I already had an Asus EeePC 4G, and a Pandora on the way... 800x480 definitely feels cramped for full-size PC applications and web browsing, and 1024x600 is still too cramped. I knew that the larger the device, the less often I'd carry it, so under 11.6" would be ideal, and there are netbooks with 10.1" screens and higher resolutions than 1024x600. Finally, if throwing money at a new machine, I'd like it to be useful in the gaming context, not just apps... gotta justify actually spending here, and there are some netbooks with Nvidia and ATI GPUs out there. Put these three together though, and the netbook selection available narrows quite a bit... to onemodel, just released in January 2011.
The Acer Aspire One 522 is a 10.1" screen netbook, with a 1280x720 resolution and a Radeon HD 3250 GPU. It satisfied my weird mix of requirements. What else did it have going for it? I appreciate the 6 hour in-use battery life, built-in webcam, built-in combo card reader (SD + Memory Stick + all miniatures by adapters), HDMI and VGA ports, and 802.11n wifi. The biggest missing features I encounter are no gigabit ethernet, no stereo speakers (just a single, sad mono speaker built in), and no Bluetooth.
Other minor complaints: shiny shiny plastic lid and screen bezel means ugly smeary fingerprints and an unprofessional look (IMHO). It shipped with 1GB of memory, and its performance was suffering as a result. You can upgrade to 2GB or 4GB pretty easily and at under $10/GB shipped, so not a serious obstacle. The motherboard has a Mini PCI Express slot occupied by the wifi card, and space for a card and solder points for another, but no slot soldered in place... what an annoying waste of potential for a few cents of manufacturing savings.
The last minor complaint, I'll actually go into a little... something called Windows 7 Starter.
Windows 7 Starter Edition... wow; I hadn't read about this OS until shopping for netbooks... it is deliberately hobbled by Microsoft, with specially-developed anti-features that they did extra work to produce: can't change the desktop background, 2GB memory limit (versus the existing technical limit of 3.5GB on 32-bit OSes), and more. So, the part of the price most people pay when buying a PC... the part of the price that goes to the non-optional Microsoft OS... now it goes to a hobbled OS and you're encouraged to give Microsoft another $80 for their next version up. If this was an Intel chipset netbook, with no hope of gaming, etc... the obvious answer is to deny the Windows EULA, demand a refund for the OS, and install Ubuntu to unlock the machine's full potential. In fact, my intent with this machine was to use Windows minimally for gaming, and dual boot into Ubuntu for everything else... which is exactly what I'm doing. I haven't visited Windows 7 Starter since my last run of Starcraft II a few days ago.
Now for a challenge that is not Acer's fault in the slightest: the machine features a dual core AMD CPU on the die with the GPU in the new AMD Fusion chip design. It drinks less electric power than predecessors, while offering more or equal computing and gaming power... very cool. But being a brand new design, Linux support is forthcoming... not "here right now, out of the box, easy as can be." With that warning in mind, you can get >80% operational, right after installing Ubuntu: I enabled the proprietary wifi and graphics drivers, and all major functions were available. I'll post further articles with the tweaks and fixes I've found and new ones as I find them. Quick analysis is that I can totally use this machine in Linux instead of Windows and not feel any pain, and I didn't put in a lot of effort to get there.