Review Acer Aspire One D270-26Dbb Netbook
New model, old performance? The Acer Aspire One D270 offers the latest Intel Atom processor generation based on Intel's Cedar Trail platform. For EUR 300, the buyer even gets a notebook with Bluetooth 4.0 that only a few notebooks feature. Is it great progress or just big names for Acer to put on its list?
Hot on the heels of Acer subsidary Packard Bell's Cedar Trail netbook offering, Acer itself has released the Aspire One D270. The Cedar Trail launch was postponed, reportedly due to driver issues, and as a result the Cedar Trail chips only support DirectX 9 - not DX10.1 as originally claimed by Intel. This shouldn't be a big deal, as Cedar Trail's GMA 3600 graphics lacks the muscle to handle DX10 games anyway.
The new D270 looks much like older Aspire One netbooks - only the specs have been upgraded. Acer uses the new Intel Atom N2600 processor at 1600 MHz. The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3600 graphics card is integrated on the processor die. As with the Intel GMA 500, it is based on a core licensed from PowerVR (SGX 545).
The 10.1 incher sports a non-glare screen with a maximum resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. It unfortunately has no USB 3.0 support - a standard feature on modern machines - but it does feature the latest Bluetooth 4.0. Read on to find out how the D270 compares to the rest of the netbook competition.
The case hasn't changed compared with the Acer Aspire One 522. It's available in blue, red, green and black. The design on the display lid reminds us of the ripple created when a drop falls into water. It's fairly sturdy, only bending under high pressure. However, there are some sharp edges around the ethernet jack to be wary of.
The fairly wide open angle of approximately 150 degrees is noteworthy. We noticed a slight teetering after adjusting the display hinges. The netbook's bottom gives pretty limited access to the innards - only the battery can be easily removed. Like the Aspire One 522, the keyboard has to be taken off to get deeper inside. Consequently, upgrades are more hazardous than they really should be.
The D270 offers the usual minimal interface diversity common to all netbooks: HDMI, 3x USB 2.0, and headphone and microphone jacks. USB 3.0 is nowhere to be found, but you do get the latest Bluetooth 4.0.
The D270 includes a bog standard 10/100 Realtek PCIe ethernet controller and Broadcom 802.11n wifi module. However, a real highlight is the cutting edge Bluetooth 4.0. BT 4.0 introduces a low energy protocol stack, and range has been increased to up to 100 meters. A UMTS module isn't available in this price range, unfortunately.
Scope of Delivery
Besides the netbook, a matching power adapter and a 6 cell battery is included in the scope of delivery. As usual, netbooks come with the bare minimum.
Acer offers a standard 12 month warranty (pick-up & return). A warranty extension will cost you at least EUR 69 ($91).
The D270's keyboard exploits the entire width of the netbook. As with previous models, it has a rather short key drop requiring moderate pressure. The arrow keys are tightly packed and could have been bigger, but overall the D270 is comfortable to type on.
Acer still relies on the Synaptics touchpad (V7.2). The touchpad is separated from the wrist rest with a slight indent. Navigation is trouble-free; even multi-touch gestures are detected properly. Compared with the Acer Aspire One D522, the corresponding click bar no longer has a roughened surface but the pressure point is still crisp.
The Acer Aspire One D270 is equipped with a 10.1-inch LED screen. The screen (model name MS_0001) supports a netbook-standard 1024 x 600 pixels in an approximate 16:9 aspect ratio. In contrast to the Acer Aspire One 522, the screen is AR coated and thus more suitable for outdoor use. A small webcam is built into the display. VGA and HDMI are available for connecting external monitors.
A measurement with the Gossen Mavo Monitor recorded a decent maximum brightness of 225 cd/m2 and average brightness of 215.4 cd/m2. We saw no difference between battery and AC power, and brightness appeared constant across the screen.
We measured a weak black value of 1.4 cd/m2, which results in a just as weak contrast of 160:1. This isn't unusual for netbooks, unfortunately, but the non-glare screen is still fairly useful outdoors - reflections are low, and text and graphics are clear.
Notably, Asus Eee PC 1015B has a black value of 0.36 cd/m2 and a contrast of 828:1 - the best values we've seen on a netbook.
You needn't fear your neighbor reading off your screen on the D270 - viewing angles are as poor as we've come to expect from most most netbooks. The picture distorts quickly with any deviation from an ideal angle, especially vertically.
We took several pictures of the distortion from different angles using the same shutter speed and aperture in a darkroom.
The D270's primary upgrade is the 2-core/4-thread (with Hyperthreading) Cedar Trail Atom N2600 processor at 1.6 GHz and a low 3.5 watt TDP. Intel's PowerVR SGX 545-based GMA 3600 graphics is integrated on the CPU die and runs at 400 MHz. It supports MPEG4 Part 2, VC-1, WMV9 and H.264.
We had to wait for a long time for the first notebooks using the Cedar Trail M platform, reportedly due to massive driver problems. In the end, Intel withdrew DX10.1 support and now only claims DX9 compatibility.
The D270 also sports a 5400rpm Western Digital 320 GB hard disk and 1GB memory.
We used Cinebench R10 to check the processor performance of the Acer Aspire One D270. As expected, the netbook places itself in the lower third of our benchmark database. With 531 points in single-threaded rendering, the netbook is superior to N550-equipped offerings like the HP Mini 5103-WK472EA (516 points), but inferior to N270 devices like the Asus Eee PC S101 (577 points).
We analyzed the Aspire One D270's system performance with Futuremark's PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7. The system refused to work in the "TV and Movies" section of PCMark Vantage. Consequently, the netbook only managed 1133 points making a fair comparison impossible.
