The Acer Aspire One 722 netbookhas proven itself to be a reliable, inexpensive netbook for running Linux while offering superb performance. After almost a year of constant usage, it continues to run like a champ.
However, it is not perfect, so here is a list of points that prospective owners might find useful.
Acer Aspire One 722 Models
Note: There seems to be slight differences in the 722 model line, so some features might have different results on different models. These notes focus on the 722-0427 model, which appears to be a close match for the 722-0473 model. Any differences in models have yet to be tested.
Minor but Tolerable Issues
Originally purchased new, the netbook battery advertised 7 hours of life, and this was true in the beginning. But after almost a year of similar usage, the battery now lasts almost 5 hours and (seemingly) takes that long to charge.
Lithium-ion batteries deteriorate with time. This is not a fault of Linux or the netbook, so expect the battery life to drop noticeably after 6 months. Does a netbook advertise 9 hours of battery life? It’s not going to last, and it might be a miracle to get 3 hours of life after 18 months of heavy, processor-intensive usage.
Update for January 2014: On the other hand, the approximately 5-hour battery life continues to last longer than the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook, which barely lasts longer than 2 hours on 100% charge despite being newer.
Catalyst Video Drivers Difficult to Install
The Aspire One 722 uses Radeon HD 6290 graphics, and this means the proprietary Catalyst drivers are required to enable desktop effects and video acceleration. The ATI/AMD world has always offered second-rate Linux support compared to Nvidia, and it shows with this netbook.
In Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit, Catalyst 12.4 requires a manual installation by modifying two C source files and then rebuilding the files. Catalyst 12.6 refuses to function after installation.
Suspend and Hibernation
Neither suspend or hibernation work in Ubuntu 10.10 after the much needed proprietary Catalyst video drivers are installed. They somewhat function using the default Ubuntu video driver, but graphics are extremely basic without any effects.
Apparently, installing the Catalyst video driver interferes with the power management abilities of Linux. Updating to more recent Linux kernels, such as 3.4.0, does not resolve this issue.
For best results, forget using suspend and hibernation to begin with and power down the netbook when not in use. Or, use Ubuntu 12.04 without installing the Catalyst drivers to make suspend work.
Flimsy LCD and Plastic
When open, the top lid supporting the plastic lid supporting the LCD screen feels bendable, and this lends a cheap feel to the LCD panel. When closed, it is possible to press the top panel into the bottom and watch it bend. No damage is done to the netbook, but the LT2224U netbook was made of very hard plastic that made any form of bending impossible.
Viewing Angle Contrast
It is almost impossible to find a viewing “sweet spot” in order to view an even contrast across the entire screen. Either the top half of the screen will be light while the bottom half is dark, or the bottom half will be lighter than the top half. This is probably due to the large screen size rather than a defect. Of course, this is not a major issue and it mostly goes unnoticed, but it is something to be aware of if visual perfection is desired.
Reducing Screen Brightness Twice
Upon booting the netbook with Ubuntu 10.10, the screen brightness defaults to a high level. Reducing the screen brightness using the Fn + LeftArrow keyboard combination will lower the brightness. Ubuntu’s brightness meter shows the level as the brightness is adjusted. So far, so good.
However, when the brightness reaches 0, it cycles back to full brightness. The screen becomes bright again and Ubuntu’s meter shows its full setting. This is easily resolved by reducing the brightness a second time, at which the brightness no longer cycles upon reaching 0.
Applying moderate pressure onto the keys cause the keyboard to press into the netbook. This flex returns to normal, but it lends a cheap feel to the netbook. The LT2114U was made from stiffer plastic that made keyboard flex impossible, so the flex present on the Aspire One makes it feel inferior to the older LT2114U.
Weak Microphone Recording
The webcam works properly, but the internal microphone records audio at much too low of a level to be usable. The same applies to an external microphone connected to the microphone jack located on the right side of the netbook. This is a fault of Linux since audio records well in Windows 7. Modifying alsamixer helps adjust the recording levels somewhat, but it is still unusable. Of course, those who never need the internal microphone will never miss it.
Blu-ray is Windows 7 Only
Blu-ray movies play in Window 7, but not in Ubuntu. However, this is a fault of Linux, not the netbook, since no officially-sanctioned software BD players exist in the Linux world. Even so, Blu-ray performance in Windows 7 is impressive on this netbook.
These are deal-breaker issues that will become major annoyances over time.
Buttons Press When Lid is Closed
This is one of those persistent yet minor annoyances. When the lid is closed while the netbook is on, the flimsy feel of the plastic makes the top lid press into the bottom part of the netbook. This triggers the button bar below the touchpad and results in many “untitled folders” being created on the Ubuntu desktop. Sometimes, the context menu appears, terminal windows open, choices are selected from program menus, the desktop cube rotates by itself…it’s a surprise to see what happened upon opening the lid again.
The netbook is not damaged, but it creates added work by cleaning up the mischief (deleting the untitled folders, closing unwanted terminals, and so). To avoid this problem, close the netbook’s lid gently.
