Acer Aspire – Greatest travel laptop for photographers ever?

Posted on 25. Nov, 2009 by in Everything, Photography, Reviews, Wildlife

I’ve recently returned from a fantastic trip to a lodge north of Churchill, Manitoba where I had the opportunity to photograph Polar Bears.  In 2010 I hope to be offering trips to this location myself so please keep an eye on my photography workshop and tour web site for details as they become available.

Polar Bear stretching

Polar Bear stretching

Like most trips to remote destinations, this trip had weight restrictions.  And unlike some trips I’ve been on, the folks at one of the airlines actually enforce the weight requirements.  This meant that I needed to carefully plan the gear that I was going to bring with me so that my time was optimized and I wasn’t scrambling at the airline gate trying to make their weight requirements.

In addition to two Canon camera bodies, my 500mm F4L IS, my 70-200 F2.8L IS and my 24-70 F2.8L lenses, I needed to pack along a couple of HyperDrive Color Space UDMA portable storage devices, a Gitzo tripod, a Jobu-Design Black Widow Pro gimbal head and various charges and cables.  I also wanted to bring along a lap top so that I’d have something to review my images on.  I wanted something small and light and able to slip into a jacket pocket.

Acer Aspire 140

Acer Aspire 140

I first started looking at the various Netbooks available.  And while many of them fit the bill in terms of size and weight, they were all horribly underpowered and not something I’d ever consider for running Adobe’s Lightroom 2.5 or reviewing the high-definition video files from my Canon 5D Mark II.  I was stuck for quite a while about what direction to proceed until I happened to be wandering through the electronics section at the local Costco (as I and many a male dragged to Costco are prone to do), when I came across the Acer Aspire AS1410.  What intrigued me about this tiny laptop (yes laptop, not netbook) in addition to its 11.6″ screen and 3.1 pounds of heft, were the fact it has a 64-bit processor running Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition, 3GB of memory and a 256GB hard drive.  All that gear (and more) in a package that is only 1.2 inches thick.  With Costco’s generous returns policy, I quickly decided to give it a whirl, plunked down my $529 hard-earned Canadian dollars and rushed home to play with it.

My first install was the 64 bit version of Lightroom 2.5.  I knew it was a laptop with a 64 bit processor, but part of me was still suspecting that maybe I was misinterpreting things and that I was actually purchasing an underpowered Netbook instead of a laptop.  Nope, Lightroom 2.5 64 bit loaded and ran great.  I was thrilled.  I then activated my copy of Photoshop on it (complete with a complete suite of plug-ins) and I was in heaven.  My final install was Adobe Premier Elements.

Surprisingly, at least to me, all of these applications ran fantastically.  Windows 7 worked great and the notebook worked without a hitch.  The battery life was great and everything worked as I expected.

Canada Goose Resolute Parka

Canada Goose Resolute Parka

Under Armour Caton Windproof Fleece Jacket

Under Armour Caton Windproof Fleece Jacket

For my trip to the Canadian sub-arctic, I loaded the laptop into one of the inside pocket of my Under Armour Caton Wind-Proof Fleece jacket.  One of the very silly things about airline carry-on regulations is that while they may weigh your carry-on bags, they don’t weigh things like coats, cargo pants or jackets.  With that knowledge, there are quite a few ways an industrious photographer can get around the carry-on weight restrictions without having to gate check their precious camera gear.

And for the trip between Churchill and the lodge, a 25-minute ride on a turbo de Havilland Beaver bush plane, the Acer Aspire also fit into the exterior pocket of my Canada Goose Resolute Parka.  So, in addition to being a fantastically warm parka, it also allowed me to carry my laptop with me onto the bush plane.

This was my first visit to photograph Polar Bears.  A trip I hope to repeat as often as possible.  I was extremely touched by these Ice Bears and the conditions they endure.  In terms of a laptop for photographers who want to do more than just store their images, I cannot recommend a laptop more strongly.  Not only could I review my images, but with Lightroom and Photoshop installed, I could actually do some useful work on them. There was something else that I discovered that was fun and even useful.  In the evenings, and being the geek that I am, I’d Skype with my girlfriend.  This worked great across the lodge’s satellite Internet connection and my laptop’s built-in web cam allowed me to rush over to the door to show my girlfriend the Polar Bear that was nosing its way through the bars guarding the windows around the door-way for the evenings.  How cool is that?

Polar Bears, Northern Lights and a useful ultra-light (useful) laptop.  Who could ask for more?  4.5 WildShots out of 5.

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3 Responses to “Acer Aspire – Greatest travel laptop for photographers ever?”

  1. Sean Phillips

    25. Nov, 2009

    That under armor jacket looks pretty cool. And I’m so jealous of your trip to Churchill. One day…

  2. image manipulation

    27. Dec, 2009

    Nice article…

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