Costco is currently (Update: This laptop is no longer available from CostCo) selling Acer Aspire One 722’s for around $350. I have been testing one and it seems like it has plenty of power to do a dual sound card setup. Here are the technical details.
- AMD Dual-core C60 1GHz – 1.33GHz
- 4GB DDR3 RAM
- 500 GB Hard Drive
- 11.6″ LCD with LED-backlit screen
- 1366 x 768 resolution (16:9 Aspect Ratio)
- 6 cell Li-ion battery (7 hours battery life)
- Weight: 3 lbs.
- WiFi b/g/n
- 1Gbps Ethernet
- 3 USB 2.0 ports
- HDMI port
- webcam w/ microphone
- multiple memory card port
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- *** no optical drive ***
This model of Acer Aspire One was labeled as having a “Microsoft Signature” setup. Much as I can not stand marketing hype, this seems to be a good thing, especially for a DJ laptop. Apparently “Microsoft Signature” means they’ve stripped out all the crap-ware that usually comes on laptops these days, and the system has been tuned for maximum performance. It comes with the usual stuff on the Windows 7 install, as well as Skype and MS Security Essentials (Microsoft’s free virus scanner). A free, ad-supported version of MS-Office, but it is not installed until you click its installer. It will also launch the installer if you ever try to open an MS-Office supported file. Other than that, there are just a few utilities installed by Acer and that’s it. This is probably the cleanest computer out-of-the-box that I’ve seen in at least the past 15 years.
I set it up to play everything in my library while running on battery to test it while calibrating the battery and it does indeed get better than 7 hours.
To test if it had enough horsepower for a dual sound card setup, I ran a copy of MediaMonkey sending output to an SIIG SoundWave 7.1 adapter, and a copy of Foobar2000 sending output to the internal sound card. Both were set to have 2 second audio buffering. Since Foobar2000 was being used as the monitor, all of its thread priority settings were set to 1 (lowest priority setting). There were no noticeable skips or other distortions.
The laptop is designed with a 1.0GHz CPU clock that boosts up to 1.3GHz when the CPU load is high enough to need it. There is a custom Microsoft Signature Power Plan set as the default power plan on the laptop. My tests have shown that using this power plan gives glitch free audio playback, while using the High Performance power plan caused noticeable glitches in audio playback. The CPU performance is fairly low compared to other laptops and desktop computers, so do not expect optimal performance with software that requires more CPU speed.
Getting used to not having a CD/DVD drive may be a little difficult. But USB CD/DVD drives are as low as $30 these days so if you find you can’t live without one, just buy an external USB drive.
The letter and number areas of the keyboard are the same size as a standard keyboard. However the outer keys (e.g. Shift, Enter, Backspace) are a bit stubbier than keyboards on larger laptops. Expect to make a few typos if you are used to working on a true full size keyboard.
The Acer Aspire One 722 is a good value for either a primary or backup DJ laptop. But its performance is just on the edge of acceptable for glitch free audio play back. Be sure to carefully check what you are buying. The Acer Aspire One comes in models that use a AMD C50 processor instead of the C60, or have only 2 GB of RAM, or a 320 GB hard drive, and all are labeled as an Acer Aspire One and have roughly the same retail price. Also, do not change the power plan from the Microsoft Signature settings; doing so almost guarantees that your audio will start skipping or doing other strange things like slowing the playback speed.