Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A $250 Ultrabook

It is the new Acer AO756, from your local BestBuy. It is like a Ultrabook in every way, just half the speed in a plastic unibody.

What's even better:
  • Only 2lb and 15 5/8 OZ, most ultrabooks are over 3 lb (except Toshiba).
  • One screw to open and upgrade the RAM and 320GB 2.5" hard drive. Two RAM slots, one empty.
 What's missing:
  • Sandy Bridge Celeron 877, about half the performance of an i5 used in most ultrabooks. But, it is more than 3x faster than netbooks (Atom and E series). Simply put: netbooks cannot run Windows 7 smooth enough, this one is far more than adequate.
  • No QuickSync (for HD encoding). Intel made a huge mistake again by crippling this critical feature out of the HD2000 GPU. Last time Intel removed HD decoding from GMA 3150 and thus killed netbooks. Later Intel got that back into N2600, but too late.
  • Battery life is about 4 hours.
What's good:
  • It is very quiet, not so warm, screen is top-notch.
What's bad:
  • 19V ac adapters, why not use 12V? 
  • Glossy plastic sucks, why these manufacturers never listen to customers?
  • BIOS installs rpcnet service, no way to remove/disable.
  • Button-less touchpad is a PIA and two-finger scrolling is practically not usable. Fortunately side scrolling works very well once you increase the sensitivity to the maximum.
What's a pity:
  • I installed Windows XP successfully, all drivers were found and work, except one thing: XP is unaware of the battery and always thinks AC connected. 
This 1080p HD video was produced on this AO756. It was a fluent experience with PowerDirector 10 and the rendering took 25 minutes.


  1. Did you take out the battery when you weight it to get 2.1LB? Acer and Bestbuy website all say 3.1LB.

    1. No, I did not. A big and pleasing surprise.

    2. Sorry, it is actually 2 lb and 15 5/8 OZ, i.e., near 3 lb.

  2. First of all thanks for the review!

    One quick question: is it compatible with 9.5mm (thickness) hdd/ssds? I am planning buying one of these and i have a spare standard thickness (9.5mm that is) ssd to put in and i wonder if it will fit. Othewise i will have to buy a lor profile 7mm one.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. It is designed for 7mm but possible to fit a 9.5mm in by removing some mounting parts/material.

  3. Did you have a warranty seal over the screw that is to access the ram bay? I find that ridiculous.

  4. Thanks for the review. Do you have recommendations for laptops for college/graduate students? Thin, fast, quiet, long battery, not heated easily, and good for general college/graduate school use? Thanks!

    1. For college students, get them a 13.3" or 14", for the sake of their eyes. If smaller, too much eye strain; if larger, too bad for their shoulder and back.

      If you want them to be able to play demanding games, then get an ASUS Ultrabook that has discrete graphics. If not, then the HP dm4-2191us or -2195us for $300 are actually the coolest and fastest laptops ever, longest battery life too (9-10 hrs wifi browing). It is not a ultrabook but quite close at 14" and 4.4lb.

      If want to spend more money to be happy, then the Macbook Air 13.3" is beautiful and, if you like, you may install Windows on it. Just don't waste money on those HP/Dell/ASUS/Acer/Lenovo/Vizio etc. ultrabooks, they have no point unless under $600. Toshiba 13.3" ultrabook is indeed "ultra" at mere 2.3lb and the non-ultra version with a built-in DVD drive at 3.3lb is still an "ultra" by the standard of HP/Dell etc. and often goes under $600 in OfficeMax.

      If he/she does video stuff, then you must get an Intel 2nd generation i3 or i5 CPU that has Quick Sync. These CPUs are marked like "i3-2xxxm" or "i5-2xxxm" (e.g. i5-2350m). They run cool and use much less battery, even if video editing/transcoding is not a concern. Of course, 3rd generation is even better and i7 is even faster, but they cost more and gain not much. Generally, don't buy any laptop that has an AMD or "i3/5-xxxm" CPU; as long as it is "i3/5-2/3xxxm" inside, you cannot go too wrong.

    2. PS: the dm4 seems durable too for brushed metal covers. The 2195 even has hard drive protection sensor. Fan is quiet, another sign of good durability.

  5. Pls: Where did you find drivers for Win XP?
    What is about PCIe connector for Acer AO756?

    1. Generally, this is how to find a device driver:

      In Device Manager, right click on the device, go to details tag, hardware ids, you'll see something like this:


      Use Ctrl+C to copy it and paste to google search.

      For this laptop, these are the drivers that work fine:

      AHCI: iata_enu_10.8.0.1003.exe
      Audio: Audio_Realtek_6.0.1.6577_W7x86x64
      SD: Card Reader_Broadcom_1.0.0.2271_W7x86x64
      Chipset: Chipset_Intel_9.3.0.1020_W7x86x64
      LAN: Lan_Broadcom_15.2.0.4_W7x86x64
      CPU: TurboBoost_Intel_8.0.0.1262_W7x86x64
      WiFI: Atheros AR5008 Wireless Network Adapter 04/21/2011,
      Video/HDMI:, search Intel for HD 2000 (or 3000, I fogot)

    2. Thank you. What about PCIe? - You wrote on YouTube:
      "Looks like there isn't a spare mini PCI slot like in the 722 - correct?
      mrtoa1 4 week ago
      See the updated info.
      kingoftweaks in reply to mrtoa1 4 week ago"

      Where is upload info about mini PCIe slot first and second for Acer AO756?

    3. Don't know. 756 does not have a spare PCIe slot like 722.

  6. I bought the same machine.
    It is an incredible little computer.
    Only $269 USD at bestbuy.
    I upgraded it to a 160GB Intel 320 SSD and 16GB of DDR3 ram (2 sticks of crucial 8GB).

    Currently running Ubuntu 12.04. It works amazing. I actually get 5-5.5 hours battery life on linux once tuning things with powertop and setting the cpu governors to powersave mode.

    Everything works except the SD card reading, which seems to have some interrupt issues that require you to reload the broadcom tg3 module (broadcom chip controls the network and the sd reader I think). All you need to do is rmmod tg3; modprobe tg3 to reload the module and the sd reader works straight away.

    Other than that, you need to change the grub config to support lcd brightness control, /etc/default/grub:

    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_backlight=vendor"

    run update-grub afterward.

    When it comes to the touchpad: right click/corners do not work, but two finger scrolling is great and right click with two fingers is ok.

  7. Can this utilize all of the 16gb ram? I thought the max ram on this was 8gb?