Top positive review
385 people found this helpful
Set-up Tips; More Functional, Less Expensive than an iPad
on July 1, 2012
The recent Amazon sub 239 tariff keeps this form factor relevant, as does the battery life, but be sure to check out the Acer Aspire One AO756-2808 11.6-Inch Netbook (Ash Black) as well, at least when Amazon has it back in stock for 3 bills or so. 7-19-12 note
The best reasons for buying the Acer AOD 270:
* One of the best netbbook screens - pretty evenly illuminated, and sufficient latitude in viewing angles so that when you are centered, none of the corners or edges are showing signs of diffracting.
Don't laugh, on some netbooks and even notebooks, the viewing angles can be SO limited that even if your head is centered relative to the screen, some part of the screen will be shaded, washed out, or diffracted.
Videos look pretty good on the AOD270 (but not as good as on a flat screen tv).
(If you want "great" video, you will probably have to move up to the much more expensive Macbook Air or shift to a completely different experience in the form of an iPad with its multi-angle IPS display.)
* Very thin design, very light, especially with the 3 cell battery, which can be purchased separately if you start with this 6 cell version. Note that this netbook and almost all non-Apple laptops come with somewhat short-lived batteries, good for two to four years (depends on charge cycles) before the loss of battery life drives you to buy a new battery (which you can replace yourself, cheaply, which helps compensate for the battery mortality). (Since the review I took the 6 cell battery off an earlier Acer netbook and put in on this newer unit, and it works fine and adds a couple of hours of battery life; it doesn't stick out for the bottom too much.)
* Screen tilts back far enough so that you won't have viewing angle problems if using this on a kitchen counter while standing up.
* Larger keys with acceptable spacing. Intuitive "break" on the keys so tactile feedback is there that your keystroke was accepted. (A little noisy though.)
* Plays 480p (DVD quality) video smoothly, with fewer minor glitches with downloaded vs. streaming content (since streaming imposes an additional processing overhead)
* HDMI port lets you hook this up to your (modern) flat screen tv to play Hulu content, which you can't get on a Roku (without paying a subscription fee, although the fee includes additional video content).
* Great alternative to an iPad if you are on a budget, or a great supplement to an iPad if you type a lot. Despite the many accessory keyboards for iPads, the keyboard on most netbooks is superior. Pros for the iPad? Instant on, superior viewing angles, incredible screen on the "new" or "3" iPad, incredible battery life. Cons - won't run Windows programs (huge if you have wordprocessing and other office needs, or want to run a blog).
* Great alternative to a Macbook Air if you are on a budget, if you worry about theft or damage (netbooks are priced so low as to be a "no worry" item), or if you worry about getting the wrong type of attention. Of course the Macbook Air weighs the same but has a larger screen, larger keyboard, and the keyboard is back-illuminated for easy typing in low light or the dark, making it the ultimate production netbook (even though Apple denies it is a netbook, LOL).
Finally, this Atom N2600 netbook is incredibly zippy once you clean out some of the bloatware and install a leaner antivirus program (Microsoft Security Essentials is completely free and very efficent, both in detecting threats and having a small footprint in RAM).
Here is my routine for setting up a new netbook (this applies to versions from other makers as well):
1. Don't accept the offer to install the commercial antivirus program which has a "free" trial offer. It's designed for computers with a lot more memory and processing power, and is the number one cause of sluggishness in netbooks. Don't worry about the "unprotected" messages you will get because you will fix that right away.
2. After booting up the first time, open Internet Explorer and say "no" to the guided tour and any other options, then enter "download Google Chrome" into the search box (or Chrome Beta, which has always been stable for me). Note how much space Internet Explorer wastes on the top of the screen, when Chrome opens you will see a much cleaner but highly functional browser window).
3. Install Google Chrome - just follow the simple on-screen instructions.
4. In the Google search box (Google lets you choose among search engines when you install it, I like Google best although Bing from Microsoft is also quite good) search for "download MSE" which will take you to the Microsoft page to download Microsoft Security Essentials. Select the 32 bit version if offered a choice.
5. Install and run Microsoft Security Essentials. I would run your first scan later, after cleaning up your new netbook. When asked if you want the firewall turned on, say yes.
