Luckily for schools in search of inexpensive notebooks for students and staff, the appearance of the netbook has arrived on the scene none to soon. Small, light and – above all – priced several hundred dollars less than even budget systems, netbooks have meant that schools that couldn’t afford computers can now get a system for every student and teacher.
While every week seems to bring out a new design, my favorite netbook at the moment is the Acer Aspire One AOD-150. At $350, it’s a bargain that combines an adequate 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor with 1GB of system memory, a 160GB hard drive and a sharp 10.1-inch wide-screen display. In other words, it should be plenty to satisfy a teacher’s need to create curriculum and tabulate student results. At the same time, it’s more than enough to open the digital world to students.
The good news is that instead of being a bulky and heavy budget computer with disappointing battery life, the D-150 is among the smallest and lightest in its class. The whole thing weighs just 2.3-pounds with the base three-cell battery or 2.9-pounds with the six-cell extended capacity power-pack. It has dimensions of a pad of paper that’s between 1.3- and 1.5-inches thick and easily fits into a kid’s backpack or book bag. On the downside, the system’s extended battery sticks out of the back.
While most adults will find the keys and touchpad to be a little skimpy, they’re perfect for most kids, particularly elementary and middle schoolers. Around its perimeter, the D-150 has a good assortment of ports, including 3 USB, external monitor and audio. Add to that a flash card reader that works with the most recent modules and you have a system that can work with all facets of digital curriculum from creating podcasts or presentations to playing online educational games and doing Web research.
It’s got wired and wireless LAN connections built-in for Web access at home, at libraries and at school plus two things that few other netbooks include. On top of a Web cam, the D-150 has Bluetooth so that it can host a video learning event and works with a wireless keyboard, mouse or headphone.
What’s missing? Well, there isn’t an optical drive for creating and playing CDs and DVDs. I don’t think many schools will miss that, and it’s one fewer thing to break.
The system’s performance won’t set any records but it provides an excellent balance between power and battery life. It rates a 214 on Passmark’s Performance 6.1 benchmark, making it one of the most powerful netbooks available, but also can run on its extended battery pack for more than 5:30. That means that the D-150 is a full school day computer, so kids and teachers can leave the AC adapter at home; expect about 3 hours on the standard battery.
Available in four colors, the D-150 comes with matching battery, a soft case and lots of software, including Microsoft Works, which should be fine for most school projects. The D-150 comes with a 1 year warranty and Acer has a video that describes the unit.
Overall, the Acer Aspire D-150 goes to the head of the class with an inexpensive yet well-made and powerful netbook. And, that’s exactly what schools are looking for these days.
+ Excellent price
+ Top battery life
+ Good performance
+ Web cam, Bluetooth and WiFi
- Battery sticks out
- Small keys
- No optical drive