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Choosing a netbook can feel like an exercise in compromise. We want the system we carry to be portable and affordable, but we also want it to offer solid performance and a load of features. Maybe this is why so many netbooks are equipped so similarly, with vendors having apparently decided that a near-perfect balance has been found. But while most netbooks differ in only the most minor of ways, a few seem to represent their manufacturers' ongoing quests to find a new sweet spot or set a new standard.
Take, for example, Acer's Aspire One AO721-3574 ($430). Here we have a netbook that is looking to slug it out with ultraportable notebooks, like a lightweight boxer trying to make it in the welterweight division.
It sports a faster processor, more memory and storage, a better graphics adapter, and a larger screen and keyboard than one might typically find in a netbook, all at just 3.1 pounds (including the 6-cell battery). But does the Acer walk the walk as well as it talks the talk? Let's take a look and find out.
At the heart of the AO721 is a 1.7GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 processor. While not a speed demon by any stretch of the imagination, it offers a bit more bang for the buck than you'll get out of an Intel Atom-powered netbook. In PCMark Vantage, the Acer posted a score of 1,918; in Cinebench 11.5, it rendered the sample scene in just under 15 minutes. This is nowhere near on par with a full-sized notebook, needless to say. But it is a fair bit better than most netbooks can manage.
Also noteworthy is the inclusion of 2GB of DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 4GB) and a 250GB hard drive, both of which are generous for a netbook. And while it will come as no surprise that there's no optical drive included, the built-in "multi-in-one" card reader should do the trick for many users, with external USB drives meeting the needs of others.
Read the rest at Hardware Central.