Update: It is possible to install Windows 10 on an old, non-updraded Windows 8 PC, with an embedded Windows key, for free. I’ve had one successful case of doing it with the Acer E11
Update: It is possible to install Windows 10 on an old, non-updraded Windows 8 PC, with an embedded Windows key, for free. I’ve had one successful case of doing it with the Acer E11
When I reviewed the 270-euro Lenovo Ideapad Flex 10 recently I knew it would be a great candidate for an SSD upgrade. This fanless, touchscreen hybrid is the very model of a modern casual portable laptop but it was fitted with a really poor quality hard drive that was obviously holding the system back. After completing the SSD upgrade yesterday I can report that the difference is amazing. Applications are starting in half the time, the PCMark score is up 70% and the system works as it should. No more drive activity slow-downs and a huge lift in the user experience. I’ve done a lot of SSD upgrades over the years but this one is probably the most impressive.
The Lenovo Flex 10 has a 270-degree fold-back screen. Stand-mode is very useful.
I’ve dropped a MydigitalSSD BP4 in as a test (I had it from a previous test I did with an Acer V5) but you can shop around for a good deal. On Amazon.com there’s an offer on the 7mm 128GB Sandisk SSD that would be perfect for this. $69.99 is a great deal. [Affiliate link.]
Over 40X improvement in the very important 4K write speed. Superb result!
In a PCMark test the device scored 70% better. 1521 with HDD, 2579 with SSD. Application start-up times are drastically reduced. DriftMania started in 10 seconds compared to 21 seconds with the HDD. Lenovo Photo Show started in 5 seconds (11 with HDD.) Facebook, IE, Chrome and Paint also started about twice as quick. Battery life has probably been improved too but I haven’t tested it yet. Considering the heat that was generated by the HDD and the time it took to get things done there’s going to be a clear real-world difference in how much you can get done on this. Silent operation is a dream too. I’ve connected a USB3.0 docking station and I’m writing this with external screen, keyboard and mouse and it’s a very nice way to write.
Inside the Flex 10. RAM is soldered. No fans. Disk and WiFi module are easy to remove
To do the upgrade you’ll need a USB recovery drive (create using Windows 8 tools on a 16GB USB stick or CDROM.) I chose to use an external USB 2.5-inch SATA adapter so that I could do all the imaging on a faster PC. Obviously you will lose your warranty and there’s a possibility of failure or breakage so take care and own the risk!
There are still clear limits with this setup. The Lenovo Flex 10 doesn’t have a powerful CPU and that shows itself when you start using browser-based apps. Google Drive and the associated productivity apps won’t be much fun (Chromebooks are way more suited to this) but I suspect the free Office Home and Student will be a far better experience. GPU and video decoding power is pretty good though so you’ll be able to watch 1080p videos and play Windows 8 RT games without any issues. XBMC and Openelec work well. Read my full review, or my summary review video for more detail.
I’m a huge fan of the 270-degree fold-back screen (more so than the 360-degree fold-back) and a huge fan of ‘lightweight’ computing. Based on what I’ve seen with the Flex 10 there’s scope for Lenovo to make a seriously useful Flex 11 with a quad-core Baytrail-M and a low-cost 64GB SSD. Until then though, this Flex 10 SSD upgrade has created an extremely well-balanced hybrid netbook that covers a wide range of activities. I’m keeping it.
After spending a good two months with Windows 8 on the developer preview Touch Ultrabook I decided I was 100% happy with Windows 8 and that there was no reason not to upgrade the Toshiba Z830, a first generation Ultrabook. The upgrade was completed fairly smoothly although extra drivers, as always, are going to mean a bit of searching and a bit of luck with the installation order.
I chose to upgrade the Toshiba Z830 with a DVD drive and cabled Ethernet…
It’s just become available on my Nokia 808 (A generic UK version) and despite a few download restarts due to the damn WiFi dropping out (one of the known issues I’ll be checking for) it’s installed and updated without issue.
Go check your 808 for updates now (settings –> phone –> phone management –> device manager –> (menu) check for updates.
We’re happy with the Toshiba Z830 that Intel sent to us for a long-term loan. It’s a fast, lightweight and well-connected Ultrabook. We’ve already dropped in a 4GB RAM module to take it up to 6GB but there’s one more thing we can do to pimp it out – upgrade the SSD.
We contacted MyDigitalSSD with the plan and they kindly sent us a 256GB BulletProof mSATA SSD with SATA III interface. Not only are we going to see over double the usable space on our drive, we’re going to be upgrading to a drive that in theory can push 500GB/s through the bus.
This article will show you how to upgrade an existing SSD but before you start, here’s your checklist.
