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Asus EEE PC Review


Latest: Click here to read the CES 2008 laptop and UMPC news, including details of the Asus R50 UMPC

After weeks of low supply, the Asus EEE PC has finally appeared. I spent some eagerly awaited quality time with the small, cute and cheap 4G model.

UMPCs: When size does matter

Next to a regular ultraportable the Asus EEE PC is noticeably smaller. It´s also thinner, most likely due its lack of optical or mechanical hard drives. It does however still manage to pack in a VGA output, Ethernet port and 3 USB 2.0 connectors without needing a port replicator.

The screen is also smaller than most ultraportables at seven imches, the same size as Samsung’s Q1 series. However in the case of the EEE this seems to be to keep the cost down than anything else.

The lid can actually accommodate a couple more inchesof screen space and the resulting look is of a laptop from the mid 1990s with a wide screen border.

The keyboard is also a shrunken affair but is surprisingly easy to use. I was able to type lines of text accurately without any need to acclimatize. This will depend on finger size but I was pleasantly surprised. For such a thin laptop the keys also have a positive feel with a decent amount of travel.

The EEE PC has a traditional trackpad which has a separated section on the right hand side. Using the media player this section controlled playback volume. The trackpad was fairly responsive to movement but less so to taps, although it is usable. There´s only one button, like a Mac, but improving on Apple’s design the left side of the button gives a left click and the right side gives a right click (thanks for the pointer Neil). Great idea and works well in practise.


In comparison to competitors, the EEE dwarfs the Fujitsu U810 (above) and Sony UX380N (below).
These both have smaller screens and keyboards also, as well as oddly placed mouse control, to the extent that they are really for emergency use in my opinion. Samsung´s Q1 has the same size screen but an almost impossibly small thumboard, although for desk use you could always add an external keyboard. All three competitors are far more expensive than the EEE PC.
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Latest: Click here to read the CES 2008 laptop and UMPC news
The colored EEEs are now available, click here for photos.

It’s cheap, but can I actually use this thing in real life?

Switch on the EEE and it boots quickly (I counted 24 seconds) into a home screen with big icons and tabs. It looks ultra easy to use and find what you want.


In this regard it’s similar to the iPhone home screen. But then I always thought the iPhone home screen looks simple because it only has a few preloaded applications. The EEE is similar, with limited applications it’s easy to give everything a big icon. I expect most owners will never add any applications anyway, as much of what you need to get going is included right out of the box.

The EEE ships with internet, office and media playback software sitting on top of its Linux operating system. The look and feel is overtly Windows XP and when I was using the file explorer I actually had to do a double-take to check I was not using an early shipment of XP preloaded EEEs.


Following years of anti-Microsof sentiment from some corners of the IT community, it is somehow ironic that Windows has become so popular that competitors either mimic it or allow users to run it on their own environment to attract switchers.

Using the internet browser will be straightforward for most owners, with the exception that some sites optimized for Internet Explorer may not work properly. I occasionally find this on my Macbook and Nokia tablet with their respective Safari and Mozilla browsers. Similarly the office software is not Microsoft Office so again there may be compatibility issues if you are trying to share files with MS Office users, although some common file formats are supported. The media player is also less friendly than iTunes or Windows Media Player but is usable nonetheless.

All of this of course results from the low cost of the EEE. Building a Linux system is much cheaper than building a Mac or Windows system. Unfortunately file, application and peripheral compatibility is where you ultimately pay for this. So make sure that whatever you want to do is Linux compatible before you purchase your EEE. The alternative is to either install Windows (which can be done by running the installation from an external drive), or wait for the Windows preloaded version to be released. Of course this will have a cost implication and if you then want to run Microsoft Office then this is another $150 as a home user.

The EEE PC 4G’s lid houses a webcam. This is missing from the cheaper models in the range, but a fantastic feature to have if you can afford a higher end EEE. The quality of the camera is on a par with similar devices in other laptops. Every laptop should have one of these!

EEE owners are likely to take their units around with them due to the small sixe, so how is it likely to stand up to road use? First impressions are that the EEE seems well built with an assuringly solid looking hinge mechanism. Apart from this and the keys, the EEE is pretty low on moving parts. There are no mechanical hard or optical drives to break in transit so some risk associated with traditional laptops is not present in the EEE. Of course it is still vulnerable to failure like all electronics, but hopefully Asus’ choice to go for a solid state drive will save many a users’ data on a bad day.

So is it the bEEE’s knEEE’s?

