Acer Aspire One 521, 721, and Aspire 1551 Comparison - Christmas Top Netbooks

Because netbooks are more or less the same these days - they all have the same cpu, memory, etc, etc, this article starts out with the "Performance" and "Battery Life" sections - which were usually located towards the end. If you need to familiarize yourself with these 3 new Acer Aspires individually first, you can skip ahead to the "Specifications" section and check out their respective Specs first, then come back to read the beginning later. ;) And past the Specs, you will see a Comparison section. Feel free to comment if you find this article hard to read or understand. ;)

What the Aspire One 521, 751, and the Aspire 1551 have in common is that they are different from other netbooks as they don't come with the usual Intel Atom-Intel GMA combo, but rather, with AMD's new Nile platform processors (ie AMD V105, AMD Athlon II K125, K325, AMD Turion K625, and K665) in combination with an ATI Radeon HD 4225 IGP (Internal Graphics Processor), which gives them a far better graphics capability when it comes to HD processing and gaming performance. Of course, you can't expect the Aspire One 521, 751, and the Aspire 1551 gaming performance to be on par with that of discrete AMD/ATI Radeon HD video processors found in notebooks, but it will still give you far better performance than you were used to having in the usual plain vanilla Atom netbooks. For one, you can get StarCraft 2, as well as World of Warcraft (WoW) MMORPG to run surprisingly well, which is no easy feat for a netbook.


AMD Nile CPU Specs

Model*
Series
Clock Speed
TDP
Cores
K665
AMD Turion II Neo Dual Core
1.7 GHz
15W
2
K625
AMD Turion II Neo Dual Core
1.5 GHz
15W
2
K325
AMD Athlon II Neo Dual-Core
1.3 GHz
12W
2
K125
AMD Athlon II Neo Single-Core
1.7 GHz
12W
1
V105
AMD V Series
1.2 GHz
9W
1
*Higher placing in table means that it is better and faster

Performance


Benchmarks tests creeping up at various websites around the internet have recently confirmed that the AMD Vision-branded Nile platform currently has the strongest performing netbook CPU-GPU combo in the market, even for the single core Athlon II K125, which managed to top Intel's Atoms in CPU benchmarks tests.

This made it looked so good that a lot of sites felt comfortable to classify it as more than a netbook, although not quite a notebook, which naturally propelled it into the realm of CULVs or sub-notebooks. Which is why it is not surprising to see Acer selling the Acer Aspire 1551, which is basically an Acer Aspire 751 model with 4GB memory and also with a higher processing speed, as a subnotebook.

What it means for netbook lovers everywhere is that for the price of a netbook, you get something that has the "It's so cute!"-factor of netbooks, and the performance of a far more expensive computer. This, of course, happens because of Intel's insistence on sabotaging its own platform by deliberately limiting the Atom's performance.

Even an Acer Aspire One 521 will outperform all Intel's current Atom-powered netbook in the market in that running applications and web browsing will start to feel flowing and uninhibited, like it should be, not to mention not having the kind of lags most Atoms are susceptible to.


Battery Life:


Where before, AMD lagged behind in the battery compartment, the Nile platform allows it come nearer to Intel. It is still a generation behind, however, though it is something that most people can accept as AMD's offerings come with better graphics and HD playback which previously even until now Intel's offering have trouble playing

If you want better battery life and also don't mind poorer graphics, you can't go wrong if you go for Intel's Atoms, as they are designed for long battery life. If you want better battery life and also want better graphics capability, go for one with Nvidia's Ion/Ion 2 platform, like the Asus 1215N, for example.

But if you want better performance, and especially when you are using it as a desktop anyway, then this is a very good platform as it is the best performing of the 3.


Youtube: Acer Aspire One 521 Netbook First Look & Hands-on

Specifications*

*Disclaimer: Specifications are provided for reference only. Always check the specs at where you do your purchasing as different configurations exist in the market place to suit all budgets.

