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Keyboard Review: Acer Aspire One Netbook

Posted Aug 29 2010 5:50pm

by Anselm Engle

The bottom line is that no netbook will ever be ergonomically perfect, because they’re first designed to first be small and light. Acer does a fairly good job at making a consistent, reasonably responsive, low-profile keyboard. As long as you can maintain your hand position without much tactile feedback, you’ll find this machine a joy to work on.

The Aspire One comes with a 94%, chiclet-style keyboard that is surprisingly comfortable for me to type on, although it took some getting used to. Overall, I give the Aspire One keyboard 3/5 ergonomic stars: Five stars for portability, four for keyboard feel and size, two for key shape and one for the touchpad.

Read on for the good, the bad, and the odd details on this keyboard and the touchpad:

The good:

  • Size: As netbook keyboards go, this is a nice size. It takes up most of the space under the 10 inch screen, enough space for my paws to move around.
  • Throw length and pressure: Most current laptops have a good throw length for me, and the Aspire One is no exception: not so short that my fingers trigger the keys when I slide over them, but short enough and easily triggered with gentle finger pressure–Perfect.
  • Textured keys: The keys have a subtle pebbly texture that helps me keep track of how fast and far my fingers move when I type at speed. The tactile feedback helps me relax my hands.
  • Slim keyboard: The whole machine is less than an inch thick, which makes for a very slim keyboard and easy straight-wrist typing.
  • Light weight: Weighing in at less than three pounds for the six-cell battery version, the Aspire One 532h is about the size of a hard-backed book, with a power brick the size of a small candy bar. This actually fits in the pocket of my cargo pants with room to spare and will easily perform a whole workday on one charge.

The bad:

  • Responsiveness: It’s fairly bouncy–more than the eMachine eM250
    the typical button-style external keyboard–yet not as responsive as a MacBook or even the HP Mini. I need to push rather than tap the keys, which translates to more arm stress.
  • Key shape: The flat keys give no way of knowing when I begin to drift out of proper hand position. Ergonomically, the lack of tactile feedback makes it difficult for me
    to relax–an important factor to maintaining healthy hands and arms!
  • The touchpad: Despite a brilliant texture of raised dots and the scroll bar with horizontal lines, the lack of sensitivity really disappoints. I found myself yearning for a mouse for the first time in four years.

The odd

  • Hand position: The standard qwerty keyboard layout uses a slightly offset hand position, and the overall small size of the Aspire One makes this much more pronounced.

Source: Anselm Engle is a freelance writer and mercenary educator. He specializes in reviews and investigative and literary narratives. He can be reached at AnselmEngle at gmail dot com.

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