At first glance, Acer's Aspire One Happy is a traditional netbook — 10.1-inch, 1024x600 screen; 250GB hard drive; 1GB RAM and the incredibly restrictive Windows 7 Starter Edition.
The vertical screen resolution is a pain, especially since 1366x768 netbooks are now floating around. It's also not as sharp as one would expect, creating blurry text on screen that seems as if it's out of focus. Adjusting ClearType helps, but never really resolves the issue.
There are a few things that stand out, apart from the fluoro red, green, blue and purple colours available. One is the dual-core Atom N550 processor, clocked at 1.5GHz. Another is the Elantech touch pad, capable of two-finger scroll. The thing that really stands out though is the pre-boot environment — the Happy, you see, comes pre-packed with Android.
Our thoughts on Android for the desktop are thus: it's not meant to be there. It's surreal dealing with what is essentially a touch-based mobile phone OS on a computer, and feels shoehorned in. At no point, for instance, does it point out that the "back" button on most phones is emulated by the Esc button on the keyboard. You can also set the alarm clock, but it'll only work if your laptop is actually on — it doesn't include the ability to boot and ring. Multiple screens can be flicked between, but there's no indicator as to which one you're on, and using the mouse to flick them across is difficult.
It does give a quick-boot environment for a web browser, email, Google talk and other applications, but it can't access the Windows partition, making the music playing and image viewing apps somewhat useless — you'll have to drag any files you want to see to the 4GB Android partition visible through Windows. While we like the idea of pre-boot systems, resuming a hibernated system doesn't take much longer and gives far more flexibility.
Lined around the outside is a VGA port, three USB ports, 100Mb Ethernet port, SD card reader and being a netbook, that's it. There's no Bluetooth, but it does support 802.11n, if only the 2.4GHz version.
We long ago gave up benchmarking standard netbooks, as these things are capable of light office work and web browsing, and not much else. More important is keyboard comfort (which is passable, but not fantastic) and battery life. With all power-saving features turned off, screen brightness and volume set to maximum and an XviD file played back, it lasted four hours and four minutes. Not the longest battery life we've seen, but a decent showing nonetheless.
For AU$499, the Acer Aspire One Happy is likely to make someone happy. Increasingly, though, we're seeing netbooks as too limited, especially when they're bundled with 1GB RAM, are limited to 1024x600 and come with Windows 7 Starter. We'd be much more tempted to splash out on a thin-and-light like the MacBook Air or a full-fledged budget laptop instead.