Acer Aspire One 521:
Due to the graphics capability of the ATI Radeon HD 4225 IGP being coupled to it, the Acer Aspire One 521 is good at running local 1080p video fluidly. Streaming 1080p Flash video from the web, over YouTube, however, is choppy, as is expected for a netbook. 720p works great though, whether from a local file or being played over the internet.

Compared to the AO521 and AS1551, its resolution is at 1024x600 pixels instead of the higher 1366x768 pixels. But you can certainly output via the HDMI or VGA port to a higher res as the Radeon HD 4225 IGP supports it.

-10.1-inch WSVGA CrystalBrite LED-backlit display
-1.7GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 single core processor from the AMD Nile platform
OR 1.2 GHZ AMD V105 single core processor This is also listed by some sites but should give you a worse performance than the AMD Athlon II K125 mentioned in this article. Better not get this one as the price difference is not worth it.
-1GB DDR3 memory More energy saving and better than DDR2
-ATI Radeon HD 4225 graphics processor with 384MB sideport memory (dedicated memory, ie separate from system memory); supports DirectX 10.1. It also has a UVD 2 video decoder
which can decode MPEG-2, H.264, VC-1 standards.
-1024x600 resolution If you need higher resolution (1366x768), go for the AO721
-HDMI output as well as VGA output port
-250 GB 5400 RPM SATA Hard Drive
-Microsoft Windows 7 Starter 64-bit operating system

-Built-In Webcam @1280 x 1024 res
-Multi-in-1 Digital Media Card Reader
-High-Definition Audio
-802.11b/g/n Wi-fi
-Bluetooth 3.0
-Ethernet (10/100) Gigabit not included (normally)
-USB 2.0 Ports x3
-Multi-gesture Touchpad This is actually elevated from the surrounding area, but It is easy to get used to, as you will not have problem detecting the edges by touch and feel
-6-cell Li-ion Battery (4400 mAh) with up to 5.5 Hours of battery life
-MiniGo power adapter A new light (weighs 34-percent lighter than typical adapters), and compact power adapter with interchangeable plugs for traveling convenience
-2.76 lbs (1.25 kg)
-Color:
Black or brown, with patterns
-Price:
USD 349.99


Youtube: Acer Aspire One 721 Unboxing

Acer Aspire One 721:
More or less the same as AO521 except that it has a 1366x768 res display, instead of 1024x600 pixels, and is 11.6 inches instead of 10.1 inches. The 11.6-inch 721 is, as you expect, physically bigger than the 10.1-inch 521, but like the 521, is only 1.1-inch high at the most. That extra 1.5 inches of diagonal viewing area is easier on the eyes, as well as make you less tired as you expend less energy straining to make out the pixels on the display. As they say, inches counts, and bigger is better. ;)

The AO721 also has a bigger keyboard than the AO521, so if you have big fingers (-a no-no), this should be a better choice.

-11.6-inch CrystalBrite LED backlit display @1366 x 768 resolution, 200-nit brightness; crisp, clear, and glossy display
-1.7 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo SINGLE core K125 processor with 1 MB L2 cache, 12W TDP
OR 1.3 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo DUAL core K325 processor with 2MB L2 cache, 12W TDP
-AMD M880G chipset
-ATI Radeon HD 4225 GPU

-384MB sideport memory
-250 GB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive
-1 OR 2 GB of installed DDR3 RAM Up to 4GB max!
-Up to 5 hours of battery life with the included 6-cell battery rated at 4400 mAh
-1.3-megapixel Crystal Eye webcam @up to 1280 x 1024 resolution
-Multi-Gesture Touchpad allows you to use multi-gesture to pinch, flick and swirl your fingers across the touchpad, as well as scroll, zoom in and out, and flip through Web pages and applications
-84-key, full-sized Acer FineTip keyboard
-802.11b/g/n Wi-fi 802.11n Wi-fi has up to 5x the performance and 2x the wireless range using Wireless-N compatible routers
-Next-generation Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity has faster throughput while using less power; it's also backward compatible with older Bluetooth-enabled peripherals
-Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000)
-USB 2.0 ports x3
-Multi-in-1 memory card reader compatible with MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, and xD-Picture Card. (Optional adapter supports optional Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, miniSD, microSD, and Reduced-Size MultiMediaCard)
-HDMI port for connecting to a compatible HDTV, also has VGA output port
-Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit operating system
-6-cell battery (5600mAh ) up to 6 hours of battery life
-Kensington lock slot