There was a lot of talk about new Ultrabooks at Computex this week but we shouldn’t forget that there are going to be a number of first-gen models that will get an Ivy Bridge upgrade. Given that they have all been well tested, it could be worth taking a closer look at some of these. In fact, keep an eye out for offers. We’ve already seen one or two coming in at low prices.
Good news for Acer A500 owners today and a relief to those that are worried about the ‘Android Update Alliance.’ There will be an ICS update coming soon.
There were already a few pointers that it would happen but nothing I could have put any trust in. This message from ACER USA, makes it clear.
To all Acer Iconia Tab A500 and A100 users, please expect an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade in mid-April! Thank you for your patience.
April feels like a long way away but could be as little as 6 weeks. With Chrome for Android highlighting how important it is to get updated now though, I know how frustrating any wait can be.
I’ve been testing ICS on the A500 for the last week via a Thor ROM. It’s given me the chance to see how Chrome for Android is performing and I have to say, it’s very good. The sync features are worth having and the quality of rendering and input handling means I was able to edit a post on the WordPress web-based tools, work with Google Plus and generally get productive with web-based applications.
Unfortunately the ROM isn’t that stable for me so I can’t really say I’m running with ICS. Stumbling more like!
A few people noticed that I upgraded to 2.3.5 on my original Galaxy Tab 7 and wanted to know how. Apparently the upgrade is rolling out and UK and NL owners of some variants have received the update through the standard Kies software. Try that first of course (you can download it from Samsung) but if you’re desperate to get it you’ll have to take the complex, risky route. Here are a few links to get you going.
If you’re going to upgrade I recommend taking the change to do a full factory reset, clear all storage areas including your microsd card. You’ll have a much smoother device if you do this.
One more reference link. This is a report I did on an upgrade to 2.3 using the sane method.
Charge device fully before starting, back everything up, be aware that you are taking your own risks.
My upgrade has been 100% successful although there are very few significant changes!
I don’t recall Intel saying anything about Ultrabooks having to run Windows so with the MacBook Air highly likely to get an upgrade to Sandy Bridge soon, it could quality as the first Ultrabook. The 11.6” version starts at under $1000 and it’s one of the thinnest, lightest 11.6”-ers you can get.
The latest on the Sandy Bridge upgrade comes from AppleInsider who’s source has told them that a initial production-run using the 32nm Sandy Bridge architecture is scheduled for June. Expect devices to be available soon after, obviously.
Out-of-the-box, the Acer Aspire One 522 is a very decent netbook. 3D graphics and HD video support out-pace anything that’s built on an Intel platform and with a dual-core 1Ghz CPU that challenges the dual-core Atom at 1.5Ghz AND keeps the battery drain down to impressive levels, a 1280×720 screen and a reasonable build quality you have something of a bargain at 299 Euros but I wanted to see just how much I could get out of the Aspire One 522 if I pimped it out with a RAM, storage and OS upgrade. The results have been impressive; But there’s a limit.
The Acer Aspire One 522 is built on the AMD Brazos platform with the Ontario APU. The CPU is a 64-bit part and supports 4GB of RAM. In the standard build, however, it is delivered with 32bit Windows Home Starter, and 1GB RAM. Even with a RAM upgrade it is OS-restricted to 2GB of RAM usage. Clearly an upgrade to Windows Home Premium 64bit with a clean install over 4GB of RAM is the easiest way to enhance the device. I spent about 125 Euro on a Home Premium license and a 4GB RAM stick to achieve that but before I did, I took a Runcore Pro IV 64GB SSD (2.5 inch SATA) worth $150 and dropped it in with a copy of the standard OS build. If I was to recommend just one upgrade, this would be it. The SSD cuts boot times and application startup times in half and gives the system a much better feel all-round. Lets take a look at the results using a CrystalMark test suite.
Using CrystalMark 2003 (a simple, easy-to-run suite that I’ve been using for 5 years) I tested the stock system and came up with a respectable score all-round.
In comparison, a Pinetrail â€“based netbook (Single-core 1.6Ghz) will turn in about 25K and a dual-core N550-based system like the Samsung N350 gives a similar 35K score but most of that score comes from the CPU. A 1.6Ghz dual-core Atom-based Asus Eee PC 1015pn due to be launched soon clocks in at an impressive 45K. While the AMD-based system is good, it’s not class-leading.
By dropping in the SSD though, the HDD score goes through the 100MB/s barrier and really gives the system a boost along with the scores. Here’s the CrystalMark score after the SSD upgrade and the replacement of 1GB RAM with a 4GB stick (2GB enabled in Windows Starter.)
I was surprised to see that some of the CPU scores went up so much after the disk and memory swap and I was unable to repeat the 8270 ALU score at a later time but the important thing here is the jump in disk performance. You can see the ‘HDD’ score at 14648 and the sequential read speed at up to 108MB/s which is about double that of the original disk.