6. While waiting for the above downloads, right click on the desktop and select Properties and select the option to relocate your Taskbar from its default location at the bottom of the screen to a new location on the left or right of the screen. This gives you extra vertical screen space, which is more valuable than the horizontal screen space since the netbook comes with a pretty short horizontal screen space. You'll see what I mean when you work in your web browser - plenty of text left to right but you won't get as much top to bottom as text as you will probably want without using a minimalist browser like Chrome plus moving the Taskbar.
7. Download PC Decrapifier (pcdecrapifier dot com) and run it. Although you can run it is a single pass, I find that pops up too many option windows at the same time. McAfee Antivirus in particular is somewhat convoluted to uninstall, so I recommend un-checking the uninstall boxes so that only McAfee is left, and uninstalling it using the cleanup program first. Then run PC Decrapifier a second time and let it uninstall all programs, including all Acer programs. None of them are needed, even the webcam (Google Talk and Skype have their own programs to run the webcam), and if you suffer cleaner's remorse later, just go to the Acer website (support dot acer dot com) and reinstall them, it's easy. DON'T uninstall Microsoft Security Essentials! Don't stress about the dire warnings you will get from McAfee as you uninstall it. MSE is there, direct from Microsoft, to take care of you.
8. After rebooting once or more times to complete the uninstallation, download "CCleaner" from FileHippo (Google download CCLeaner, go to the Piriform website, select the free option, and download). When installing, uncheck every installation option box EXCEPT the desktop shortcut box at the top.
9. You can ignore all menu options in CCleaner except the blue "Registry" icon in the left-most column. Click on that. (The little brick building.) Then click "Scan for Issues" on the bottom off the white box. Then "Fix Selected Issues". "Save Registry" (your computer won't explode if you forget to do this). "Fix All Selected Issues." Then, scan again because often it takes two or three passes to catch and fix all issues. Reboot.
10. Click on the Start Menu, then Computer (far right column), then right click on the hard drive and select "Properties." Unclick the "file indexing" option at the bottom of the Properties window, when it asks "subdirectories too" include subdirectories, and let the un-indexing go to work. This will take some time.
11. Go to the Control Panel (Click the globe in the Start menu, or tap the Windows flag key in the lower left of your keyboard.) Then use the search box in the upper right hand corner of the Control Panel window to search for "defrag". Click on the "Defragment your hard drive" option and select the schedule option; when selected, select "never defrag." You can run this yourself manually every six months.
Indexing and defragging run in the background but slow down your netbook. They aren't necessary for a good Windows experience.
12. This is optional. Go to Sourceforge dot net and download Foobar200, a simple but lean music player, and VLC, a simple but lean video player.
13. If you are brave, turn off automatic Windows updates. I set the option to "notify me and let me choose when to install" so my netbook doesn't suddenly get bogged down at a cafe. I do the updates later, at home, when I can switch to working on a desktop. I won't tell you how to do this, it's easy, but if you can't navigate Windows to this extent, you probably should just suffer through the sluggishness while Windows installs updates while you are working, rather than risk an out of date, and hence vulnerable, machine.
14. No matter how many times Windows Updates offers to install Bing Desktop, it is safe to ignore.
15. Tweaks dot come has a Windows logon screen changer. Search their site for "logon" or go to [...] (Replace "dot" with . and close the space to make the link work).
I hope this helps. It is faster than it reads, and makes a huge difference in performance. Look at it this way - you just saved the difference in price between a Macbook Air and this Acer.
Please check the Acer website for their complete list of Acer AOD270 models and the list prices. While Amazon never charges more than list price, occasionally vendors will, for models that are discontinued or in short supply.
For the mechanically minded: Adding an extra gig of memory SLIGHTLY improves performance with more windows, or browser tabs, open. [8-20-12 update - I got bold and stuck a left-over 4gb RAM stick in the D270 - Control Panel recognized the entire 4gb of RAM, but Windows 7 Starter is only 32-bit so the operating system would only recognize and use 3gb of that. That was a REAL 3gb for WIndows itself, though, since whatever RAM is being set aside for the video doesn't count against that (Task Manager reports 3gb available, where before, with 2gb, Task Manager reported only about 1.7 gb available since the rest being used by video). Now that memory has dropped down so low in price, you MIGHT want to consider replacing the 1 gb RAM module with a 4 gb module instead of a 2 gb. I was afraid the BIOS or chipset might be incapable of addressing a 4gb stick, but based on my experimentation this is NOT a problem. WEI scores DROPPED to 3.2, 4.6, 5.6, 3.2 and 7.8 on the first test run, and improved slightly to 3.3, 4.7, 5.6, 3.2, and 7.8 on the second test run (I have an SSD which is why the HDD component is so high). In my experience the first time you run a "re-fresh" the scores on WEI are unreliable, you have to run the full, slower re-assessment after the "re-fresh" is finished to get stable scores. I have no idea why both video scores dropped, but in practice Hulu is rock-solid and if anything, desktop video effects (opening and minimizing windows etc.) seem snappier. Maybe there is just more video memory for the chipset to use now, and while that is good in practice, it means more to move around for the WEI test. Please comment if you know what might be going on.]
