Telstra has teamed up with Acer to provide a Windows XP-based netbook solution with a built-in Next G module. This module makes it possible to log-on to the Internet from anywhere within Telstra's mobile network. It's the ultimate tool for a road warrior, not only because of the (almost) ubiquitous Internet access it offers; the Acer Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) netbook is also one of the lightest 10in netbooks on the market, and has one of the best keyboards we've ever used on such a small device.
The netbook itself weighs close to 1.1kg and it has plenty of style. It has a black finish with a glossy screen and shiny bezel, but it will require some maintenance to keep it clear of dust and fingerprints. When the netbook is closed, it's two millimetres thinner than a standard netbook. Acer has implemented some clever design touches — including the use of tapered edges — to make the Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) netbook look and feel much thinner than a regular netbook, when in reality it is only approximately 1mm thinner when compared side-by-side with other netbook models.
It's a very well built netbook with a solid feel. The keyboard does not bounce at all when you hit the keys, and the keys themselves are tactile. They are 16mm wide, which is an average size for a netbook keyboard, yet because the keys feel so solid and well spaced and placed, the Acer Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) is a joy to use. You can type on it for hours on your lap without getting tired from working in an awkward position. This makes it ideal for using it on the go.
The touchpad is also a good, usable size and its responsive when we moved the pointer across the 1024x600-resolution screen. However, double-tapping to launch a file or application sometimes required more than one attempt. The touchpad supports gestures, which means you can pinch your fingers to zoom in or out of photos, and use two fingers to flick back and forth between images for example when you view them in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.
The Acer Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) has three USB 2.0 ports, two SD memory card slots (in a Linux environment, one slot acts as an expansion slot for storage), and microphone and headphone jacks located on the side. A 3-cell (2200 milliamp hours) battery sits along the spine of the netbook and doesn't protrude, while a 10/100 Ethernet port sits at one end of the spine and a D-Sub port sits at the other end. Both of these ports are angled slightly towards the rear of the netbook, which means that cables attached to these ports won't get in the way while you are using the netbook at your desk.
If you use the laptop for Web browsing (via its 3G modem — a Qualcomm HS-USB Modem 9212 model) and creating office documents, with the screen brightness set to low, then the battery will last approximately 2.5 hours. If you watch a video while the WiFi radio is enabled and with maximum screen brightness, the battery will last closer to two hours. A switch on the front of the netbook lets you enable and disable the 3G and WiFi modules.
Logging on to the Internet via the 3G module is easy. Simply launch the Telstra Connection Manager software, enter your PIN and click the 'connect' button. When you buy the netbook from Telstra with a data plan, this is all you'll have to do to get online. It's a very simple process.
We were able to browse the Web at speeds up to 4.4 megabits per second (Mbps) and were able to upload data at 1.2Mbps. This is a much faster Web browsing speed than we've seen from other 3G products (such as the Netcomm Telstra Turbo 7 Wireless Gateway (3G10WT), for example, while in our tests the upload speed was exactly the 1.2Mbps we expected.
You'll want to keep the brightness high if you use the Acer Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) outdoors or in a light-filled room. If the brightness is set too low, high reflection will be bothersome and will make the onscreen content hard to view. If you use the netbook on your lap for a lengthy period of time, it will get noticeably warm, but not to the point of being uncomfortable.
Under the hood, the specifications of the Acer Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) are similar to most other netbooks on the market. It has an Intel Atom N270 CPU with a 1.6GHz CPU speed, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics, a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive (a Hitachi HTS543216L9SA00).
In our tests, the hard drive recorded an average transfer rate of 19 megabytes per second (MBps), which is a shade slower than the 20MBps we expected, and it took 8min 8sec to convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s.
This MP3 encoding performance puts the Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) in the middle of the pack compared to the other netbooks on the market, but overall, we are happy with its performance. It runs Windows XP swiftly and you can run Web browsing, photo editing applications, listen to music, watch videos and create office documents without noticing much sluggishness — unless you happen to perform all of those tasks simultaneously!
The Acer Aspire One AOD250 (ZG8) netbook with built-in Testra Next G module can be obtained for $0 upfront, as long as you are on a data plan of $30 per month, and a netbook repayment plan of $30.38. The minimum cost over 24 month plan is $1665.12, plus usage costs. We think it's worth the price if you want a stylish, comfortable netbook with integrated 3G.
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