How Do you Upgrade RAM and Disk on the Acer Aspire One 522?
Before I show you the results for a fresh 64-bit Windows Home Premium install (which frees up the full 4GB of RAM) let me show you how to take apart the netbook to upgrade it. The video shows my early attempt at taking apart the device so please take note of the annotations because you don’t have to remove the outer casing screws, you don’t have to remove the two rubber feet and you don’t have to disconnect the keyboard. Be careful of the keyboard catches too. I have already broken two of mine and I’ve seen a report from someone who broke all of them meaning the keyboard would have to be stuck down permanently with glue or tape.
Statistics are all well and good but how does the device perform in real life with a fast SSD upgrade? In the video below I show the boot-up time and startup times for some common applications. On average, boot-up and application start times are cut by half which is a huge, huge difference.
Upgrade to Windows Home Premium 64-bit (and full 4GB RAM usage)
This part of the upgrade is useful on many levels. Importantly, you get to make a fresh install of the OS without the pre-installed services and software from Acer. Secondly, Windows Home Premium opens up more Windows 7 functionality including Windows Media Center, Aero and Themes and, importantly here, the ability to access more than 2GB of RAM.
The license cost me about 85 Euros (OEM License) and installation was made on a clean SSD from an external USB DVD drive.
Drivers for the various Acer Aspire One 522 models are available here and can be copied from a USB stick (the Wi-Fi, LAN and SD card don’t work on initial Windows 7 install.)
After install you should see this in the system settings.
Final Performance Check.
With Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, 4GB of RAM and the Runcore Pro IV SSD installed, here’s a rundown of performance reports starting with the impressive disk scores which rise 30% above the 2GB, 32bit scores.
Yes, that’s a 138MB/s transfer rate, on a netbook! Importantly, the small block read speeds are excellent.
Final Crystalmark score (Note: This is a 32bit test)
The two results were taken at different times with different Windows 7 themes.
Battery life, Noise, Heat
No differences in battery life, noise or heat were noticeable after the upgrade. There may be a measurable difference in battery life but I estimate no more than 5% gain under full-usage scenarios. Note that on the Aspire One 522, the fan is on nearly all the time. It’s relatively quite but audible in a quiet room.
4GB vs 2GB
Having 4Gb of RAM available on a netbook is somewhat of an overkill and any applications that might require such memory are also going to require more CPU processing power than is available on the platform. The recommendation would be to buy a 2GB RAM stick although the small extra cost and zero additional effort of buying a 4GB stick means you might as well do it anyway! Remember that hibernation will be much slower with 4GB of RAM than with 2GB of RAM.
32bit vs 64bit
I’m not seeing clear, end-user advantages yet on the system build here but clearly there are some 64bit-capable programs that might take advantage of it. Cinebench 10 returned 1390 points with the 64-bit version compared to 1290 with the 32bit test â€“ a 7.5% improvement. More testing is needed here and through my ultra-mobile video editing project, I should get some more results.
Windows 7 Starter vs Windows Home Premium
At over 80-euros to enable an extra 2GB of RAM, themes and a media center, it seems a little excessive and is something that needs to be considered carefully. A clean install of Windows 7 Home Starter on a fast SSD could be a better choice unless the user is looking to get every last drop of capability out of the system.
HDD vs SSD
There’s no question that the SSD upgrade brings the best end-user improvements. SSDs can be lighter too but the user needs to be careful not to choose a slow SSD (some aren’t built for speed.) I’m currently using a Runcore Pro IV that was loaned to me.
I’ve got a 32Gb SSD here (Sandisk SDSA3AD-032G loaned by Tegatech) that weighs 9gm. Thats 100gm lighter than the pre-installed solution and would bring the weight of the 522 down to under 1.1KG which is impressive given the CPU, GPU and battery life. Worth considering.
Alternatives and weight considerations
After the upgrades, the device returns much better performance but there are alternatives out there. The Asus Eee PC 1215PN with dual-core 1.6Ghz CPU and Nvidia Ion platform offers excellent CPU and graphics performance and we expect it to be available with 2GB and Windows Home Premium (as the 1.5Ghz version is) for around the 450 Euro mark. Add the SSD to this and you’re at the same price with a much better performance. The weight is the same although you don’t get the 1280×720 screen.
Looking at 12 inch devices it will be interesting to see how the 1215n and 1215b compare. Weight is 200-300gm more but performance gets a big boost. The EeePC 1215b is said to be available for 450 Euros and, it the end-user is happy with 300gm more weight, could be a better buy.
If the user is looking for a good value 10 inch device with HD screen and future upgrade steps, the Acer Aspire One 522 represents a very good deal indeed.
