50 processor with Radeon HD 6250 graphics. If it weren’t for the high resolution 1280 x 720 pixel display, you’d probably have a hard time telling this mini-laptop apart from any other netbook. It’s about the same size, weight, and even price as other offerings from Acer. But when it comes to performance, things get a little more complicated.

The AMD C-50 chip is a 1 GHz dual core processor with the CPU and graphics components on the same chip. AMD called this sort of system-on-a-chip an APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit. Intel is also producing System on a Chip processors, but Intel lags behind AMD in the graphics department, thanks to AMD’s purchase of graphics card maker ATI a few years ago.

The end result is that while the AMD C-50 chip uses almost the same amount of power as Intel’s latest Atom chips and offers similar day to day performance, it offers far better graphics performance.

In my tests, the Acer Aspire One 522 had no problem handling regular day to day tasks such as web browsing or writing documents. But it could also handle 1080p HD video playback and even some 3D gaming without breaking a sweat — although your battery life may suffer a bit if you spend a lot of time on these tasks.

Overall I’m very impressed with the performance offered by this little notebook computer which costs just about $330. But I’m less enamored of the keyboard and touchpad. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not awful, but the touchpad in particular takes some getting used to.

Acer sent me a demo unit for testing purposes. It features 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n WiFi and runs Windows 7 Home Starter Edition. It has 3 USB ports, an HDMI output, Ethernet and VGA jacks, and mic and headphone jacks. The computer has a 6 cell battery and is not available with Bluetooth.


The Acer Aspire One 522 looks a lot like the last half dozen or so netbooks from Acer. It has an 10.1 inch display, a not-quite full sized keyboard, and a 6 cell battery. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the early days of netbooks, computer makers were constantly trying out new designs to figure out what works. Acer has pretty much settled on its design, and the last few generations of the company’s mini-laptop have had very subtle differences such as different designs on the lid, or different power button arrangements.

I’m not a huge fan of Acer’s keyboard design, which has large flat keys without any sort of indentation. It can be a bit tricky to figure out where one key ends and the next begins at first, but after a while I was able to touch type on the keyboard about as quickly as on any other netbook — which means about 100 words per minute for me.

One thing I always have a hard time getting used to on Acer netbooks though, is the arrangement of the keys in the bottom right corner. The arrow keys and page up and down keys are all huddled togethe in s apace that’s barely large enough for 2 or 3 full sized keys. I find it hard to hit the up arrow without looking down at my hands, lest I should accidentally hit the down arrow. Since these keys also serve as the Home, End, volume, and brightness keys, I have to use this area more frequently than I would like.

I’m also underwhelmed by the touchpad. On the one hand it’s nice and wide, providing a lot of surface area for your fingers. On the other hand, it might be a little too wide. I occasionally found the cursor jumping from place to place while typing on the Aspire One 522, and it took me a while to realize this was because when I placed my palms on either side of the keyboard to type, sometimes my left palm would slip over to the touchpad.

There’s a single button below the touchpad which you can press for left or right-clicking action. It’s not the most responsive button I’ve ever used, but neither is it the worst.

Above the left side of the keyboard is a backlit power button which glows blue when the netbook is turned on.

Around the sides you’ll find 3 USB ports, VGA and HDMI ports, mic and headphone jacks, and an SD card slot.

One of the key features setting the Aspire One 522 apart from most 10 inch netbooks is the 1280 x 720 pixel high resolution display. The screen has a glossy finish, which turns the display into a mirror when the backlight is off, but with the light on, the screen reflected very little glare under normal room lighting. I still wouldn’t recommend using the netbook outdoors in bright sunlight — or even near a window on a sunny day.

The viewing angles are reasonably good and I had no problem reading a web page while looking at the computer from the left or right side — but if you tilt the screen all the way back, colors will start to fade.

The high resolution screen makes a huge difference in day to day use. As a blogger and journalist, I frequently have two web browser windows open at the same time, one for reading an article and another for writing. On a typical netbook with a 1024 x 600 pixel display, it’s almost impossible to do this, but the 1280 x 720 pixel screen on the Acer 522 makes it a breeze to open two windows at once — although some content might be cut off on some web pages.

The netbook is among the smallest on the market, measuring 10.2″ x 7.3″ x 1″ and weighing 2.9 pounds with a 6 cell battery. The mini-laptop does get a little warm on the bottom and in the center of the keyboard when you use it for a few hours at a time, but it’s not uncomfortably warm, or much hotter than a typical Intel Atom powered netbook. The Acer Aspire One 522 is also fairly quite. It does have a fan which is audible from time to time, especially when you’re running CPU-intensive tasks. But it’s one of the least noisy netbook fans I’ve heard.