Keep in mind that the Aspire One 722 was designed to run Windows 7, not Linux, so watching Ubuntu 10.10 run as well as it does on this netbook is practically a miracle.
There are bound to unresolved issues, and one of these is the occasional system lockup upon boot. In a few instances, Ubuntu has locked up for no apparent reason. Most of the time, this occurs upon system boot. When the Ubuntu login screen appears, the touchpad becomes unresponsive, the mouse cursor freezes, and the keyboard has no effect. The only way out is to hold the power button for five seconds to force reboot the netbook. Ubuntu works fine after rebooting. In a few cases, the lockup occurred while using the system.
So, how often has this happened?
In almost a year of exclusively using Linux on this netbook, there have been about 10 lockups. Not bad, really, but not as good as zero.
The Winner: Power Cord BEEP!
If one “feature” could win the “most-annoying” reward of the year, it would be this one. When the netbook is on, it will beep through the internal speakers whenever the power cord is connected or disconnected from the unit. But this is not just any beep. Oh, no. This is a piercing, screeching, LOUD beep that always sounds at full tilt, and there is no way to turn it off. And should the unsuspecting user be wearing headphones at the time…poor thing. The beep is then routed through the headphones to provide an instant ringing in the ears followed by momentary pain.
The beep volume can be reduced using alsamixer, but there is no way to disable it completely. The beeping operates at the hardware level and even occurs while the netbook is in the BIOS settings.
This becomes increasingly annoying over time because as the netbook battery weakens, it will require more frequent charging, which means plugging in the power cord more often.
Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate the beeping, so to avoid it, always plug or unplug the power cord when the netbook is turned off.
Despite the issues above, this netbook is still a solid performer with Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit.
Wireless connectivity works flawlessly, and this netbook always connected and never dropped a connection (as long as it stayed within range of the access point). As long as the wireless network is set as the first boot device in BIOS, wireless networking functions brilliantly.
Functioning SD Card Slot
The LT2114U never recognized the SD slot with Ubuntu, but this netbook does. Accepting a variety of different storage cards makes this netbook an excellent editing and storage unit on the go.
Reliable and Stable
Aside from the rare lockup issue mentioned earlier, Ubuntu 10.10 is a solid performer and runs at full speed. Ubuntu offers the same running time as Windows 7 using the same fully-charged battery, and Ubuntu provides the security and stability Linux is known for. While the speed might not be as fast as a dual-core desktop system, the dual-core C60 CPU is plenty fast for netbook tasks. In fact, a majority of desktop usage can be performed with ease on the netbook without much discomfort.
The netbook includes 2G RAM by default using a single SO-DIMM, but it can be increased to 4G or a whopping 8G by replacing it with either a single 4G or 8G SO-DIMM. 8G RAM requires a 64-bit OS.
The HDMI port located on the left side of the netbook allows connecting it to an HDTV that functions as a second monitor. This is great for showing movies or picture slides in a mirrored or dual-display arrangement.
Sharp Picture At 1366×768 Resolution
The LCD monitor is beautiful to look at despite the contrast issue. The glossy screen makes colors appear rich and vivid, and the 1366×768 resolution display 720p videos in their full frame resolution. 1080p video must be reduced in size to accommodate the 1366×768 screen, but the video still looks crystal clear.
Thin and Light
The netbook is less than one inch thin and lighter to carry than the LT2114U.
Runs Windows 7 Surprisingly Well
This came as a complete surprise even though it said so on the box. Usually, Windows runs slower than Linux given the same hardware, especially on a netbook. However, Windows 7 64-bit is bundled with the Acer Aspire One 722, and it runs fast and fluid complete with the transparent Aero desktop. In fact, it runs just as fast as Ubuntu 10.10. Acer apparently went to great lengths to ensure that Windows 7 would perform flawlessly.
Since this netbook was designed with Windows 7 in mind, all quirks found in Linux are gone. Suspend and hibernate function properly in Windows 7, the internal microphone records properly, and updated Catalyst drivers install like a breeze. The only downside with Windows 7 on this netbook is the bundled trial-limited bloatware, which Linux does not have.
Given the practically flawless performance of Windows 7 compared to Linux, it’s clear which OS pays the bills at Acer.
Overall, the Acer aspire One 722 is a winner for running Linux despite the issues. Most of the time, the issues mentioned rarely happen, but they do exist.
Comparisons were made to the smaller yet older Gateway LT2114U netbook. The LT2114U offers better Linux support with easier to install video drivers, solid plastic, and proper suspend and hibernate functions.
On the other hand, the Aspire One 722 offers a bigger screen that feels like a refreshing relief. In addition, the Aspire One supports many modern conveniences, such as HDMI, 8G RAM ability, and a faster processor.
The Aspire One 722 might be the perfect Linux netbook, but it certainly comes close and is appealing compared to higher-priced, full-sized laptops.