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First Atom-based notebook runs Linux

Jun 3, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 23 views

The world's third-largest PC vendor has announced a “netbook” based on a 1.6GHz Intel Centrino Atom processor and Linpus Linux. Acer's $380 Aspire One offers 512MB or 1GB of RAM, 8GB flash, an 8.9-inch, 1024×600 display, WiFi, webcam, and an optional 80GB hard drive.

(Click for larger view of Acer's Aspire One)

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The Aspire One is among over two dozen notebooks, netbooks, and MIDs that are expected to ship this year based on the energy-efficient Intel Atom Processor. The mini notebook is based on the Atom N270, formerly “Diamondville,” which Intel launched with much fanfare at Computex in Taipei today.

In addition to an N270 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, with 533MHz FSB and 512KB L2 cache, the Aspire uses an 8GB flash module, although an 80GB hard drive is also available. Storage is expandable via five memory card types: Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, and xD-Picture Card. Acer touts its Smart File Manager technology, which it says automatically merges extra storage from any SD card inserted in the second SD card slot into user-available storage.

Aspire One (side view)

The Aspire One measures 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.14 inches and weighs a little more than two pounds, says Acer. Battery life is rated at three hours, or six to seven hours with an optional six-cell battery. Versions with the six-cell battery and hard drive options are slightly thicker and heavier (see spec list below).

Aspire One (closed)

The laptop is equipped with 802.11b/g WiFi, but Acer expects to offer a cellular 3G versions by the end of the year, and possibly a WiMAX option. Other I/O includes three USB ports and an Ethernet port. Integrated at the top of the 8.9-inch CrystalBrite LED backlit display is a webcam.

Aspire One (open)
(Click to enlarge)

Specifications for the Acer One appear to include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, with 533MHz FSB, 512KB L2 cache
  • Chipsets — Mobile Intel 945GSE Express Chipset (DDR2 400/533MHz); Mobile Intel 82801GBM Chipset
  • Memory — 512MB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM (expandable to 1GB)
  • Flash — 8GB NAND flash module
  • Memory card support — Multi-in-1 card reader supporting Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, and xD-Picture Card formats
  • Storage — optional 80GB 2.5-inch internal HDD
  • Display — 8.9-inch, 1024×600 WSVGA CrystalBrite LED backlit display with 0.3 Megapixel webcam; external VGA port
  • Audio — “High-definition” audio; 2 x built-in stereo speakers; built-in digital microphone
  • Networking — 1 x 10/100 Ethernet port
  • USB — 3 x USB 2.0 ports
  • WiFi — 802.11b/g; Acer InviLink with “Acer SignalUp”
  • Cellular — Option coming later in year: UMTS/HSPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) at 850/900/2100 MHz and quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), upgradeable to 7.2Mbps HSDPA and 2Mbps HSUPA (for 3G models)
  • Dimensions — 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.14 inches (249 x 170 x 29 mm); hard disk version with 6-hour battery 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.42 inches
  • Weight — 2.2 lbs (995 g); hard disk version with 6-hour battery 2.8 lbs (1.26 kg)
  • Power — 30 W adapter with power cord
  • Battery — Li-Ion battery with 3-hour life (6 to 7 hours with optional 6-cell pack)
  • Colors — blue and white; later this year, brown and pink.
  • Operating system — Linpus Linux Lite or Windows XP Home

Linpus Linux Lite

Norhtec's Linpus-based Gecko Laptop
(Click to enlarge)

The initial Aspire One will only be available with Linpus Linux Lite, but a Windows XP Home version is expected to ship shortly later in Q3. Linpus Linux Lite is designed to run on low-end PCs, ultra-mini PCs (UMPCs), netbooks, and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), says Taiwanese Linux distributor Linpus Technologies.

Linpus first shipped in 2001, but has been fairly quiet in the North American market until Linpus Technologies re-emerged in February with its new Lite version. Since then it has appeared in Thai systems integrator Norhtec's Gecko Laptop (pictured at right), a sub-$300 netbook based on a Quanta design designed for the developing-country market.

Linux Lite offers a choice of easy and traditional interface modes. The easy mode uses large, colorful icons, and a hierarchical interface that features the most commonly used choices. It provides widgets such as time and date, post-it notes, weather forecast, and mail inbox checker. More advanced users can select a more traditional PC interface, based on KDE 3.5x, and users can easily switch back and forth between the two.

Linpus Linux Lite's easy (left) and traditional (right) modes
(Click to enlarge)

Acer is promoting Linux Lite for its fast-booting and shut-down capabilities, as well as its “simple, intuitive Linux interface” and underlying “virus-safe and super-responsive Linux environment.” The easy interface separates functions into Connect, Works, Fun, and Files.

Linpus Linux Lite desktop
(Click to enlarge)

Pre-installed applications include OpenOffice 2.3 and an email manager that can manage up to six email accounts with a single interface, says Acer. The Aspire One also ships with an Instant Messaging application that provides simultaneous access to Skype, Microsoft Messenger, and other IM services, and which can be used with the webcam, enabling video chats and video conferences. The Windows version offers Acer eRecovery Management, Acer Launch Manager, Adobe Reader, McAfee Internet Security Suite, and a Microsoft Office Trial 2007 package.


Aspire One will be available in early Q3 through Acer authorized resellers and selected North American retailers, with pricing starting at $380. The price includes a one-year parts and labor warranty.

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