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theONbutton@CES – EEE Top is a recession buster for wanna-be-cool homes

p1030840Whilst  some of the initial excitement of the EEE netbook range has started to wear off, the EEE Top is way cooler than I thought it would be.

For a start the device looks great in real life.  The touch sensitivity is great and the stunning keyboard has a storage home behind the screen.  In fact the entire product looks and feels like an Apple product.

The EEE Top has the Intel Atom guts of many a netbook, which means it’s a low energy user and it delivered responsive touch sensitive performance through Windows XP.  An instant-on facility allows access to Firefox and Skype amongst other applications.   This would be an extremely cool device to have dotted around the home.

Keep ’em coming Asus, and next time give us a sweet graphics card inside for 1080 HD. 

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Jan 9, 2009 Posted by | CES, Computing, Hardware, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Asus EEE 900 vs. HP Mini-Note 2133 mini review

It’s been just six months since the launch of the first Asus EEE PC and the sector has exploded. The original UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) name has been supplanted by Microsoft’s ULCPC (Ultra Low Cost PC), Intel’s MID (Mobile Internet Device) and various manufacturer led acronyms – MSI’s forthcoming Wind is actually an abbreviation of WiFi Network Device.

Screen sizes and storage space have increased, but in most cases so have price tags. Asus itself is a case in point, with its recently launched EEE PC 900 offering a nine inch screen and up to 20GB of onboard storage but a hefty $549 sticker price. The majority of the hardware on the inside is similar to the 701, but the increased screen real estate in a similarly sized package makes web browsing and general working more manageable.
Unfortunately the keyboard feels the same size as the original, which I struggle with after a few months of daily use. It’s fine for occasional emails etc but for more consistent work I make too many typos with it as my fingers sometimes land on two keys at once.

The screen seems a bit brighter than the 701 and fills the (slightly larger) lid nicely, with the webcam still preserved. Looks and build quality haven’t kept pace with the competition however, as we segway into the HP Mini-Note…
…which is one of the best looking laptops money can buy.

Powered by a range of VIA C7 processors up to 1.6GHz it sounds at first like it will outperform the EEE’s 900MHz Celeron, but user testimonies indicate that the Mini-Note often gets stuck in the slow lane.

When I tried it out running Vista it was actually pretty decent, loading apps quickly enough for general usage. In fact if you write a lot and have limited multimedia requirements, then the Mini-Note is a fair choice because the keyboard is absolutely awesome.

The keys are large, almost as large as a full size laptop, and I was able to type fluently from the get-go. The trackpad is responsive too and although the buttons are oddly placed on either side, this makes the pad’s area larger and is not a problem if you tap-to-click.

The looks, screen quality and overall usability beat the EEE and the whole thing seems better constructed too, if larger, whilst pricing is similar. The Mini-Note starts at $499 for a Linux build, compared to $549 for the Linux EEE 900. The top of the range Vista Mini-Note model sells for a not so appealing $749.

Unfortunately for both the EEE and Mini-Note, their respective Celeron and VIA processors have a tough time managing multimedia applications fluidly. This is forgiveably in the $299 EEE 2G, but less so in a unit costing around twice as much.

Overall the HP Mini-Note and Asus EEE 900 have strayed away from the original EEE ultra-low-cost concept and are competing with budget laptops but offering limited power. Of course these machines are all about portability but other models due out soon may offer a better balance…

Speaking of which, we will see MSI’s Intel Atom-powered Wind in June. With an 80GB hard drive, ten inch screen and rumored six hour battery life under Windows XP, I’d wait to check out the Wind before handing over the plastic on either the HP or Asus just yet.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Dec 9, 2007 Posted by | Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

   

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