The Acer Aspire One 522 is one of the first computers to ship with AMD’s new 1 GHz C-50 dual core chips with AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics. In terms of overall performance, the new chip is surprisingly Intel Atom-like. I ran my usual series of benchmarks to see how long it took to transcode audio and video files and create a ZIP archive containing more than 2,000 individual files. The scores were nearly indistinguishable from netbooks with the latest Atom chips.

I pitted the Acer Aspire One 522 against the Asus Eee PC 1015PN, with a 1.5 GHz Intel Atom N550 chip, the Asus Eee PC 1015PED with a 1.83 GHz single core chip, and the Acer Aspire 521, with a 1.7 GHz single core chip.

The Aspire One 522 took just about the same amount of time on most tests as both Intel-powered netbooks. The Acer Aspire One 521 which came out last year, trounced all three of its competitors in every test, even though it has an older, single core chip. To be fair though, these tests don’t really take advantage of multicore functionality, which is why I ran some other tests as well.

Next up is the Cinebench graphics rendering test. This time I compared the Acer 522 and 521, the Asus Eee PC 1015PN (which has NVIDIA ION 2 graphics as well as the Atom N550 chip) and an HP Mini 5103, which has an Intel Atom N550 chip and integrated GMA 3150 graphics.

This time I was surprised to see that last year’s Acer Aspire One 521 still came out ahead on two of the three tests. In fact, the only one it didn’t win was the one where it couldn’t compete – the multi-core test. But since the Acer 521 notched almost the same score in the single CPU test as the HP Mini 5103 did in the multi-core test, I’m still calling this a win for the Aspire One 521.

In terms of 3D graphics rendering in the OpenGL test though, the Acer Aspire One 522 came in a close(ish) second.

Next up we have the 3DMark06 benchmark which measures CPU speed and overall graphics performance by playing through a couple of resource-intensive game demos. The Acer aspire One 522 held its own here, scoring higher than either the Aspire One 521 or the NVIDIA ION-powered Eee PC 1015PN. The netbook did get the lowest CPU score of the bunch, but it made up for that with its graphics prowess.

The Street Fighter IV benchmark basically checks to see whether your computer is up to the task of running this resource intensive video game. The Acer Aspire One 522 scored a letter grade of E… which is sort of a passing grade, depending on who you ask. But with an average of 19.48 frames per second, the overall experience isn’t likely to be great.

I managed to get the frame rate up closer to 25 fps by using the lowest graphics settings available in the benchmark, but the game is a lot less cool with wireframe backgrounds and cartoonish characters.

Finally, I plugged in an external Blu-Ray drive and fired up a movie using CyberLink PowerDVD. Not only did the computer have no problem playing the video in full screen mode on the laptop’s 720p display, but when I plugged in a 1080p monitor using the HDMI port, video playback continued both on the laptop screen and the external display with just a little stuttering during the first few seconds.

During the Blu-ray test, the CPU usage rarely spiked higher than 65 percent.

All told, the Acer Aspire 522 can run some modern games, and it does a slightly better job than other 10 inch mini-laptops I’ve tested. But I woudn’t really call this netbook a gaming system, unless you’re happy with somewhat older games or modern games that might not require quite as much graphics power.

The Windows Experience Index for this laptop is 2.8, which only tells part of story, since Windows determines the overall score by looking at the lowest subscore. In this case, that means the CPU, which can handle about as many calculations per second as a typical Intel Atom chip. But the graphics and gaming graphics scores are actually pretty respectable.


The netbook comes with a 6 cell, 49Whr battery which sits flush with the back of the computer, but which juts out a little from the bottom, raising the back of the keyboard up a fraction of an inch higher than the front.

The AMD C-50 processor is a low power chip with a TDP of 9 watts. While you might expect a dual core chip to use more power than a single core processor, the opposite is often the case, since you can run a multi-core processor at a lower voltage to achieve similar performance to a single core chip at a higher voltage. Additionally, the C-50 is a Fusion chip which AMD called an APU, or accelerated processing unit. That means the CPU and graphics cores are on the same chip, which further reduces power consumption.

What that means in the real world is that while the Acer Aspire One 522 offers netbook-like performance for day to day tasks, and support for HD video playback and 3D graphics acceleration, the computer still manages to get decent battery life. In my tests, I managed to get about 5 hours and 15 minutes of run time on a charge.

Sure, some Intel Atom-based netbooks provide twice as much battery life, but 5+ hours is still pretty impressive for an AMD-based computer. AMD has a reputation for making high performance chips which weren’t exactly known for their energy efficiency.