With 668 points, Acer's netbook finds itself at the far bottom of our benchmark database in PCMark 7. Even the older Acer Aspire One 722 netbook with an AMD C-50 processor and a Radeon HD 6250 hit 747 points. Only netbooks with an Atom N570 processor, such as the Asus EEE PC 1015PX (580 points) are weaker than our test device.
Subjectively, the netbook feels slow an unresponsive. Office apps take a long time to open, page loading is sluggish especially with multiple tabs open, and more than basic multitasking is all but impossible.
|PCMark 7 Score||668 points|
Hard Drive Test
The D270 uses a 320 GB, 5400rpm Western Digital WD3200BPVT-22JJ5T0. The drive manages an average transfer rate of 33.7 MB/s in HDTune, making it one of the slower netbook drives. The 10.1 inch HP Mini 5103-WK472EA, for example, comes with a Toshiba MK2556GSY (250 GB, 7200 rpm) and scores 82.9 MB/s in the same test.
Adding an SSD would certainly help performance, but as noted above the D270 is awkward to work in: only experienced upgraders should attempt to modify the factory hardware.
Since the Aspire One D270 only supports the outdated DirectX 9, we had to omit 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11 in our graphics benchmarks. The D270 scored 772 points in Futuremark's old 3DMark 05 benchmarking software. For comparison, the Radeon HD 6250-equipped Acer Aspire One 722-C52kk pulled 2656 points.
3DMark 06 results are even more dire: the D270 scores 276 points - not as bad as GMA 3150 machines like the Asus EEE PC 1015PX (164 points), but far below the AMD Radeon HD 6250 netbooks like the Asus Eee PC 1015B at 1480 points.
|3DMark 03 Standard||2018 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||772 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||276 points|
Gaming & Video Performance
After recording poor (but not unexpected) 3DMark results, we tried to test performance with actual games. However, most games refused to start or crashed repeatedly. Although F1 2011 didn't crash, the game didn't even come close to being playable. The netbook only managed 12 frames per second - for the record, 30 fps is usually considered the minimum for acceptable play.
HD videos, at least, run without problems. The image only stuttered occasionally when watching movies on YouTube. In another test, we connected the netbook to an external monitor with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels via HDMI. 1080p Youtube videos on this monitor proved too much for the D270 - CPU utilization spiked to 100% and the video stuttered badly.
The small, built-in fan of the Acer Aspire One D270 is hardly audible in Office use. Our measured rates were between 31.6 dB (A) and 31.8 dB (A). The netbook also remains pleasantly quiet under load. Our measured maximum was a very good 33.3 dB (A) - noticeable, but not distracting.
31.6 / 31.6 / 31.8 dB(A)
||31.7 / 33.3 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
The D270 idles practically at room temperature. We measured a maximum of 26.5°C on the top, while the bottom also stayed fairly cool with a maximum of 29.3°C.
Even after running at high load for several hours, we measured a maximum of 29.4°C on the top and 34°C on the bottom - still very cool. The processor ran consistently at 1600 MHz without downclocking.
The built-in speakers are typical netbook fare. Decent treble, but nonexistent bass. Max volume, at least, is enough for personal listening. Of course, external speakers can be connected via the HDMI port or the 3.5 mm jack.
Intel specifies a TDP of 3.5 watts for the installed Atom N2600 processor. We measured a maximum power consumption of 7.5 watts from the wall under light load (vs. 12.2 watts in the older Acer Aspire One 522). Even under heavy load, we measured only 10.3 watts (Acer Aspire One 522: 22 watts). These measured rates are absolute peak values which should yield great battery life. The included 40 watt power adapter is more than sufficient.
|Off / Standby||0.2 / 0.2 Watt|
|Idle|| 5.9 / 6.8 / 7.5 Watt|
9 / 10.3 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC 940
One of the most important criteria in netbooks is battery life. The D270 has a fairly standard 6-cell battery rated at 49 watt hours which we put to the test with BatteryEater.
We ran Reader's test first, using Energy Saver mode with Bluetooth and wifi disabled and brightness at minimum. The netbook lasted a solid 9 hours and 36 minutes in this test.
In a more realistic test, we enabled wifi and set the brightness to 150 cd/m2 to simulate normal surfing behavior. The netbook lasted 8 hours and 24 minutes.
The low power consumption during load is impressive and is reason enough to perform the BatteryEater Classic test. For this test, we selected the high performance profile, enabled both wifi and Bluetooth, and set the brightness level to maximum. The result was remarkable: The Acer Aspire One D270 ran for 5 hours and 44 minutes. For comparison, the Acer Aspire One 522 shut down after only 3 hours and 21 minutes in this test. The Acer Aspire One D270 even delivers the same performance on battery power as in AC mode - not bad!
The Acer Aspire One D270 won't impress anyone with its performance. Intel's new N2600 processor is only slightly faster than the old Atom N550 - enough for basic Office work, web surfing, and music and (standard definition) movies, but that's about it.
The D270 does score a win with its impressive battery life, particularly under load (344 minutes). Other major benefits include Bluetooth 4.0, great thermals and noise levels, and a non-glare screen with just enough brightness to be functional outdoors.
The netbook-standard 10.1 inch screen, with its low 1024 x 600 resolution and poor contrast, is a crippling disability for all but the most basic of tasks. The onboard Intel graphics is another sore spot, particularly with the availability of far more capable E-series processors from AMD. Netbooks based on E-series chips, such as the Asus Eee PC 1015B, provide better performance at the cost of moderately lower battery life.
You know the tradeoff: if the standard limitations of a netbook - chiefly the poor, low-res screen and paltry performance, are deal-breakers for you, the D270 and Cedar Trail platform will do nothing to change your mind. But if you can live with those limitations, the D270 is an excellent contender for EUR 300 ($400 USD).