Will I keep the Acer Aspire One 522?
I’ve been impressed at the ability of the AMD Brazos platform to go to 4GB RAM and 64-bit Windows. The disk controller also responds well to a fast SSD. Overall, the ‘balance’ of CPU and GPU power is also good. The advantage of going to 4GB RAM is, however, a little over-the-top for a device that really can’t be used for high-end memory intensive work that often requires high-end CPU power. What would make more sense is 4GB RAM in the higher-end Brazos platform with the dual-core 1.6Ghz ‘Zacate’ CPU and the higher-clocked GPU. If that platform can be down-clocked to a similar 1Ghz rate with the same power requirements as the 1Ghz Ontario part you will have an interesting power-efficient platform with a relatively wide dynamic range of processing capabilities. Unfortunately there are no Zacate-based device with the E-350 (Zacate) variant so you’ll have to look at 12 inch solutions with higher screen power requirements and a weight of 200-300gm more. If 300gm is acceptable to you then taking a closer look at the Asus EeePC 1215b will make sense. I’m expecting better battery life and more processing power than the successful Intel-based 1215n making it a top-candidate in its class. I will use the 522 for the time being now though as going back to the single-core N270-based Gigabyte Touchnote is not an option but when the 1215b is available, it will be at the top of the list for my next purchase and test.
Component and cost details
Aspire One 522 â€“ 299 Euros (Germany)
SSD â€“ Runcore Pro IV 64GB 2.5 inch SATA (Loaned for test by My Digital Discount) â€“ $139.99
Memory â€“ Corsair CMSO4GX3M1A1333C9. 4GB single module. 45 Euro
OS â€“ Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit English OEM â€“ 83 Euros
I’m quite the fan of the Samsung N350. 1KG and 4 or 5 hours of dual-core productivity. That’s impressive, especially when you can double that with just 200gm or so of extended battery. What I’m waiting for though is a 3G version because as you’ll see in the video below, RAM and SSD upgrade will be easy but the PCI-Express Mini slot is just a placeholder. No connector or antenna. Looks like I’ll be waiting for a 3G version although with the Galaxy Tab giving me an estimated 8-10 hours as a 3G hotspot, maybe I’m covered! I’ll see if I can get hold of an N350 for deep testing soon.
If you’ve been wondering about how much faster a build of XP on the Viliv S10 might be, or how much difference an SSD upgrade might be, wonder no more because I’ve just tested it outâ€¦and then dropped back to the default setup. It didn’t bring enough advantages to make it worthwhile. Video of the SSD swap process is included below.
I took a Runcore Pro IV SSD (RCP-IV-ZA1864-C) and installed it into the S10 (a very easy upgrade) with a build of XP from the similar Fujitsu U820. After installing the new device drivers, everything was up and running very quickly and smoothly. Because the S10 uses a PATA interface, however, I wasn’t seeing the same speeds as I do on my Gigabyte Touchnote with its SATA interface and the 2.5 inch Runcore Pro IV. There’s a noticeable improvement in speed if, like me, all you need to do is access Firefox and a few other programs but it’s barely enough to justify the cost and hassle. Yes, if you want the ultimate speed out of the S10, upgrade the SSD and drop in XP on it but it will take you a few hours to build XP, the cost is a minimum $100 and you lose multitouch and other Windows 7 features. I missed the OSK immediately!
As far as upgrading the existing Windows 7 build to a faster SSD, there’s even less to be said for it. Again, if you want the ultimate speed and can afford the cost (minimum 32GB I’d say) then go for it because it’s an easy upgrade but for most people, the standard SSD and Windows 7 is going to be fine. Even the 1GB RAM limit isn’t really an issue if you’re not thrashing the device.
That brings me to another thing I wanted to mention â€“ the 60GB HDD / Windows XP entry-level version of the Viliv S10. My recommendation is that you don’t take that version. The SSD and Windows 7 upgrade is definitely worth having and as we move to a point where XP drivers are lagging (e.g. GMA500 drivers) it’s an investment for the future.
It’s interesting. This is the first device I’ve ever kept as a Windows 7 device. Somehow it ‘fits’ with the S10. I don’t use the multitouch screen but maybe there’s a psychological issue with having a multitouch screen that you can’t use that makes me want to keep Windows 7 on it.
JKK of JKKMobile is also looking into a high-end upgrade for the Viliv S10. I have a feeling that the advantages won’t be huge in his tests either but he has access to the Pro V Runcore drives which are faster, maybe he can squeeze just enough more out of it to make it worthwhile. Keep an eye on JKKMobile for that soon because he’s promised a video too.
Update: Video of how I swapped the SSD’s is included. It took under 5 minutes.