I recently bought an Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook to take with me when I'm traveling. While this isn't a computer review website I though some readers might be interested in a few comments on it since it could be an option to take along with you to do some photo related tasks.
Why a netbook rather than a laptop. Well three reasons really, which are size, weight and cost. The Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook weighs under 2.5lbs, is less than an inch thick and onlt 10.2"x7.3" in size. As such it will easily fit in any photo backpack and probably in some regular photo bags.
So what can it be used for apart from the usual email and web access? Well, it doesn't have a built in CD/DVD burner (though it does have multiple USB ports you can connect one to), but it does have a 160GB hard drive. With the built in SD card reader you can backup files to the hard drive and with an external USB card reader you can backup your CF cards to the hard drive. Even if you use 60GB for programs, that still leaves you 100GB to store data, which is equivalent to over 20 DVDs of data and enough for even the most prolific shooter. It will hold at least 4000 RAW images even from cameras like the EOS 5D MkII.
The built in card reader will read SD amd MMC cards, but you'll need a USN connected external card reader if you want to read CF cards (or anything other than SD/MMC).
When it comes to photo software there is a small problem. The screen display is 1024x600 and some software, notably Canon programs like DPP (digital Photo Professional), require a screen size of 1024x768 or greater in order to install. You can run them with a smaller screen, but that doesn't do you much good if you can't install them! The Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook won't allow you to set a screen resolution bigger than 1024x600 and so you can't load DPP. You can plug in an external monitor and use that, but you don't always have an external monitor around so it's convenient to have a workaround in case you don't.
So what to do. Well, there's an "easy" fix. It's easy in that it requires changing only a single value from 0 to 1 - but it's a registry value and some people aren't comfortable messing with the registry. However as long as you are careful, there's no real danger. You are looking to change the value of Display1_DownScalingSupported from 0 (not supported) to 1 (supported). On my machine that data is found in:
However the easiest way to find it is probably to do a registry search. Run regedit.ext, the select Edit and then Find and enter "downscaling" as the search term. Once you find the entry, do a right click, select modify, change the value from 0 to 1 and save it. At this point you may need to reboot - I can't remember whether I need to or not!
Now when you right click on the desktop and select "Screen Resolution" you will be able to set the screen to larger than 1024x600. I see 1024x768 and 1152x864 available. Selecting either one will distort the displayed image slightly, but will allow software that requires a minimum screen size of 1024x768 to load and run.
This will now allow you to load and run DPP, so you can do RAW conversions and image editing. The image will appear slightly "squashed", but that's no big deal if you are just adjusting levels, colors, noise reduction etc. Some of the menus may also spill slightly off the screen, but they are still usuable. DPP seems to run quite well and is reasonably fast. You'd want a larger screen for serious editing, and in that case there's no trouble running DPP with the correct external monitor resolution setting. Converting a 14MB RAW file from an EOS 7D to a JPEG took around 35 seconds. On my dual core 2400 MHz desktop it took closer to 15 seconds.
There may be other ways of getting around the 1024x600 display for software that won't load or run in 1024x600, but the registry edit works, has no effect on the system and doesn't require installation of any other software. It can also be reversed, but there's really no reason to reverse it.
The EOS Utility ran just fine, even in 1024x600 resolution mode. Remote control of an EOS camera was possible. I had a few problems remotely controlling an EOS 5, but that was due to driver issues with Windows 7. It turned out that if you use the Windows XP WIA driver, it works fine with Windows 7 (32-bit edition). With that driver installed everything worked OK. Shouldn't be an issue with more recent cameras.
Note that there is no optical drive in the Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook so to install software from a CD you have three options. (1) plug in an external USB optical drive, (2) install from a network with the CD in the optical drive of another computer or (3) Copy the CD onto an SD card and install from the card via the built in SD card reader.
It should be possible to install PhotoShop if you really have to, though you'd probably be better off with a smarter, leaner, editor which runs faster and doesn't hog as much memory. I installed Paint Shop Pro v9 with no problems and it does 99% of the editing I'd need to do on the road just as well as PhotoShop does (basic crops, color corrections, curves etc.). I also loaded Picture Publisher 8 (which I've used for many years) since it's very fast (it opens almost instantly). There are lots of low cost (or free) image editors which will do the majority of tasks without bringing on the might and power (and overhead) of Photoshop. The Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook comes with 1GB of memory, but that can be upgraded to 2GB (but you do have to open up the case to do it). Not that there is just one memory slot, so to go from 1GB to 2GB you need to remove the 1GB memory module and install a 2GB memory module in its place.
The Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook will also stream Netflix movies without a glitch (I actually have used it to stream movies to my 1980x1024 HD TV via the VGA port). It has built in Wi-Fi (802.11n, also backward compatible with 802.11b/g) as well as an RJ-45 Ethernet port for a hard wired connection. There is no modem connection, but I'm hoping the days of having to use dialup service have passed. Still it's something to keep in mind if you need to upload images to the web from some remote rural location with no broadband connection. USB modems are small and cheap, so you can get one if you really need one.
There's also a built in 1.3 MP (1280x1024) webcam and microphone, so you can use the Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 10.1-Inch Netbook as a Skype terminal (and it works pretty well as such).
The operating system is Windows 7 starter. I'm still using XP on my home PC (and my laptop) so I was a little apprehensive about "upgrading" to the latest and greatest attempt to make Windows work. However, so far I have had no problems and most of the things I've needed to do have been quite easy with an interface not that much different then XP.
The Keyboard is supposed to be 93% of a standard size keyboard. I found it just fine for my "hunt and peck" style typing. I don't know how the smaller size would affect a touch typist since that's not in my skill set.
Acer seem to make a bewildering array of netbooks, all with very similar names and fairly similar prices. In fact there appear to be 40 different AOD255 series netbooks and there are 7 different series of netbooks! They differ in things like the CPU used (type, speed and single/dual core), the size of the hard drive (up to 250GB), the battery life (up to 8 hrs), the operating system installed (XP or Windows 7) and the amount of installed memory (up to 2GB) etc. I've linked to a few different models at the bottom of this page.
The Acer Aspire One AOD255E-13647 is one of the most basic - which also means it's one of the lowest in cost. However so far I've found it to be very capable for the tasks I've run on it. Once you start adding features the cost goes up and then you have to decide whether a full size laptop makes more sense since the prices overlap at the top end of the netbook range and the bottom end of the laptop range. A low end laptop will give you a bigger screen and a built in optical drive, but it will be bigger and heavier than a netbook. You can get a laptop with similar (~3lb) weight to the Acer Netbook (for example the Mac Airbooks and the new Samsung 9 series), but you'll pay over $1000, you may have less storage space and you still won't get a built in optical drive.