I've been intending to write a review of the EEE-PC for quite some time, considering I was one of the early adopters makes my hesitancy all the more curious. I was impressed at the prospect of Asus' small form, low budget, Linux based notebook.
One of the most interesting aspects of the EEE-PC is it's tiny size, little more than a paperback book it doesn't require a herculean stature to transport; hell, it'd fit in my coat pocket. This brings me onto the most crucial thing you need to appreciate with the EEE-PC.
It's not a laptop, so don't compare it to one
Priced at around £180 it falls in well under the average price for a laptop and there's a good reason for that, because it isn't spec'd like a laptop. This original 701 unit that I'm writing on only has a 900mhz Intel Celeron Mobile chip and a rather retro 512mb of RAM. This particular model has a 2gb solid state hard drive which is good; no moving parts keep noise, heat and problems to a minimum.
The operating system
The EEE-PC comes with a modified version of Xandros on it appears to have been a pretty sensible decision, albeit that almost any recent Linux release would work well on this device. Personally I'd have preferred something like Xubuntu but that's just personal preference. The OS itself handles everything well; there's a formidable yet intuitive control panel for you to toy with and because Synaptic package manager is involved, you can install whatever you like on it.
The problems with the EEE-PC
The real problem with the EEE-PC is it's tiny size - far too small to be usable in the long run. The screen is a mere 7" which is difficult to cope with when you're used to 15.4" on other notebooks, but it's the keyboard that causes most of the headaches. In order to be this small they've had to bring the keys closer together, meaning there's around 1mm between keys, rather than the 5mm you'd be used to. This means that unless your hands are skeletal you'll continually hit the wrong keys. I touch type, but that is not an easy task on a layout this small...
It is a well built unit, you have to hand it to Asus; the branding and appearance is more Apple than Dell (especially in white like this model). The build quality is excellent, even down to the weighting of the keys.
Overall, is the EEE-PC 701 a good buy? It really depends what you want to use it for. Because of the limited size you really couldn't use it for writing without developing cramp (which is kicking in now...), the low spec means you can't do design and I wouldn't dream of trying to do development off it. The number of times my thumb accidentily catches the touchpad mouse and alters where I'm writing is getting into double figures now.
Ultimately, the EEE-PC is just a little too small; my girlfriend gets on fine with it but feels too much like threading a needle for me. It'd be a lot better if I carried around a full size USB keyboard (as it has two USB slots) but that would negate the reason for owning it. Battery life is good and it's excellent value for money, but I use it so infrequently because of these problems...
- What is your reaction?
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