My new laptop – Acer Aspire 4315 Review

I needed a simple, cheap laptop that I could take to university so that I could work on stuff there and not have to hope and pray that there’ll be enough working computers for me when I get to university.

The Requirements
The requirements for my laptop weren’t great. All it had to do was have WiFi (802.11 b/g) and be powerful enough to run a simple development web server (LAMP). The other requirement and the most important one was that it had to be cheap. After looking on the Laptop section of PriceSpy I came upon the Acer 4315 going for $699NZD (plus a $99 cash back offer from Acer) which was the same price as the Asus EEE (after the cash back). The laptop came preloaded with Ubuntu 7.10, which was great for me, since I probably would have installed it anyway. So it was a tough decision, whether to go for extreme portability and just a really cool little gadget or to go for a rather standard (if a little old laptop).

I made up my mind when Dick Smith had a computer sale and discounted their laptops by 10% lowering the before cashback price of the Acer to $630NZD. So one Saturday I went down to the store and brought it home.


You get what you paid for
For $630 you don’t get a laptop bag or any other extras. Just the laptop and the power cord. Although the salesman offered a upgrade package including more ram, a bag and something else (usb mouse??) for $99 which i declined. Other than the laptop and the power cord there was also the warranty booklet from Acer, a pamphlet on how to put in the battery and turn on the laptop and two instructional bits of paper.

Two bits of paper
The first piece of paper starts off by thanking you on purchasing the computer loaded with Ubuntu, followed by a blurb about linux and Ubuntu in general that sounds like it came from the Ubuntu marketing department.


Near the bottm of the page a section titled “Some system limitations” informs the users that the E key, Wireless key, modem and microphone are all disabled “due to limitations of Linux”. (The E key I’m guessing launches some kind of Acer software package that came with the laptop and the wireless key enables/disables the wireless card). It would have been more accurate of Acer to say that the E key is disabled because their developers put out software only designed to run on Windows. The wireless key does work, but in an interesting way. When connected and you push the wireless button it will disable the wireless card, but in such a way that the network manager app doesn’t know that the device has been shut down, so the interface is still active and it tries to connect, but ends up failing. Pressing the wireless button again and telling the network manager to connect to the network again seems to work for me. The microphone doesn’t work at all. The modem I haven’t tried, but I don’t really need an analog modem with my laptop anyway.

The other side of the first bit of paper tells you how to set up an account once the computer is turned on. It basically consists of selecting your language, time zone, keyboard layout and your name, username and password. It also tells you how to create a regular user account once you log in.

The second bit of paper tells you how to connect to a wireless network on one side and on the other it gives a detailed list of how to install the automatix dvd and playback codecs.


About the Ubuntu installation

  • The laptop came with Ubuntu Gutsy 7.10 32-bit installed
  • The main partition is ext2, not the usual ext3. Leading to a faster system, albeit a less secure one for your data. (ext2 does not have journaling)
  • The swap partition is not encased in a linux extended partition but is directly mapped onto the hard drive and has a size of ~4GB
  • The computer name is set to ASUS
  • The Atheros wireless driver is enabled from first boot

The Cashback

In order to get the cash back offer it turns out you have to go to acer’s website and register which model you bought, where and when. Registering was easy, but on the website the folks at Acer try to get you to abandon your cash back offer and instead use the money to buy their extended warranty, with the website claiming that the average laptop service costs $328. I just skipped this part and asked for the money. It turns out that in order to get your cashback you have to send in the barcode from the box the laptop came in, along with your receipt to an address in Australia, within 30 days or no deal. Not to mention the fact that if you don’t register on the website within 14 days of your purchase you can also forget it. But the best part is in their terms when they say to allow up to 8 weeks after they receive the request to receive the cash. Seems like a bit of a double standard to me, them giving you only 4 weeks to send your barcode and receipt in, but allowing themselves up to 8 weeks to send you your money. So it seems it’ll be sometime in June when I get my money back, a nice little birthday present for me 🙂

Issues I have with the laptop
  • microphone doesn’t work
  • suspend doesn’t work
  • specialised buttons on side don’t work (wireless button works but not fully)
  • screen flickers when plugging/unnplugging the power cord
  • to disable the touchpad while writing you have to press the ‘function’ button and one of the F keys.
  • the latch at the front makes it sometimes tricky to open the laptop, requiring you to use your nail. But I do like having a latch.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with my first laptop. I wanted something basic for a bargain price and I found it. The lack of a microphone is a shame, but I can’t remember the last time I used a microphone anyway and the lack of suspend was to be expected. I have yet to install the webserver software so it’ll be interesting to see how well it runs. I’m also liking the rough plastic finish on the outside of the laptop, it gives it quite a solid look. The mousepad also feels quite good, compared to some other laptops I’ve had a go with. Another good point is the fast boot time, which feels even faster than my desktop computer. This is most likely due to the decision to use the 32-bit version of Ubuntu and to use the ext2 file system as opposed to the slower ext3.

10 Replies to “My new laptop – Acer Aspire 4315 Review”

  1. Yeah, I figured that out later myself. It turned out that the microphone was working its just that the volume was turned down completely. It was a nice surprise. I also figured out that the swap space was disabled on the laptop and that was why Firefox kept crashing. I found the fix on this site here: http://www.hbclinux.net.nz/acer4315.html. Its a whole site dedicated to the Ubuntu version of the Acer Aspire 4315. Some really good tips on there.

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  2. Ummm… don’t know. It’s hard to say without actually holding two laptops side by side and comparing, so if it is any less white it’s definitely not noticable on its own.

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  3. Ok thanks. Just one more question… I think mine has noticeably yellowish whites (on its own) and especially when compared to my desktop CRT monitor. Im just not sure if I should get it exchanged. How does yours compare to a CRT monitor?

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  4. My 4315 came with Windows Vista Starter, which I hated. I've put the newest Ubuntu Gutsy and just loved it. Everything works just fine. The wireless button works fine, just the orange led in it telling us that the wireless is on isn't working.Of course, I tried Windows XP for a bit before installing Ubuntu, and everything worked fine as well. EVERYTHING.I still have problems with Hibernate and with the battery lifetime under Ubuntu. The battery can't stand more than 1:50 hours and it's a pitty. Under Windows XP, it expands to something around 2:15 hours, which I still think is not enough when you use it at a school, with wireless on, for example.

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  5. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

    Like

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