Acer Aspire One ZA3

Style & Handling Summary for Acer Aspire One ZA3
The Acer Aspire One ZA3 is a smart, glossy device that comes in a choice of five colours and doesn’t attract fingermarks too badly.
Acer Aspire One ZA3

User Friendliness Summary for Acer Aspire One ZA3
The ZA3 is fairly straightforward to use, with no over-complicated functions to navigate, and switching between connectivity options is simple enough.

Feature Set Summary for Acer Aspire One ZA3
The Acer Aspire One ZA3 offers the latest netbook trend of accessing the internet via a 3G SIM for a reasonable price. There’s plenty going on, even though the preinstalled software is a little too much to handle.

Performance Summary for Acer Aspire One ZA3
The low-spec processor and all that onboard software slows the ZA3 down considerably, especially when you are running more than three programmes at once.

Battery Power Summary for Acer Aspire One ZA3
Seven hours of power with Wi-Fi running is pretty good.

Full Review and Specification for the Acer Aspire One ZA3

Netbooks, like everything else, are subject to trends. The next big thing will be getting online using a 3G SIM, and the first to feature this technology is Acer, with the Aspire One ZA3. A Windows XP device has a preinstalled BT SIM, the ZA3 costs just £249 – but, as we know by now, you get what you pay for when it comes to netbooks.

Style and handling for the Acer Aspire One ZA3

In terms of size, the Acer Aspire One ZA3 is par for the course, at one inch thick and weighing 1.35kg. The11.6-inch LED screen is larger than average with a high-definition 1366x768 pixels – a high-end spec for a netbook – and shows up your webpages clearly and vividly. It only pushes back to around 120 degrees, which isn’t as much as some netbooks, but unless you’re in direct light it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

The sleek device comes in a choice of black, white, pink, navy or brown and the glossy frontage is not as prone to fingerprints as some. It’s just a shame that the battery protrudes, ruining the smooth line. Three USB ports sit on the sides, alongside a TV-out cable, and Ethernet port and an SD card reader.

The keyboard is spacious and well laid out, although the tablet keys are rather flimsy and tend to click – that’s usual for netbooks, of course, but we have come across better. The touchpad is responsive for standard navigation – up, down, left and right – but rather too jerky for tasks that require more accuracy such as photo editing. The pinch-zoom function is also fitful.

If you start a video call the Crystal Eye 1.3-megapixel webcam and digital microphone automatically fire up. You can also load the webcam from the menu to take a photo, but the results are washed out.

Processor and applications on the Acer Aspire One ZA3

The Intel Atom Z520 processor is moderate when compared with other netbooks, running at 1.33GHz and packing just 1GB of RAM. This makes for slower loading of applications than you get on higher-spec devices, particularly when you are running three or more programs simultaneously.
The battery life is more impressive, though: with Wi-Fi running, it’ll give you seven hours before having to recharge.

The high-definition screen allows you to watch at 720p, not the full 1080p, but it’s enough for a screen of this size. If you do crave a bigger picture, you can connect to your TV via an HDMI cable. That high-def media is hard work for the little processor, though, and it does freeze from time to time. Luckily you get no such problem with browsing the web, messages and document editing.

The main issue for the processor is all the software which has been preinstalled by Acer and BT. For a start, there are three office programmes: a Microsoft Office trial version, the open-source office package OpenOffice and, just in case, the aged and barely used Microsoft Works. Google Desktop has been preloaded alongside a dozen extra games through Acer Gamezone and the RSS reader/meta search engine eSobi. There’s no option to choose, although as software goes, these are pretty good. Finally, McAfee Virus Scan uses enough processing power to cause those delays, and reminds of its presence on a regular basis to install updates, restart your machine or check on whether you’ve received the objects. It’s rather irritating, to say the least.

You can uninstall all of this if you want, and with a bit of technical knowhow download more efficient programmes such as Avira Antivirus, for free.

Internet on the Acer Aspire One ZA3

Thanks to the onboard BT Connection Manager, you can get online using the 3G SIM or swap over to a Wi-Fi network. There’s a choice of five internet profiles to use, dependant on tariff, including PAYG Wi-Fi, free BY Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Switching between connections is a simple process but the user interface is crowded with options and menu tabs.

It’s handy to be able to switch networks at will, but we would have liked to have seen an option to text a mobile phone from the ZA3, like you can with Nokia’s Booklet 3G.

3G is slightly more complex to set up. You can’t just hot-swap the SIM – it’s a pre-installed card that has to be registered on BT’s website before you can use it (we guess they expect you to use the Wi-Fi connection on the ZA3, or another computer altogether). It could also be slow to load, on occasion taking us up to 30 seconds.

The verdict on the Acer Aspire One ZA3

The ZA3 is a competent netbook that ticks all the boxes but the slow processor and clunky preinstalled software means it takes a little longer to react than other, similar netbooks. We like the option to go online using the 3G SIM, Wi-Fi or Ethernet but would like to see better use of the 3G SIM, like the option to send SMS to mobiles. But overall it’s a solid device and a good addition to the Aspire One range.