I was in the market for a new Netbook (to use with my new Clear WiMax connection) so I did some minimal research and found the Acer AO751h. It has a news (and slower) Z520 Atom processor, 2GB RAM, 160GB HD and a beautiful 11.6 screen with 1366x768 resolution (which is the same as most 720P LCD panels). It was on ‘sale’ at Fry’s for $469 with a bundled 2 year service contract. I would never use a service contract (‘I Void Warranties’ is a very fitting T-Shirt for me to wear) and the sales person insisted that the laptop would not be any less without the contract.
I purchased the unit, went out to my car and found the same laptop for $399 on Amazon. Even better, I found a similar version (1GB RAM, Win XP, Extended Battery) for $379. I ordered the $379 (a $20 RAM upgrade is well worth the extended battery) and made plans to return the $469 laptop in a few days.
Once home, I replaced the HD (via an easily accessible panel) and installed Windows 7.
From the start, the laptop speed sucks- very badly. Opening Firefox (3.5) is very slow, Flash on websites is very slow (Hulu is unplayable), and my when I tested WoW (all effects turned to low) I had to disable the sound as it couldn’t keep up (i.e. broken record sound). I was averaging 2fps in the non-populated areas of Durotar.
A lot of people will say ‘A Netbook is not made to play WoW’- and I would disagree. My initial Netbook (an Asus 8.9” EEE PC) was able to play WoW at around 5-6 FPS; my second one (Acer AO150) was able to play a little better (8-10)- but the AO751h was hitting a ceiling at 2 FPS (even when forcing the resolution to 800x600).
I happened to be in BestBuy a few days later and chanced upon the Gateway LT3103u; Very similar to the Acer (which makes sense as Acer now owns Gateway) with the same screen, keyboard, memory and HD configuration- but with an Athlon 64 L110 CPU and a Radeon x1275 GPU- and for the same price ($399).
Similarities between Acer AO751h and Gateway LT3103u:
- 11.6” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution
- 2GB DDR2 RAM
- 160GB SATA HD
- Large keyboard
- 802.11b/g Wireless
- 3 USB Ports
- VGA Out
- 10/100 Ethernet
- Multi-in-One Card Reader
- Multi-touch mousepad
- Integrated Webcam
- Easy access panels for HD, RAM and Wireless cards
Differences between the Acer AO751h and Gateway LT3103u:
- CPU: Intel Atom Z520 1.2Ghz vs. AMD Athlon 64 L110 1.2Ghz
- Video: Intel GMA 500 vs. Radeon x1275
- Battery: 2200mAh vs. 5200mAh
Gateway is owned by Acer, so I would assume that some of their lines will have similar products. The screen, keyboard and basic layout of the two are almost identical:
The power bricks for two systems are identical (30W- 19.0v, 1.58A) and the batteries are interchangeable.
Moving away from the form factor/aesthetics, there is a pretty sizable difference in performance.
Windows 7 Rating for the AO751h:
The Windows 7 Rating for the LT3013u:
The limiting factor on both systems is the CPU, and the gateway Athlon offers about 20% more performance than the Intel Z520 CPU. The gateway also can offload some additional graphics rendering tasks to the integrated Radeon x1275 GPU. The Radeon does not have dedicated GPU memory, rather it uses shared system RAM (384MB default).
Both systems come system maxed with at a single 2GB DDR2 SODIMM.
I did a basic CPU+GPU performance comparison by filming the opening screen of World of Warcraft and putting them together with Adobe Premier:"
For comparable systems, the Gateway performance is MUCH better than the Acer; the trade-off is battery longevity- the Acer can use a 3 cell battery and obtain an estimated 4 hours of runtime (or 8 hours with the optional 6 cell battery) while the Gateway boasts about 5 hours with a battery that is twice the size (the included 6 cell battery).
This was a really tough decision for me as I wanted the Gateway, but I hate their support (see my earlier post on my experiences with my other Gateway laptop). In the end, the technological advantages has over-ridden my distaste for Gateway.
I have returned the Acer and upgraded the HD in my Gateway; if anyone is considering an Acer AO751h for the larger screen- go look at the Gateway instead…