Programming is a wonderful mix of art and science; source code is both a poem and a math problem. It should be as simple and elegant as it is functional and fast. This blog is about that (along with whatever else I feel like writing about).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Asus 1000H vs Acer Aspire One ... A Pack of Lies

I just saw this "brilliant" visual comparison of the Eee 1000H vs the Acer Aspire One, and I can't just let it pass. I mean, I understand that the netbook marketplace has become absurdly overcrowded, and the main differentiators between the machines are 1) price, 2) software, 3) packaging. Asus is clearly annoyed that despite virtually inventing the category, they are left as the overpriced competitor much maligned for their confusing marketing and unpredictable product cycle.

Meanwhile, Acer has pumped out exactly one netbook, priced it competitively, and just let people buy it and enjoy it. And here comes Asus to rain on Acer's parade in the most immature way possible. (They couldn't even bring themselves to spell out Aspire, instead spelling it "A*****" -- um, lame?)

As the owner of an Asus laptop and an Acer Aspire One, I find myself compelled to take on the comparison point by point.

1) Battery life

Asus: 6 cells, 7 hours
Acer: 3 cells, 2.25 hours

I haven't used the Eee 1000H, but my Aspire One gets 3.5-4 hours of battery life when I use it normally (ie, wifi 100% of the time, internet browsing, typing). And that's with the default 3 cell battery, not the add-on 6 cell. If the Eee really gets 7 hours of battery I'd be impressed, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they're lying about their own battery life to the same extent they're lying about the Acer's.

2) Hard drive

Asus: 160 GB
Acer: 120 GB

Firstly, big f'ing deal. It's a netbook. If you're storing a bunch of media locally, you're doing it wrong. Secondly, the Acer defaults to a nice little SSD that more than gets the job done and allows me to 1) not worry at all about the fact that I keep dropping it, and 2) boot/sleep really quickly. 40 GB is meaningless on a laptop, moreso on a netbook.

3) RAM

Asus: 1024 MB
Acer: 512 MB

Yes, I could go for more RAM. It's not like I've been dying without it, but this is a pretty clear win for the Asus.

4) Size

Asus: Large touchpad, large screen, large keyboard (92% standard), wider palm rest
Acer: Tiny touchpad, small screen, small keyboard (80% standard -- although it's actually 85%), tiny palm rest

Every single point here is true ... and made possible by the fact that the Asus is a 10.2" netbook while the Acer is an 8.9" netbook. I wonder how Asus feels about its own 7" netbooks. Also, more lying ... the keyboard is bigger than Asus claims it is. And Acer's sub-9" netbook is certainly more portable than the over-10" Asus. Which, I think, is the point of netbooks.

5) Um, miscellaneous networking, I guess

Asus: Bluetooth & 802.11n, 1.3 megapixel webcam, "Digital Array Mic"
Acer: No Bluetooth & 802.11n, 0.3 megapixel webcam

Frankly I wish my Acer had Bluetooth, but I can't say I miss it all that much -- I don't even use it on my full-size Asus. And 802.11n isn't that meaningful to me, since I don't have an 802.11n router (and neither does anyone else). Oh, and the webcam? My full-size Asus has a 1.3 MP webcam, and it looks awful compared to the 0.3 MP on the Acer, when both are using Skype on Linux. Seriously, Acer's 0.3MP webcam is surprisingly awesome. And what the hell is the "Digital Array Mic?" Is it something that solves the horrible feedback problem my full-size Asus has? Because if it is, that's nice, but the Aspire One doesn't have any feedback problems with its mic.

6) Location of touchpad buttons

Apparently the familiar position of the Asus' touchbad buttons allows easy usage, while the odd location of the buttons on the Aspire One leads to "unsmooth usage." I've heard other people complain about this too, and I just don't get it. It seems to me that it's an innovative use of space given the obvious size constraints, and it's not exactly counterintuitive -- the "right click" button is "on the right side" of the touchpad. Holy crap, I'd never find it!

7) Temperature

Asus: Gives off no heat at all -- the whole thing is green!!
Acer: It's on fire! Look at all the red!

In reality ... I can't speak to the Asus, but the Aspire One doesn't give off any heat. I've used it for 10 hours straight, plugged in for 4, then 3 hours on battery, then plugged in for another 4, and the temperature remained constant the entire time. And it remained constantly the same temperature as it was when it was off. Both on the top and bottom, it's comfortably cool the entire time. I don't know how they came up with this test, but the only way it could be true is if the Asus has The Al Gore Anti-Global-Warming Super-Prius Hybrid Engine built into it, or something, and actively sucks heat and carbon emissions into it and converts them into sunshine and virgins. I call bullshit.

8) "Work Efficiently"

Asus: Boots in 30 seconds, ready in 38 seconds, ready to launch "AP" in 41 seconds, shuts down in 15 seconds
Acer: Boots in 45 seconds, ready in 62 seconds, ready to launch "AP" in 74 seconds, shuts down in 30 seconds

Apparently time goes faster in my apartment, because the Aspire One actually boots in about 10 seconds. And shuts down in about 5. And goes from "off" to "browsing the web" in 12-15. I don't know what "AP" is, so I'll go ahead and skip it. I guess I don't use it. Hopefully Asus' users really like it, because it seems to take a really long time. The only computers I've seen get going faster than the Aspire One are Macbooks. And, um, those are in a slightly different market segment, and I don't think I'd compare them.

9) "Quiet Computing"

Asus: Idle, 25.1 dB; Media Player, 28.8 dB
Acer: Idle, 30.7 dB; Media Player, 31.5 dB

I guess the 2.7-5.6 dB difference is simply massive, the difference between "silent" and "a fucking jet engine." But I have two things to say: 1) I haven't heard the Aspire One since I've owned it; I wasn't even aware it had a fan in it. 2) If you're using the media player and not wearing headphones, you're doing it wrong; it's not like these things come with great speakers. Also, 2.7 dB? Did you know that normal humans can't tell the difference?

Finally, the major differences as I see them:

1) Size

The Acer is a 9" netbook, and is smaller, thinner, and lighter (2.2 lbs vs 3.2 lbs) than Asus' 10" entry. Really, Asus? That extra 1" of screen space weighs an entire pound? Are you sure you're not just bad at this?

2) Price

I bought my Aspire One for $400 a couple months ago, and it's down to $330 from Amazon. On the other hand, the Eee costs $530 and is available for pre-order. Raise your hand if you can tell which is better.

3) Linux

The Aspire One runs Linux, and runs it well. The Eee 1000H runs Windows XP, and I'm sure it runs it worse than computer with 2-5x its specs that can barely keep themselves on their feet. Acer wins.

In conclusion, the choice of a netbook really comes down to personal taste and how much you want to pay for it -- you might prefer a 10" Windows machine to a 9" Linux machine, and you might not. But this kind of childish lying about yourself and your competitor is the stuff of Microsoft and Republicans. Is that really who Asus wants to model themselves after? Oh yeah, and I thought false advertising was illegal?


Anonymous said...

Re: the operating system. Have a search for eeeUbuntu, they have made a custom Ubuntu build for the eee range. Like you, I don't think XP is the right choice for these specs, or the functionality, when you're basically doing everything through FF anyway.

Thanks for the breakdown though, very useful.

Dean said...

I am using AA1 150 xp but i can only get 2 hours battery life (max) with back light set to 50% (minimum) and wifi on. How do you get 3.5 - 4 hours battery life?

Sean Schulte said...

I have the Linux version with the SSD instead of the hard drive, both of which seem to make a large positive difference in battery life.

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