Asus eee PC laptop review

Fans of Linux will appreciate this new offering from Asus — a linux-based laptop.
 
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01.Asus eee PC laptop review

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Initial shipments of the diminutive laptop sold out days after its release in December 2007, but not before we snapped one up to see what the fuss is about.

Having played with it, we concur that the Eee PC is CCC — cool, compact and cheap.

At just under $500, it’s the cheapest full-featured laptop on the market.

 

Please note: this information was current as of April 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Asus Eee PC 4G 701

Price: $499

Good points

  • Cheap, rugged, portable.
  • Comes with a full suite of programs, webcam and Wi-Fi built-in.

Bad points

  • Keyboard a tad small for adult fingers.
  • Limited onboard storage.
  • Screen could be bigger.

Barely half the size and weight of even slimline laptops, the Eee PC is a fully-featured sub-notebook computer that almost fits in the palm of your hand. Weighing just 0.92kg, the Eee PC is aimed at the educational market and has been made small and rugged to take the knocks and bumps of daily use on the go.

The Eee name comes from 'Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play'. And so it is. The Eee PC uses a version of Xandros Linux customised by ASUS to run 'lean and mean' — especially on power consumption. It starts up quickly — around 20 seconds from off, and five from sleep mode. Shutdown takes about five seconds also. In terms of battery we achieved over three hours use on a single charge.

But lean and mean doesn’t mean the Eee PC won't do everything you need. It has all the capabilities you would expect of a mainstream PC, with dozens of built-in programs to handle email, web browsing, instant messaging, Word and Excel files (using the OpenOffice suite), voice and video chat with Skype using the built-in webcam, photos, music, video viewing and so on.

All programs are easy to find and accessible with a single click. The Home menu is divided into six tabs — Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings, and Favorites. Each tab has its own programs and shortcuts. To get the most out of the Eee PC however you need access to the internet, which is a snap using the built-in wireless connection (Wi-Fi, using 802.11 b/g).

The Eee PC is no powerhouse, but its 900MHz Intel Mobile processor and 512MB of memory (RAM) are adequate, largely thanks to the 'light' Linux operating system being used. ASUS has announced a Windows version of the Eee PC also.

The small keyboard is a tad difficult to use for grown-up fingers, especially touch typists, and would take some getting used to. We found that 'hunt and peck' typists fared better and the keyboard didn’t seem to present any problems for children, most of whom hunt and peck anyway.

The touchpad performed best at the highest sensitivity setting, but the single touchpad bar required firm pressure to activate its left and right button action.

Expansion options

The Eee PC has three USB ports, so you can connect a standard keyboard and mouse while still leaving room for a USB Key, hub or other external storage. A desktop display can be plugged into the VGA port on the right-hand side. A multi-format memory card slot handles Secure Digital and Multimedia Card formats.

It also includes 100Mbps Ethernet and an internal modem port (empty). The built-in webcam captures 640 x 480 resolution and stereo (but rather tinny) speakers border the 7-inch 800 x 480 resolution colour screen.

Part of the trade-off for being so small and light is that there’s no optical or hard drive. Instead the main 'hard drive' is a 4GB solid state drive, similar to the storage in a USB key. After system and programs, there’s less than 1.5GB available for user data, but you can attach a USB optical drive or hard drive externally to expand storage space.

The Eee PC ships with a neoprene-style soft case to protect it, a handy addition because you’ll likely be taking it with you everywhere.

CHOICE verdict

Asus looks to be on a winner with the Eee PC. It’s small, light, easy to use and, importantly for kids, tough. At just under $500 it's a landmark notebook that has set the new standard for affordability and ease of use. Plenty of adults have found this 'education' laptop a must-have too.

Expect other makers to learn this lesson and come out with their own offerings, but until then the Asus Eee PC is in a class of its own.

 
 

 

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