Design and Build Quality
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Acer 1551-5448 is no ordinary netbook. The grid-like top panel is far nicer than the standard glossy shell that adorns most of its competitors. It just feels more sturdy, more rugged, and honestly, it's just a breath of fresh air. Netbook design has stagnated somewhat lately, and it's great to see a company still investing time and effort into changing things up for end-users. The top shell is still plastic, as is much of the body, but it definitely feels more rigid and less pliable than some others that we have used.
Port wise, the 1551 is on par with other netbooks in the field. Along the left edge, there's a USB 2.0 port, an exhaust vent for heat, a full-size HDMI port, AC input socket, and a VGA port. Along the right edge, there's a 3-in-1 card reader, audio in/out ports, two USB 2.0 sockets, a Kensington lock slot and an Ethernet port.
The underside is fairly standard, with a slight bump along the rear for the 6-cell battery to be inserted. On the front edge, you'll see three LED lights for sleep/on, power and Wi-Fi.
Once you open the screen, you'll notice something new and something old. The display, an 11.6" WXGA panel, is surrounded by a very glossy black bezel, and the display itself is extremely glossy. This is unfortunate given just how fingerprint resistant the rest of the machine is; in fact, it just magnifies how badly the screen and bezel pick up prints and dust. There's a webcam atop the bezel, as well as a few rubber bumpers along the edges to keep the keys from smashing into the panel while closed.
Now, for the "new" part. The keyboard, palm rest and trackpad are all huge upgrades compared to most netbooks. The slick, non-glossy palm rest feels nice to the skin in use, and the trackpad is smooth (not textured), which we prefer. It's not an oversized pad, but the fact that it supports multi-finger gestures really boosts productivity. Two-finger scrolling worked like a charm, for example. Also, the left/right mouse buttons had a great amount of travel, which is hard to find on a netbook. Acer really nailed this implementation.
The keyboard itself isn't exactly the "chiclet" style that is used on so many Asus netbooks these days. These keys essentially go edge-to-edge, enabling each key to be large (for a netbook keyboard, anyway). We loved the keyboard here. It was probably our favorite netbook keyboard to date. We experienced minimal typos and the learning curve coming from a full-size keyboard on a 15.6" notebook was basically nonexistent. Kudos on this, Acer!