I gave my out-of-box impression of the Acer Aspire One 722 last week. It’s completely unacceptable out of the box, and adequate when you do some basic cleanup on it.
Now I’ve installed an Intel SSD in one and clean-installed Windows, and I’m much more impressed with it.
Windows 7 doesn’t know about the Aspire One 722′s network cards–either the wired or wireless ones. So download the system information tool to find out which drivers you have, then download the network and card reader drivers from Acer and store them on a USB drive before you re-install. Install those, then Windows can find all the other drivers it needs.
In fact, it’s preferable to do it that way. When Windows downloads the AMD video drivers, they’re about 35 megabytes. Download them from Acer, and they’re 115 megabytes. I’d rather save the effort and the 80 megabytes.
Speaking of the AMD video drivers, the integrated graphics and driver were good enough that I could watch the Kansas City Royals stymy Albert pujol$ in his American League debut without any hiccups, and without it looking any worse than it would over cable TV. Not bad for a machine that routinely sells for less than $300.
Installing the SSD makes a huge difference. When equipped with a hard drive, these computers come equipped with whatever was available at the time, and the Western Digital Caviar Blue that came in this particular machine wasn’t fast. The Intel X25M that I dropped in is anything but state of the art, but it virtually eliminated the spinning orb that I grew used to watching as long as the factory drive was installed. Productivity applications load instantly off the SSD.
Acer, to its credit, made the AO722 extremely easy to work on. Remove the battery (there’s a latch on the underside of the machine that you slide with a screwdriver tip to release the battery), and then there’s one screw in the center to remove the cover. Remove that screw, then slide the cover forward and you have free access to the internals to change the hard drive or the memory. Sadly, current models only have one SODIMM socket on the motherboard, although there’s room and traces present for a second one. As cheap as memory is, it would be nice to be able to expand these machines to 8 GB to take advantage of 64-bit operating systems. With 4 GB installed, there’s little difference between 32- and 64-bit.
In addition to the SATA port, there’s also a mini PCIe slot where you can install a mini PCIe SSD if you wish. So you could install a mini PCIe SSD to hold the operating system and a high-capacity platter drive for storing lots of data if you wish. I skipped that, for now.
This machine has potential, keeping things in the right perspective. By 2005 standards, it’s a powerhouse. It compares very favorably to the 2005-era Dell laptop that I travel with. Windows 7 rates the two CPUs comparable–though I’d give the Dell the edge on that–and the Acer gets the edge with faster memory access, disk transfer, and graphics. It’s also smaller, lighter, and has much longer battery life.
But it’s not 2005 anymore. It’s 2012. Which is why this machine costs what it does.
All that said, the AO722 is fine for what it is. Upgrade it to 4 GB of RAM if it isn’t already at that level, drop in a $100 SSD, and do a fresh install of Windows, and it’s a nice machine for the money–good for travel, an extra machine to keep around, or a machine for the kids.