But here’s the truly surprising thing: while we’ve been waiting for ages to see how the AMD C-50 chip would fare in terms of overall performance and battery life, in my battery tests the Acer Aspire One 522 notched nearly identical scores to the Acer Aspire One 521: a laptop released last year with a 1.7 GHz AMD Neo K125 single core chip and Radeon HD 4225 graphics. The K125 chip is part of AMD’s Nile platform and includes separate CPU and graphics components.

As far as I can tell, there’s no real advantage to using the C-50 chip instead of the K125 — at least not in terms of battery life. In fact, as you can see in the performance section, the K125 chip was actually faster when it came to some CPU-intensive tasks, although that’s not necessarily the case when running software that’s optimized for multi-core chips.


The Acer Aspire One 522 is one of the most impressive netbooks I’ve tested to date. While it doesn’t receive top honors in the battery life department, it does get a respectable 5 hours of run time, and you might be able to prolong that by picking up a spare battery or even a third party extended battery. Replacing the hard drive with an SSD probably wouldn’t hurt either.

The Aspire One 522 also isn’t much faster than a typical Intel Atom powered netbook, particularly one with an Intel Atom N550 dual core processor. So why do I consider the little laptop so impressive? It’s because of a combination of the processor, graphics, and HD display.

Here’s the best thing I can say about the Acer Aspire One 522: I wrote most of this review on the mini-laptop, and I didn’t really feel like I was using a netbook at all — at least once I plugged in a USB mouse. The HD display offered just the right amount of screen real estate, and the CPU and graphics were more than up to the task of making sure I could surf the web with multiple windows open, watch some video, and edit images without any noticeable slowdown.

But I was surprised to discover that I could have said almost all the same things about the Acer Aspire 521 — last year’s model. That netbook offers similar battery life, but better CPU and graphics performance at for about the same $330 price — if you can still find a store selling the Aspire One 521. It looks like the new model has largely replaced it.

The key advantage the new model has over the Aspire One 521 is the HD display, and if you’re looking for a more notebook-like performance from your 10 inch netbook, I’d definitely consider looking at the Acer Aspire One 522, in large part because of that screen.

I’ve found some netbooks with 10 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel displays to look almost too sharp unless you spend some time tweaking Windows fonts and other settings. I didn’t really have that problem with the slightly lower resolution 1280 x 720 pixel screen on the Aspire One 522. Your results may vary.

The netbook’s keyboard and touchpad are also not the best I’ve ever used — so if you really want a device with a higher resolution screen and a full sized keyboard, you may want to consider a notebook with an 11.6 inch display. But in my opinion, you’ll be hard pressed to get more bang for your buck out of any 10 inch model than the Aspire One 522 right now.

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37 replies on “Acer Aspire One 522 netbook review”

  1. I bought the Aspire 0ne 522 netbook and changed the operating system to win 7 ultimate x32. I still can’t find the driver for the webcam. Any suggestions

  2. If more reviewers tested such products as extensively as you did we would see the quick demise of these awful flat keyboards.

    They keyboard is a deal breaker for me. Which is a shame because they layout is pretty good.

  3. Hi Brad,

    Would you recommend this netbook for running Photoshop on it from time to time? I looking at being ultra mobile but hooking this up to an external display from time to time. 

    Thanks, Jonny

    1. Depends on what you plan to do with Photoshop?

      Having worked as a graphic designer, I wouldn’t recommend anything much below a mid range laptop.  However even a netbook can run Photoshop, you’ll just have to be very, very, very patient and limit yourself to very basic image manipulation.

      Even the more powerful K125 wouldn’t be much of an improvement but a E-350 or K325 or K625 would be able to run Photoshop well enough for most needs. 

      Especially CS4 or CS5 with the graphic acceleration for things like zooming, rotating, etc. But Photoshop still requires good CPU performance for most features, especially plugins.  While the C-50 is too close to netbook performance.

      Alternatively, you can consider a easier to run image editing program.  Photoshop is a powerful program but it’s not the only option if all you want to do is a little editing of personal photos.

      There are more powerful options, some companies like Panasonic have actually made 10″ Sandy Bridge Core i3 and i5 laptops, with like 7 hours run time, but they are very expensive.

      While systems with the Zacate E-350 start at 11.6″ on up, but they’re much more affordable and can still get the job done.

  4. For a memory upgrade, does one have to chew up the machine to get it in? or just the ssd and cards?  I really want this machine, however, I am used to toshiba netbooks with well made keyboards, good wireless, and fully accessible bottom covers.

