The Acer Aspire One 522 (model BZ897) delivers a good, classic netbook for a very reasonable price (£309 as of March 24, 2011). Petite and slim with a handsome 10.1in widescreen LED-backlit display, a 250GB hard drive, an integrated 1.3Mp webcam and a multitouch touchpad, this portable does a solid job with multimedia and boasts pretty good battery life: nearly 7 hours in our tests using the provided 6-cell battery.
However, if you're looking for anything approaching ultraportable-class computing power, you won't find it here. Outfitted with AMD's new 1GHz Fusion C50 dual-core CPU, 1GB of DDR3 1066MHz RAM (of which 256MB is reserved for the integrated Radeon HD 6250 graphics) and Windows 7 Starter Edition, the Aspire One 522 turned in a puny 32 in our WorldBench test, slightly worse than some Intel Atom-powered competitors and well below most dual-core notebooks. (You might get more oomph by upgrading the memory to the supported 2GB of RAM.) Gaming scores were also poor, even for a netbook.
Still, while I wouldn't want to run large spreadsheets or edit video on the Aspire One 522, it's quite adequate for watching web video or making a video call. The 1280x768 display is exceptionally bright and crisp, the audio pretty robust for a netbook, and the webcam captures decent video. In a Skype call to family members in China, the Aspire One dropped some frames here and there, but otherwise call quality was fine. I also enjoyed watching YouTube music videos.
A cautionary note about the display, though: given the small screen size, type generally looks small at the standard screen resolution. This isn't a netbook I'd want to use extensively for perusing text on websites.
Nor does the Aspire One 522 invite lots of typing. The keyboard (described by Acer as 93 percent of full size) is in the currently popular so-called island chiclet style, but the keys have no surface contouring whatsoever, making it easy for a touch typist to inadvertently slip to a neighboring key. It's fine for dashing off an email, but gets tiresome for anything more taxing.
I'm not a big touchpad fan, but I did appreciate the multi-touch capability of this one, which supports pinch and zoom on web sites. The Elan touchpad felt more stable and consistent than some competitors.
The Aspire One 522 provides a respectable array of connectivity options, including 802.11n (2.4ghz) Wi-Fi, 10/100 ethernet, HDMI and VGA display ports, a multi-format card reader, three USB ports, and (the most unusual in the bunch) a Kensington lock slot.
Weighing in at 1.3kg with the 6-cell battery, the Aspire One 522-BZ892 feels a tad heavy for its small footprint (259x185x26mm), but not annoyingly so. The shiny black case with the large Acer logo is fairly standard on a lot of netbooks; Acer's implementation at least feels solid.
What is a little irritating is the amount of trial- and promo-ware, ranging from the New York Times Reader to a bunch of games in the so-called Acer Welcome Center. Probably the most useful item is Acer's eSobi newsreader, and you also get the ubiquitous Microsoft Office Starter Edition.
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