-MiniGo power adapter A new light (weighs 34-percent lighter than typical adapters), and compact power adapter with interchangeable plugs for traveling convenience
-11.2 x 8.0 x 1.1 inches (W x D x H)

-3.1 lbs (1.4 kg)
-Energy Star qualified
-Color: mesh black, red
with fingerprints' smudge-free mesh patterns
-Price: $429.99

Youtube: Acer Aspire One 721 or 1551 Hands On

Acer Aspire 1551:
This is like the Aspire One 721 (both 11.6 inches), but marketed as a sub-notebook rather than as a netbook, hence the name Aspire 1551 rather than Aspire One 1551. Basically, it is an Aspire One 721 with 4GB memory and a better processor. :)

-11.6-inch CineCrystal LED-backlit widescreen display @1366 x 768 resolution, 200-nit brightness; presents crisp and clear picture
-1.3GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K325 OR 1.5 GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K625 processor
-4 GB of DDR3 RAM (max: 4 GB of DDR3 RAM)
-AMD M880G chipset
-ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225 graphics processor
-320 GB HDD
-802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
-Gigabit LAN -3x USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, Card Reader, Audio Out
-Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit operating system
-6-cell battery (5600mAh) up to 6 hours of battery juice
-3.1 lbs (1.4 kg)
-Color:
N/A
-Price: N/A

Comparisons


Common to the Acer Aspire One 521, 721, and Aspire 1551

-They all come with a large access panel at the bottom of the computer for easy access to the hard drive, memory and wireless extension card.
-The screen can also be tilted at almost 180 degree, a feature which is uncommon even in notebooks.
-Acer has crammed up the arrow keys in a very small space, as usual. If you think this is bad, make sure you at least get the 11.6-inchers (AO721 and AS1551), as they come with bigger keys.
-The in-the-bezel webcam can handle photos with a 1,280x1,024 resolution (4:3). This is a relatively high resolution compared to some netbooks, which may only have VGA resolution (640x480).
-They all can run Blizzard's StarCraft II well, in case you are wondering. ;)

Differences: Acer Aspire One 521 vs 721 vs Aspire 1551

-The Aspire One 721 is physically larger than the 521, which means that it can accommodate a bigger keyboard and a larger viewing screen. Bigger keyboard, of course, means that it is easier for you to type on it.
-Acer has also given the AO721 an 1366x768 resolution display which is bigger than the usual netbook-class 1024x600 resolution found in the 521.1366x768 is so much nicer on the eyes than run-of-the-mill netbook 1024x600 for web browsing and playing HD videos.
-Acer Aspire One 521 has only one DDR 3 slot, compared to the other 2 which has two.
-Acer Aspire One 521 is bundled with Microsoft Windows 7 Starter, compared to the 721 and Aspire 1551, which featured Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium.
-The Acer Aspire One 721 and Aspire 1551 are both 11.6 inch models. In fact, they are actually the same PC apart from their respective processors. The Aspire One 721 comes with the AMD Athlon II Neo K325 dual core processor, running at 1.3GHz, while the Acer Aspire 1551 has this upgraded to an AMD Turion II Neo K625 dual core processor, running at 1.5GHz.

