Acer's maintained a steady lead in the netbook race thanks to figuring out early that basic netbooks at lower prices will fly off shelves. Its new Aspire One 532h doesn't mess with that formula, offering a fast Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, Windows 7 Starter and a 160GB hard drive for $299. That's about $100 less than its closest competitors, the Toshiba mini NB305 and the Eee PC 1005PE-P. Does the 532h offer enough performance and battery life to warrant that price discount?
The 532h is built around a sturdy plastic chassis. Its 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel display is bright and features a glossy finish that kicks back a lot of reflections. Vertical viewing angles are a little tight, but people sitting on either side of you should be able to read the screen comfortably. Two stereo speakers pump out surprisingly strong audio for a small netbook, though the bass could use some improvement.
On our benchmark tests, the 532h's 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 processor and 1GB of RAM delivered above-average performance for a netbook. It scored 1,332 on PCMark05, about 60 points above the netbook average and 50 points ahead of the Toshiba mini NB305 and the MSI Wind U135. On 3DMark06, the 532h's Intel GMA 3150 graphics chip scored about average for a netbook. Video playback on Hulu, including the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and an episode of Heroes, was smooth, but not as smooth as on competing models.