The latest 531 version of the Acer Aspire One netbook is a competent if unexciting design.

The original Acer Aspire One has proved one of the best selling netbooks, we hear, helped along by its competitive price circa-£200. That first model had a 9in screen and ran a friendly graphical Linux operating system; now we find Acer has kept the bankable Aspire One name and followed the crowd with a 10in Windows XP mini laptop.

The Acer Aspire One 531 model here has a similar spec to the Packard Bell dot s - unsurprising since PB is now owned by Acer - although we see £20 has been shaved off the price on this Acer.

Like the dot s, it takes only a 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card, and Bluetooth connectivity has been stripped out of this version sold by PC World.

In our performance test, it earned 38 points in WorldBench; a remarkable result when you consider that it uses the older N270 Atom CPU rather than the marginally quicker N280.

Build quality is up to the task, feeling solid enough despite a relatively thin main chassis. It features VGA video out on the left rear corner and ethernet on the right, both angled gently away from the perpendicular. You can switch Wi-Fi wireless off and on from a tiny slide switch under the netbook's front edge

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The Acer Aspire One 531's shiny screen is a perfect example of the worst kind of gloss screen we find on most modern laptops. Highly reflective, viewing under natural or artificial light is much more tiresome than it need be.

A relatively wide 65mm trackpad makes navigation a little easier than normal. And Acer has also included rudimentary gesture control: you can swipe back through webpages using a two-finger sideways flick, and scroll up and down with a spiral circular movement.

This latter gesture especially was rather erratic in use; it may improve with practice but we didn't find it particularly intuitive. We also found basic cursor movements not as fluid as they should be.

Thanks to the protruding 6-cell battery pack, the Acer Aspire One 531 had one of the best unplugged lifespans on test. MobileMark wouldn't run, but we found with idling tests that it could stay awake for just over 9 hours. Expect six or seven hours life in normal use.

One saving grace for photographers and inveterate card players is the fitting of two separate memory card slots - one for SD cards, the other accepting SD as well as xD cards and Sony sticks.

NEXT: Our expert verdict >>

Acer Aspire One 531: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
  • 10.1in (1024x600) 16:10 gloss LCD
  • Windows XP Home SP3
  • 160GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1GB DDR2
  • Intel GMA 950
  • VGA
  • 100Mb/s ethernet
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • mic, h/phone
  • stereo speakers
  • mic
  • SD card + multi-card reader
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • 0.3Mp webcam
  • 259x187x26-33m
  • 1188g
  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
  • 10.1in (1024x600) 16:10 gloss LCD
  • Windows XP Home SP3
  • 160GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1GB DDR2
  • Intel GMA 950
  • VGA
  • 100Mb/s ethernet
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • mic, h/phone
  • stereo speakers
  • mic
  • SD card + multi-card reader
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • 0.3Mp webcam
  • 259x187x26-33m
  • 1188g

OUR VERDICT

Unlike the original Aspire One, there’s less to get excited about by this me-too Windows netbook. But while it offers the usual roster of netbook facilities, there is the just-higher than average netbook speed performance, and the distinction of two memory card slots. Battery life is good too.

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