AMD-inspired Aspire Ones versus Intel Atom-based netbooks

-They come with an AMD/ATI Radeon HD 4225 IGP, rather than Intel's GMA4500
-They have a HDMI port, which is made possible by the AMD Radeon HD 4225 which can handle 720p and 1080p resolutions better than Atom-based netbooks.
-The AO521 and AS1551 have 1366x768 capability, which you don't usually get in a netbook
-They all have DDR3 capability, rather than the DDR2 found in Atoms
-They have the ability to run more games than almost all Atom netbooks, unless you get those new ones that come with Nvidia's Ion/Ion 2 graphics platform.
-You won't have to put up with the stutter and lag associated with the Atom processors anymore ;)
-StarCraft 2 is playable. :)
-These come at the expense of a longer battery life, of course! On the average, an AMD Athlon II K125 probably has 1-2 hours less battery life than a similiar model from Intel Atom's platform. If yours is mostly plugged in, you won't ever notice the difference. If you need more juice, you can always get a 9-cell battery, which has longer battery life.


What to watch out for when buying online:

-Different memory configurations: You may see the RAM listed as 2GB in review, but when you shop online, on closer examination, the one with the cheaper price might only have 1GB DDR3 RAM. So make sure you double check.
-They come with DDR3, rather than DDR2 which is the norm for most netbooks - if you are adding memory separately, make sure you get the correct RAM.
-For 521, some sites list a cheaper ver that comes with an 1.2GHz AMD V105 single core processor, which is a limited processor, created for its ability to conserve power. Try not to get that one as it has lower performance compared to the rest of the Nile platform, and the price difference is not worth it. If that's your only choice, in your country, try and shop online, or wait it out. ;)


After you bought these

As is the norm, these netbooks come preloaded with lots of bloatware that hogs your computer's cpu. I would remove anything that has McAfee and Norton in its name - even if it is free for 5 years - and replace them with really free antiviruses like AVG, Avira, Avast or Comodo (comes with a firewall). Dumping this and other unneeded junk will give you a performance boost, but you probably have to spend a few hours figuring what to keep and what to uninstall. When in doubt, keep them, at least for a while, but over time you will be good in telling what is important and what is not. ;)

Shouldn't I wait for AMD Fusion Bobcat?

IF you only intend to buy netbooks or notebooks with AMD processors, and is in the market for one now or in the next 3 months, NOW (Nov 2010, nearly Christmas 2010) is probably the best time to buy, as Fusion, the next generation of AMD computers, is not expected to arrive until Jan 2011 at the very earliest, and then even if it arrives in January, it is not going to be affordable for another 6 months, at the very least.


Conclusion


Most netbooks have the same specs: Intel Atom? check, Intel GMA? check, Windows 7 Starter Edition? check, 1 GB DDR2? check, etc, etc. The new AMD Nile platform might just be that little bit of difference some people need to stand out from the rest of the herd. After all, as awesome a power saving processor as it is, the Intel Atom is starting to get boring with its ubiquity.

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Comments 3 comments

Osk Neilson 6 years ago

Thanks for the the in depth comparison! Hugely informative!


Dense profile image

Dense 6 years ago from somewhere in a concrete jungle, hugging a green plastic tree, and wondering what happened Author

You are most welcome! Glad you liked it. ;)


charlemont profile image

charlemont 5 years ago from Lithuania

I've just received my Acer AO521. I spent a lot of time reading reviews of different netbooks (amazon, newegg customers generally welcome Acer+AMD cooperation) and finally picked up this particular model. And I'm happy with it. K125 processor with ATI graphics handle 1080p on youtube and in MPC-HC. Watching streaming TV on the 100% charged battery, I had 3+ hours. Internet Explorer open fast, same does Firefox, Windows 7 desktop loads in less than 30 seconds from the moment the ON button is pressed. I will consider switching to 2GB RAM some time soon just to squeeze the most of this little beast. 250 GB hard drive is quite spacey for a netbook, and Wi-Fi 2,4 Ghz works flawlessly.

Minor grumbles are that Acer website does not host drivers for Atheros LAN and Wireless controllers, which are found in my particular configuration. Windows 7 doesn't include them in its setup either.

And it looks like 5 Ghz wireless is not supported by AO521, which is not critical at all, I just would like to compare both 2,4 Ghz and 5 Ghz speeds ;-)

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