Since Asus unleashed its first Eee PC three years ago, almost every laptop manufacturer on the globe has come out with its own brand of netbook. However, while it's great to have a huge selection, many netbooks are difficult to differentiate from each other as they use near identical components.
The main factors to consider are therefore battery life, build quality and usability, as well as the quality of the display.
Acer was one of the first competitors to release its own netbook range, the Acer Aspire One series. The Acer Aspire One 532 was the most recent entry, and while it impressed with a decent build and strong display, it was beaten for features and battery life by the likes of the MSI Wind U160 and Packard Bell Dot S2.
The Acer Aspire One 532 has just been updated, and the result is the Acer Aspire One 533. Quite a lot of the Aspire One 533 is borrowed from the 532, with a couple of additions or tweaks that build on a solid and likeable foundation.
One of the main draws of netbooks is their compact size and featherlight weight, which makes them perfect to slip into a bag or rucksack and take on a trip. Combined with the low cost, this makes them great secondary or backup machines.
The Acer Aspire One 533 is certainly light at just 1.2kg, while the chassis is small enough to fit into almost any bag – even oversized handbags. It's a little chunky for a netbook thanks to the battery, which juts out at the rear, but a thickness of 37mm isn't going to make much of an impact during transport.
Acer has a reputation built on quality, with its Aspire range of laptops and Aspire One series of netbooks proving solid and dependable. The Aspire One 533 is no exception, featuring a firm chassis that can withstand a few bumps on the road.
The glossy lid is just as rigid to protect the display. It's attached by two solid hinges that enable the screen to be tilted almost horizontally, for a comfortable viewing angle.
Although the Aspire One 533's glossy surface is attractive, it does pick up smudges ridiculously easy. Keep a cleaning cloth handy if you're fussy about dust and fingerprints.
The Aspire One 533's excellent build quality means usability is also impressive. A reasonably responsive touchpad is integrated into the palm rest and given a textured finish to differentiate it, which works well.
A separate scroll bar to the right enables quick and simple scrolling through web pages and documents, while gesture support means you can zoom and rotate when viewing photographs and other documents.
Unfortunately the Acer Aspire One 533's pad is rather confined, a common problem related to the compact nature of netbooks.
Netbooks also often suffer from cramped keyboards, but the Aspire One 533's keyboard stretches the full width of the chassis to maximise the space on offer. It's a firm board, although travel is limited.
The Aspire One 533's keys are mostly well-sized and logically laid out. The only casualties of the reduced space are the left-hand keys such as the shift and tab, which are quite narrow, and the arrow keys which are packed into the bottom right corner.
Acer's usual flat design is in place, with no key definition at all, but this proves surprisingly good for touch typing. We can type almost as fast on this as any full-sized laptop keyboard, helped by that bulky battery which tilts the board at a comfortable angle.