    Also, some people have said the speakers are terrible.  I just want to be able to clearly listen to movies and stuff. It is difficult to find out speaker output information.  I bought an external speaker once.  It was very good, from Triton, but it was not realistic and annoying to carry.  Also, placing it in a car was not realistic either, something i want the netbook for at night to watch movies with my woman person.  I know I could just line-out to a car input, but then I need a car input….. 

    Here is a bit of trivia that some may know. This netbook is the only true 720p netbook I have ever heard of.  720p is 1280 x 720 is real 720p.  In monitor world, there has not been a true 720p screen ever to my knowledge aside from acer.  I wonder who makes it?  

    My goal is to watch netflix hd and also watch obscure goth music videos.  I will also load up Left 4 dead 1 on it and also older games.  i know l4d 1 should work on low setttings, and the dual core will be a nice boost for the well programmed Valve games.

  5. Thanks for a nice review, it was very helpful. I bought my new Acer 522
    only because of your verdict and I’m very happy with my decision. Just upgraded
    memory, installed Windows 7 Prof 64 and it works very well. Next purchase will
    be an SSD 🙂

    Thank you again. 

  6. thanks for the comprehensive review. My ZG5 has just bought the farm so am looking for a new netbook. Once I got rid of the salespeople I had several up running the same video and the 522 was definitely the best of the lot.

  7. Quick question for Brad: Do you have a sense of what battery life you got our of a standard Acer 10″, say the 255 on a 6-cell? Wondering how this machine compares with that one. Thanks.

  8. I have one, and it is a powerful little toy, but beware, it will not accept more than 2GB of DDR3 1066 RAM. At least that is what I’ve read on the internet. I have 2GB of memory and I’m ok with that.

  9. Really great review – I was kind of hoping that I could trade up my Acer 521 to the 522 and get better performance, but it looks like almost a year hasn’t seen much development in the performance department for Acer.

    I can’t really complain about the screen on the 521 – having a higher definition screen is just a luxury you can live without on a netbook, IMHO. Fingers crossed the next generation of the AMD APUs will boost performance rather than tweak it a little.

  10. Thanks for the extended review. It was very helpful. How about upgrades to RAM and hard drive? How difficult? Will it really use 4 GB? The 521 seems about equal, but for the screen and maybe HD.

    You might want to proofread the article again. You got the model numbers confused and even called the Acer the EEE 521. Just nitpicking, really, I liked the review.

    1. Thanks! It’s hard to keep all the model numbers floating around in my
      head straight when I start typing sometimes. I think I’ve fixed all
      the errors.

    2. The components are not as easy to replace as in the 521, which I traded up from for my 522 a few weeks ago, though it’s still pretty painless. Once the top-row keyboard tabs are depressed, the keyboard can be pried up and flipped forward. There are four clearly-labeled screws to remove, then push a driver through a hole to pop the bottom panel off, giving full component access. I agree the trackpad is not the best, but I love the cliclet-style keys more than full-travel keys, and I do agree that the resolution and screen size are a pretty winning combination. I’ve already swapped in a WiFi/BT combo card, and I’ve got a SSD, 4GB of RAM, and a 64-bit copy of Windows on the way. Once they’re in, I’m going to do some before-and-after benchmarks for my blog. I’ve already gotten the chance to run the netbook with just the SSD swapped in and the difference is incredible. IMO, AMD’s fusion is the best single thing yet to the happen to netbooks.

        1. I bought the SparkLAN WPER-101GN(BT) for just over USD$30 (including shipping) from this page:
          It plugged right in with no problems. It came with some kind of proprietary BT drivers and control software from Motorola that I had to install to get the BT part to work properly, but the WiFi part worked right out of the box. The Acer Launch Manager hotkey (FN+F3) toggles WiFi on and off but to switch on/off BlueTooth, I have to open up the control panel or tray icon menu. I always leave them both on though so it doesn’t really make a difference to me. Hope this helps! The lack of BT seems like one of the only significant omissions on this netbook, but 30 bucks isn’t too bad.  With a SSD, W7x64, and 4GB RAM, this thing is great. I do daily work with a Wacom Bamboo in GIMP and Sketchbook Pro, transcode the occasional movie file, plus I’ve played all the Half-Life 2 games, Portal 2, Elder Scrolls 4, Halo 2, and even Crysis on it with no real problems. I played Crysis 2 also but the frame-rate suffered pretty significantly. Right now I’m in the middle of Mass Effect 2 and it runs pretty good. Really I’m pretty amazed at what the built-in video can handle. Sorry about the long post, I’m just in love with this thing.

