I recently spent a year cycle touring abroad and one piece of kit seemed like a bit of a luxury before setting off, but proved to be incredibly useful and great value for money.
The Acer Aspire One is a small, lightweight netbook with all the features I’d need in a laptop but at only £199 I could treat it as roughly as I like and not have to worry too much if it gets damaged or stolen.
Processor: Intel Atom Processor N450 (512KB L2 cache, 1.66GHz)
Chipset: Mobile Intel NM10 Express
Memory: 1GB DDR2 667 SDRAM
Video: 10.1? (1024 x 600) high-brightness (200-nit) TFT display
Video Conferencing: Integrated Acer Crystal Eye webcam, 1280 x 1024 resolution, stereo speakers, Integrated digital microphone
Storage: 250GB hard drive, 5400RPM
Ports: Multi-in-one card reader, headphones, line-out, microphone, ethernet, USB x 3, VGA out
Wireless: Acer® InviLink Nplify 802.11b/g/n
Dimensions: 10.2? (258.5mm) W x 7.3? (185.0mm) D x 0.9” (24.0) H, 2.8 lb. (1.25kg) with six-cell battery
Operating System: Windows 7 Starter and Android dual boot
Small and light enough to easily slip into a bicycle pannier. It spent days rattling around, survived freezing nights in the desert and days on end of 100F+ temperatures. After a year of frequent use the battery life still seems good and apart from a few cosmetic scratches and scrapes it is still holding up well.
Perfect for backing up photos along the way. The camera’s SD card fits straight in and the good capacity hard drive easily supports a year’s worth of photos and downloads.
Quick and powerful wifi receiver would always find points that the iPhone couldn’t see, and wouldn’t drop out or fail.
In-built webcam and mic meant I could keep in touch with home using Skype.
Windows 7 Starter edition doesn’t include all the features of the full package. The only instance of this that troubled me though was not being able to change the desktop wallpaper. If you can put up with that though, the operating system runs surprisingly quickly.
The duel boot option with Android seems like a most pointless endeavor which I can’t believe anybody has ever made use of. There’s really nothing useful you can do with Android on a netbook and if I could have been bothered I’d have removed the Android partition altogether. It’s not difficult to set it up to boot straight into Windows though and then you can simply ignore Android (sorry Google).
The pre-installed Acer Video Conferencing software seemed to fail sometimes when trying to Skype, meaning the video would only be available to one side of the call. Updating the drivers, or removing this extra layer of management might solve this issue, but I never quite got around to trying that for fear of losing it altogether.
Other people have recommended iPads or other tablets as a more light-weight solution for touring with, but for the cost involved and the extra features you can get from a netbook I would definitely recommend this option. I probably wouldn’t use this as a day-to-day laptop once I’m home, but as a traveling companion you can’t get much better.