To access the memory slot, first remove the battery, then the keyboard by locating the four small tabs at the top of the Function key row that are holding it in. These tabs are released, one by one, by pushing back, not down, and you need to be ready with a thin bladed screw driver or something thin like a nail file to pry the keyboard up, tab by tab. Once the tabs are released, you will see the keyboard has a flat ribbon connection to the body. You can either lay the keyboard out of the way and remove the FIVE screws, each marked "back cover", then push your screwdriver into the square hole marked "cover release" to start releasing the back cover. Then being careful with the ribbon connector and the keyboard, turn the netbook over and gradually work the back panel off, it has snap tabs, start at the section that you opened slightly from the front side. Memory replacement is then easy. To replace the back panel, slide the edge nearest the battery compartment in FIRST, then snap around the edges to seat the other sides. Replace the screws, lay the keyboard back in, then snap it down along the top front edge. NOTE: you can also disconnect then reconnect the ribbon to the keyboard. To do this, note the dark gray, almost black, plastic bar lying across the top of the ribbon where it enters the connector on the panel under the keyboard (on the netbook body). On some ribbon connectors, such a clamp will slide towards the ribbon to relieve pressure, but on this design, it swings up and off the cable, so just use your finger nail to flip it up. When reassembling, be sure to push the ribbon in evenly so the black line aligns with the clamp, then close the clamp.
*** on 8-1-12 I replaced the stock hard drive with a 128gb SSD - this netbook takes a 9.5 mm high drive. You can use one of the emerging 7.0mm high drives BUT be forewarned that the hard drive does NOT screw into the bay, it relies on "perfect fit" to keep everything in place! So if you use a 7.0 mm drive, you risk it shifting around unless you fabricate a space. For this reason I recommend a 9.5 mm drive like the Crucial 128 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s CT128M4SSD2. After installing, the WEI for the hard drive shot up from 5.9 to 7.8, a very significant increase, and disk intensive operations like virus scans run much faster. If you decide to replace your drive, you remove the old one by looking for the end with the connector, then lifting up the OTHER end. Then, without disturbing the connector's connection to the motherboard (use your finger to hold it down, in place!) just wiggle/pry the hard drive off the connector. To install the new SSD, just push it onto the connector until fully mounted then lay the drive into the hard driver slot and close up the cover. For software, you have 3 choices: cloning software, recovery disks, or new install. I believe if you download the Acronis disk clone software from Western Digital, it will also work on this drive, but I used the version that came with an old Kingston SSD so I can't guarantee it. For recovery disks, you either buy a set from Acer for about $15 including shipping beforehand, or generate your own set by using the included Acer utility program (which you can easily download and reinstall from the Acer Support website). New installs are complicated - I have done them from recovery disks from other netbooks, then re-entered the code from the bottom of my netbook, it is hard to get Win 7 Starter install media. The one work around I used once was to upgrade to Home Premium first, write down the new license number, use a Home Premium 32 bit disk to install, then entered my old unit's upgrade license number. I understand that Windows recovery disk images are available from Microsoft Support online for free (since they won't work without entering a license number off your old unit), but you would need to track those down.
CAUTION regarding video driver update: I am a big believer in applying all driver updates presented on the manufacturer's website. Especially the video drivers for this new Atom N2600 chip which is running the new Intel GMA 3600 video chip (very similar video chip to that used in the iPad). HOWEVER when I updated to the .1075 driver on the Acer website, my videos became choppy. As soon as I returned to the earlier VGA driver (.1065) on the Acer website, all my graphics problems went away. The other driver updates on their website are running fine on my machine. YMMV, so don't hesitate to switch the two drivers around to find one that works best for you.
I purchased my AOD270 from Target for 249, which is the list price for the 3 battery cell edition.