Acer Aspire E11

Recently I was in Seoul in the middle of three weeks of travel and my laptop died on me.  Since I had some work that needed doing fairly urgently I took myself over to Yongsan Electronics Market and got myself a cheap replacement to tide myself over.

What I ended up with was an Acer Aspire E11. There’s a bunch of different models all with very similar plastics, I got one which has a N2940 SoC, 2G of RAM (upgraded to 4G in store), a 500G hard disk and no fans for just over 200000 Korean Won, or about $200. As you’d expect at that price it’s got shortcomings but overall I’ve been extremely happy with it, it’s worth looking at if you need something cheap.

The keyboard in particular is probably the nicest I’ve used 0n a laptop in a long time with a good, definite but not excessive click feel as you press. Battery life is about 5 hours as advertised which is not wonderful but basically fine for me most of the time, and while not exactly Retina it’s clear with good viewing angles and generally pleasant to look at. Everything is plastic but feels very solid and robust, better than a lot of more expensive devices I’ve used, and there’s not much bezel around the screen which means it’s the first laptop I’ve had which has been comfortable to use in a standard economy seat on a plane.

The biggest drawback is performance – it’s a little slow opening applications sometimes and kernel builds crawl with an x86 allmodconfig taking about one and three quarter hours. For e-mail and web browsing there’s no problem at all, I did have to move from offlineimap to mbsync to get my mail to sync in a reasonable time but that’s more to do with the performance of offlineimap than that of the system. Overall in use it feels like the Dell I was using from about 2008-2011 or so, comfortable in use outside of builds, and I do appreciate having a system with no fans.

There were a couple of small tricks getting Debian installed – this is the first system I’ve seen with secure boot enabled by default which took me a few moments to work out (but is really good to see). Once that was disabled the install was smooth other than being bitten by Debian bug#778810 which meant I needed a manual fixup to actually get it to boot from the disk. It’s also got a Broadcom WiFi module which means it doesn’t work at all with mainline but it looked like that was on a standard mini PCI Express module so easily replaceable (I happened to have a USB dongle handy so haven’t bothered) and the wired ethernet just worked.

Like I say I’ve been very happy with it, there’s a bunch of other models with different specs for everything except the case (some touchscreen, some with small 32G eMMC drives) as well. Were it not for my need to do kernel builds I’d probably be keeping it as my primary laptop.

9 thoughts on “Acer Aspire E11

    1. Depends on which Thinkpad I guess… I’ve not actually used a Thinkpad myself for some considerable time, though obviously things like the X220 are a common sight. I’d say it’s a step down for most things, the specs are generally lower, it’s not quite so impressively solid as the Thinkpads are and the screen on the Thinkpads is definitely nicer.

  1. Hi, I’m facing the same problem with the unbootable Debian on the Aspire E11. Can I ask you wich is the fix you made to overcome the problem? My skills are to limited to understand the discussion in the Debian bug report…

  2. There were two things I had to do. One was to disable secure boot since none of Debian’s EFI stuff is signed at the minute. The other was to copy grubx64.efi from /boot/efi/EFI/debian to /boot/efi/EFI/BOOT/BOOTX64.EFI. That copies the initial bootloader into the “default” location used for booting from removable media. You’re not supposed to need that but without it EFI seemed not to find the bootloader. It may be that there was something else going on and that’s been fixed since then.

  3. Thank you very much for your quick answer! Disabling the secure boot was my first step before installing the system. Sadly my /boot/efi/ folder is empty…is it possible that is because I’ve installed a release of testing? (I was hoping that the bug was fixed, since all the attempts with jessie were useless)

  4. /boot/efi being empty is a bad sign I think – I don’t recall a BIOS boot mode (but perhaps there is one). I think I did my install with one of the Jessie betas but ICBW, I think it was a bit before the release. IIRC I did the install then rebooted with the installer, switched to the shell and fixed up the EFI partition by hand.

  5. Problem solved. The folder EFI/debian (with grubx64.efi) was in the EFI system partition. I copied the file as suggested (inside the same partition) and now the system boot properly. Thanks for the support!

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