Acer Aspire E1-571 (Linux) review

by moorray

To a universal disapproval of my friends I bought an Acer laptop. A Aspire E1-571 in the (almost) cheapest form possible to be precise – it has no OS, no Bluetooth, no USB 3.0. It’ a good match for my requirements and … a prefect match my pocket as it costed $450 (350€). I suspect it may to fall apart in 16 to 24 months… Let me attempt to write a simple second-day review.

Hardware

First of all, Acer Aspire E1-571 seems to be a refreshed version of an old design – there are notebooks still available with 2nd generation of Intel Core processors. Because of this there is a bit of confusion around the net about components to be found inside the machine. Some places mention that Broadcom’s WiFi chip is used. Luckily information provided on Acer’s site holds true and the WiFi in my laptop was made by Atheros (AR9485). It’s a simple single-stream device (for non-WiFi nerds single stream means max throughput is 150Mbps) without Bluetooth working in 2.4GHz band only. Atheros advertises this chip as being super energy efficient but I guess it’s mostly cost-efficient if Acer is using it.

On board I have Intel Core i3-3120 @2.5GHz with 6GB of 1600Mhz RAM which I think is quite descent. I haven’t experienced any hiccups or stalls neither under AwsomeWM nor with KDE. It’s obviously not a performance daemon – kernel compilation for instance takes painfully long time, but I suspect HDD to be the main culprit there. Apart form CPU itself I’m absolutely loving HD4000 graphics, it just works – boot screen, suspend/resume, OpenGL, external ports – you name it.

Third nice piece of hardware is definitely the LCD. It’s very bright and the colours are vivid – much more vivid than on my SyncMaster 2443…

There have been no major problems with touchpad, although I wasn’t able to configure middle-click by corner tap, yet. Keyboard feels cheap.

What stands out negatively is most definately the HDD. I didn’t have time to measure the performance, but it’s perceptibly slow.

Software

I started with an attempt to install Fedora 18 x86_64 Alpha because I already had it on DVD. Before running the installer I entered the setup (AKA BIOS) in order to disable UEFI secure boot. It turned out that UEFI was disabled altogether – probably Linpus Linux, which was pre-installed, doesn’t handle it very well. Enabling UEFI is a matter of three key presses but to disable secure boot I had to set a supervisor password first. Luckily disabling the password doesn’t re-enable secure boot so the password is only a temporary requirement.

Unfortunately Anaconda (the Fedora installer) on F18 Alpha defeated me again and I had to retreat to downloading a final release. After installation everything seemed to be working just fine, I only had to configure synaptics (touchpad) to my taste.

Problems

The only real problem a I have with Aspire E1-571 are the hotkeys. From what I read there are two major ways to report hotkey events to the OS on this laptop – WMI and ACPI. Some of the keys are reported through both, some only through WMI. On E1-571 three of the hotkeys associated with display control do not work – toggle display and brightness control.

Toggle display does nothing but spawns a following message to kernel log:

acer_wmi: Unknown function number - 2 - 97

in the case of brightness control button presses are reported correctly through ACPI (I guess), nonetheless brightness does not change and following message is written to dmesg:

acer_wmi: Unknown function number - 4 - 0

Update: adding acpi_osi=Linux to kernel parameters seems to fix the brightness hotkeys problem!

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