          1. Do you by any chance know if the BT will work with linux? I fully intend to remove the bloatware callled Windows7… or possibly dual-boot, but need BT while using some flavor of Ubuntu…

          2. Good question. The product page says “Windows XP, XP64, 2003, Vista, Vista 64bit, Win7, Linux” are supported, but I followed the drivers link and on the download page the bluetooth appears to only have drivers for Windows, while there are WiFi drivers for Windows and Linux. I don’t know if this means BT isn’t supported under Linux or just that no special drivers are required. There’s a technical inquiry link on the downloads page though, or maybe Google for a 1/2-mini pci-e combo card that’s verified to work in Linux? Sorry I can’t be more help there, I’ve only used Windows 7 on this thing.

  11. did you test 522 using only 1GB of mem? and what was the mem in the other systems?

  12. Totally agree on the keyboard and mouse pad issue. I’m finding the keyboard a little more stressful than my old Gigabyte Touchnote (meaning one needs to concentrate a little more) and the touchpad has caught me out about 5 times now with wrists affecting the cursor position when it wasnt intended. On the rest of it i’m finding I get a little more battery life than you but in general, one can use this as a fairly fluid desktop when connected to an external monitor. I’ve put an SSD in mine with 4Gb and Windows 7 HP and it really flies too!

    Big news though is obviously your beard! 😉


    1. I’m too lazy to shave in the wintertime 🙂

      I’d be willing to bet your SSD is part of the reason you’re getting better battery life. Does the European model have the same 49Whr battery?

  13. Thank you Brad for such a detailed and comprehensive review. ANother big letdown here with the super glossy screen. It looks like a mirror.

    Lets face it, unless you are a hermit or living in the sewerage, most people have to use their computers near light although they do not have to go outdoors. This looks so crappy relective.

    Netbook manufacturers are pretty stupid. They should ask people what they want. The matte screens recently sold very well and it was one of the main attractions of a netbook.

    1. Unfortunately, glossy is considered better for viewing videos, generally cheaper for manufacturers, easier to find in HD resolutions, and generally they think US buyers prefer it (much more likely to see matte in the European markets).

      I use my systems outdoors, so like you I prefer matte. But most of the AMD Fusion systems appear to be coming with glossy screens. The one notable exception so far is the Lenovo Thinkpad X120e, starting price $399 with AMD E-240 and higher with E-350 and other custom options.

      Though the HP Pavilion DM1z isn’t too glossy and is generally cheaper than the Lenovo Thinkpad X120e for most configurations.

      Alternatively, the Asus Eee PC 1015PN still compares well versus the C-50 systems like the AO522, especially upgraded with Win7HP or higher to get Optimus to work as then you can get better run times, and of course has a Matte screen but downside it’s only 1024×600. Asus really should put a HD screen into that model…

      1. that is the general saying that glossy for videos produce better image. But honestly, I have put side by side and watched a movie, matte is far better.

        I think this Glossy thing is a marketing gimmick started with the Dell Inspiron.

        Lets face it, even with flat panel tv’s like plasma, LCD and LED, people are looking for non reflective panels ie more matte’ish.

        Try watching a movie on those Panasonic plasma’s and instead of seeing the movie, half the time, you se your head. The same with netbooks, when a movie displays a dark or black image, you see your face!

    2. Do remember that you can make a glossy screen matt with a stick-on layer. You can’t make a matt screen glossy though.

      1. agree with you Chippy but the prices of those matte stickers cost a bomb. This will add to the cost of the netbook.


      all lcd screens look like crap in the sun.  The sun is billions of watts.  Your screen is like 3 watts or so. 

      I have never had an issue using the glossy type screens in real, appropriate settings for computing.  Even in a library, one can 10 degree tilt the netbook or whatever and it is fine.  I have not found a matte screen that was as clear as a glossy screen given the right (ie, 95% of the time)

      1. It’s partly a matter of preference, with both glossy and matte having their strengths and weaknesses.

        The generally consensus is that matte is preferable for outdoor use and glossy is better for indoor use.  So mileage will depend on where you use the system most often and what you consider more distracting.

        For some the higher reflection and glare of glossy makes them worse, while others think the diffuse and less sharp look of matte is the greater negative.

        Your specific preferences notwithstanding.  There is also ergonomics, laptops are already not ideal for proper posture while in use.  So having to shift angles would basically make it worse. 

        Never mind if you’re sharing or if your system has a limited range of angles and that in turn would force you into even less desirable positioning.

        Thus why the majority agree that glossy is not ideal for outdoor use.  While mattes advantage may be small but enough of a difference for those who predominantly have to deal with less than ideal lighting conditions.

        Conversely though, many would prefer glossy for indoor use and for best color saturation and image sharpness.

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