If you’re a light, or adventurous, user then don’t let my compatibility comments put you off. For mobile corporate users running thin client software this is also a winning solution. It’s the middle tier of users I think are likely to struggle. These are the people who want to do funky things now and again and might not have the knowledge to do it quickly in Linux. If you’re one of these people then you may prefer to wait for the Windows version.

If on the other hand you’re happy with EEE’s preloaded goodies or are a Linux lover then this is the IT bargain of 2007. Expect other companies to follow…

May 2008 update: Read the Asus EEE 900 vs HP Mini-Note 2133 comparo here.

Jan 2008 update: As predicted above, others have followed. Read about Everex’s $399 here.

See photos and read CES news about: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies.
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To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here.

For details of the new Asus R50 UMPC, click here.

The colored EEEs are now available, click here for photos

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Dec 9, 2007 - Posted by | Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Comments »

  1. Neil – the button below the trackpad is actually a dual-button. If you press on the right-hand side, you get a right-click, and if you press on the left-hand side, you get a left click!

    Comment by Neil | Dec 30, 2007 | Reply

  2. Neil,

    You are absolutely right, thanks for the pointer. I’ve amended the article.

    Neil Berman

    Comment by Neil Berman | Dec 31, 2007 | Reply

  3. Neil have you heard anything negative re ASUS not being able to repair the EEE PC ? I have read a few comments around the web with people not being able to get problems fixed because ASUS Australia are unable to repair hardware even though you receive a 12 month warranty.

    Comment by Michelle | Dec 31, 2007 | Reply

  4. Hi Michelle,

    That’s interesting.

    I’ve heard nothing specific to Asus Australia. I have seen comments referring to Asus refusing to repair EEE screens with dead screen pixels. However typically manufacturers only replace LCDs under warranty if the number of dead pixels is beyond a certain amount or density in a particular area.

    What specific issues have you heard of with Asus Australia and the EEE?

    Neil Berman

    Comment by Neil Berman | Dec 31, 2007 | Reply

  5. My pleasure- glad I could help.

    Neil

    Comment by Neil | Jan 2, 2008 | Reply

  6. Hi Neil…do yuo have data of the specifications of the eeh pc? i just want to know if i can run some adobe programs… tnx

    Comment by Anonymous | Jan 12, 2008 | Reply

  7. The full specs are here.

    The EEE I reviewed had a PDF reader, I’m not sure if you’re looking for that specifically or are planning to use other Adobe applications.

    Neil Berman

    Comment by Neil Berman | Jan 14, 2008 | Reply

  8. hi i got a problem with this computer. it releases hot air from the front bottom and side part of the computer. this is not normal you know. i have another laptop and i never experienced this. can you imagine , i would like to use a wireless keyboard and mouse for me not to feel the hot air from this exhaust. it really bothers me. it is like going near to a cooking stove though it cant burn your skin but it really irrates your hands. in just 5 mins of use i experienced this. i wonder if there is so much radiation in this computer.

    Comment by Anonymous | Mar 13, 2008 | Reply

  9. hey, may i ask u?
    is it really a good one.
    i already have but hmm..
    it’s like i’m not contented with the features.

    is it really just for iNet.words.and some sort of other things which are not so cool.?
    and i can’t even download the programs i want.

    is it really like that, or do i need to install things for me to open some programs.?

    one program i tried to download was the, YAhoo Messenger.but the pc can’t read the installer?
    hmm..it really have that chat-ready but i can’t use some features of YM. that i’m used to if i’m using my home computer.

    Comment by Anonymous | Apr 19, 2008 | Reply

  10. neil,
    is that you in the picture? the babe on the beach browing over the asus eee pc?

    -KC

    Comment by kc cordero | Apr 20, 2008 | Reply

  11. hi neil, tnx 4 d review, juz want 2 ask… do i still hav 2 install MS Office? tnx

    Comment by Anonymous | May 1, 2008 | Reply

  12. The Linux EEE comes with OpenOffice, which can import some MS Office file formats as well as RTF files.

    The XP EEE does not come with MS Office, but you can install it.

    Neil

    Comment by Neil Berman | May 1, 2008 | Reply

  13. Hi KC,

    No comment…

    Neil

    Comment by Neil Berman | May 1, 2008 | Reply

  14. dear neil,

    oh, why no comment? btw, there’s also a new product by ‘blue laptop’ that competes with asus eee pc, what’s your take on this?
    thank you very much.

    -KC

    Comment by kc cordero | May 1, 2008 | Reply


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