We always intrigued when we get out hands on a netbook or ultraportable that's powered by AMD. We respect both AMD and Intel equally, but it's just simply more rare to find a machine with an AMD processor under the hood. The netbook market has become saturated with Atom options, and it's just hard to differentiate with that many Atoms floating around.
Also, AMD has generally performed very well at the netbook level, with the main complaint being that their lower-end notebook chips produce more heat ad use more power than roughly equivalent Atom chips. The 1.5GHz, dual-core Turion II Neo X2 K625 is at the heart of the Acer 1551, and it's one of the quickest processors that we have seen in a netbook. Of course, this machine is at the very high-end of what could reasonably be marketed as a netbook, and at $499, we would expect nothing but the best for this product category.
Thankfully, that's just about what is delivered. This is one of the most fully featured netbooks we have come across, with Acer shipping 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 64-bit OS to take advantage of it. The result is a netbook that plays like a baseline ultraportable, but at just $499. In average tasks, we were very pleased with how quickly the machine reacted. Loading up Firefox took only a second or two, and while there was some lag when loading apps like Photoshop, we're attributing most of that to the sluggish 5400RPM hard drive. Just look at the Windows 7 Experience score below. This 4.2 is leaps and bounds better than the 3.3 which was received by Asus' $499 Eee PC 1215N, an Atom-powered machine.
If equipped with an SSD instead (a nice upgrade consideration), you'd see a lot more speed out of this machine. But even still, many will be thoroughly pleased by how quick and responsive the overall feel is, particularly if you have been let down by Atom-based units of the past. The graphics chipset is another bright spot; the HD 4225 isn't powerful enough to plow through today's first-person shooters, but it's more than capable of playing back 720p and 1080p movie clips while multi-tasking. And for most, that's plenty. No one buys a netbook to game, anyway.
We also loved the keyboard and trackpad experience, which really helped round out a great overall experience. We still wouldn't recommend any serious crunching (video editing) on this machine, but it's right up there with the Lenovo X100 in terms of performance; of course, the X100 starts at $50 less, but you get a 32-bit OS, half the RAM and a potentially slower CPU. The value proposition here is evident.