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Originally published November 1 2009

Product Review: Acer Aspire One netbooks set new standard in mobile computing

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) It's rare to discover a technology product that genuinely changes the way you get things done, but the Aspire One netbook from Acer accomplishes exactly that. It's a feature-packed "netbook" that can revolutionize the way you read websites, listen to audio books, read e-books, watch videos or teleconference with friends. It may seem odd to review a technology product on this website, but because of the ways in which this netbook can greatly enhance your ability to interact with electronic information (and a lot of the information you need to know is in electronic form these days), this review is important to our readers.

"Netbooks" are small, streamlined laptop computers running on the Intel Atom processor and featuring long battery life, reduced weight and smaller screens. Although they're typically configured with a relatively small amount of memory (1 GB) and hard drive space (160 GB), they still seem very responsive and nimble thanks to the Windows XP operating system (which is faster and less bloated than Windows Vista).

For this review, I purchased an Acer Aspire One D250, which comes with an external CD/DVD drive, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB internal hard drive. The default battery offers up to six hours of battery life, and astoundingly, the unit comes with a built-in webcam and microphone. It has a slightly-reduced-sized keyboard, a handy touch pad and a wireless mouse. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are built in, and the LED LCD screen is 10.1 inches with a resolution of 1024 by 600.

The limitations of laptop computers

To understand why this Acer netbook works so well, it helps to first acknowledge the problems with a typical laptop computer. Over the past few years, laptops have grown bigger, bulkier and more feature packed. On the down side, this has made them heavy and impractical, with sharply reduced battery life. My primary laptop, for example, sits in my carryon bag during airplane flights because it's too large to use in an airplane seat. But Acer's Aspire One netbook slides easily into the seat pocket in front of you, and it's very usable on a typical airplane tray table.

Another problem that's especially common among international travelers is the theft of laptop computers. If you walk out of an airport with a laptop computer case strapped to your shoulder, you might as well just paint a bright red target on your forehead that says, "Rob me!" Thieves are now trained to look for laptop bags because they know the contents of a typical bag can fetch anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a thousand bucks on the underground market.

But a netbook computer can be stuffed into a non-laptop bag. You can carry it in a large purse or a small book bag, disguising its identity. I sometimes carry it in an equipment bag that looks way too small to hold a computer. This way, I avoid being targeted by thieves looking to jack a high-end laptop. That's why netbooks are safer than notebooks when it comes to traveling.

Serious battery life... finally!

On the issue of battery life, everybody already knows what I'm about to say: Traditional laptops suffer from disastrously poor battery life. This is due to primarily two factors: The power requirements for a large screen, and the juice-sapping drain from traditional CPUs. Netbooks, on the other hand, use the low-power Intel Atom processor, and their greatly reduced LED display screens are both smaller and more power efficient than typical TFT LCD screens used on most laptops.

The end result is that while a typical laptop computer is probably lucky to squeeze out 3-4 hours of actual up time, this Acer netbook chugs right through four hours and keeps on going. With a $100 after market battery, you can even push the total operating time to a whopping twelve hours. On a recent trip, I was able to watch two full movies (almost four hours) on a single battery charge for this Acer netbook -- and watching movies is a power-intensive activity, too.

This battery life improvement changes everything. Suddenly, your Acer netbook is truly usable, truly portable and imminently practical. Plus, it does everything: You can play MP3s while working on a Word document, or watch a movie you ripped from a DVD.

The Acer netbook is a better movie player than a portable movie player; it's a better MP3 player than an MP3 player, and it's a better ebook reader than an ebook reader. Plus, it allows you to read your email, check the news on a website, play computer games and videoconference through Skype. All that for only slightly more than the cost of the Amazon Kindle ebook reader! (I paid just over $400 for my Acer netbook.)

All this makes the Acer Aspire One netbook one of the best investments you'll ever make in computing technology. If this conclusion seems surprising, I know exactly what you mean: Even I was skeptical at first, because I was expecting something more of a low-end, cheaply-made computer that would be too slow to run anything useful. But boy, was I wrong! This Acer really impressed me. It's one of the best purchases in electronics or computing technology that I've ever made.

Taiwan products represent real quality

Acer, by the way, is a Taiwan company, and the quality of this netbook computer is a shining example of the kind of quality now being produced by Taiwan manufacturers.

Two or three decades ago, Taiwan was most commonly thought of as a country that made cheap plastic "junk" products and then exported them to Europe and the USA. But no longer. Over the last two decades, with amazing ingenuity, government R&D investments and a rock solid work ethic, the entrepreneurial spirit of Taiwan has emerged as a powerful driving factor towards quality products. Today, the top Taiwan brands are synonymous with quality products, ranging from electronics to exercise equipment. Many of the best brands of treadmills, bicycles and weight lifting equipment, for example, are made either in Taiwan itself or in Taiwanese-controlled factories operating in mainland China.

As a person who once lived in Taiwan and feels a special connection with Asian culture, I'm very happy to see this country emerging as a world-leading R&D and manufacturing center. The entire netbook concept, by the way, was invented in Taiwan (I believe Asus was the first company to introduce a netbook computer, please correct me if I'm wrong on that point...). This was the dream of Taiwan engineers who believed they could create a whole new category of computing electronics. At the time, that idea must have seemed impossibly difficult to achieve. Most new computing products fail to penetrate the market. But the netbook concept has been a phenomenal winner, and it has helped keep the Taiwan economy alive and well in a time of a global economic downturn.

Some of the best product brands in the world are all designed and made in Taiwan: Acer, Asus, Giant (bicycles), Trend Micro (anti-virus software), D-Link (network computing gear) and many others. Many quality brands that you think of as being American are actually manufactured in Taiwan then rebranded in America.

More and more, Taiwan is earning its reputation as not just a quality manufacturer, but also a world-class R&D design center.

If you're interested in importing products from Taiwan, there are numerous trade shows held in Taipei each year. They're an absolute blast to attend (I used to go to them all the time when I lived in Taipei). You'll see thousands of vendors with products ready for export, all under one roof in a very high-end, upscale conference center located on the Eastern section Hsin-Yi Rd. They have different shows, each one themed to a particular industry such as technology, home and garden, bicycles, machinery, etc.

One more thing: Taiwan is also the world's best source for granular Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs. While I would personally be very skeptical of importing herbs from China (because of contamination and adulteration issues), Taiwan has far better quality control standards and produces some really fine herbs for export. Here are three companies to investigate for high-quality Chinese medicine herbs (all are GMP certified manufacturers):

Learn more about doing business with Taiwan here:

P.S. This is not a paid advertisement. I don't earn money for promoting Taiwan, I have simply come to admire and respect its culture, its people and its entrepreneurial spirit. I used to live in Taiwan and I speak Chinese, so I have first-hand knowledge of the culture there. They are good people living in a free-market, Democratic society. Over four generations, they have transformed a tiny island nation into one of the most-respected manufacturing centers in the world. They're also well into "green" products now, and many are following RoHS manufacturing standards to reduce or eliminate the use of heavy metals and other hazardous substances.

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