Saturday, January 26, 2008

Review: Asus Eee PC 4GB Laptop


We bought one of these laptops for Rhian for Christmas after searching around for a computer that was both reasonable in cost and functionality, that she could use for homework and general Internet and email use.

The Asus Eee PC is a small form factor laptop that is not much bigger than a hardback book and only weighs 0.92kg, it has a 7" LCD screen that is bright and easy to read. It has a built in web cam, speakers, 3 USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port for an external monitor, a SD card slot, a 10/100mb/s Ethernet port and built in 802.11g WiFi connection. The CPU is an Intel Celeron M 353 with a clock speed of 900Mhz but Asus underclock the unit to 600Mhz. It comes supplied with 512Mb of RAM but can be expanded to 2GB using standard SO DIMM RAM. You also get a soft slip case, nice user manual and mains charger.

The storage is a 4GB SSD (solid state disk) unit and comes pre-installed with Xandros Linux that has been customised by Asus to fit the EeePC and have everything you need right out of the box, including web, email, instant messenger, Open Office and Skype.

The small keyboard takes a bit of getting used to but is perfectly usable even for someone with big hand like myself. It's no powerhouse but is very usable with no slowdowns. The case feels very solid no no creaks or groans.

The laptop boots very quickly and the supplied operating system does nearly everything everything you could need and is designed to look a lot like Windows XP so that most users will feel immediately at home.

However as soon as you start looking to do something a bit different the ugliness of Linux rears it's ugly head. I wanted to connect the laptop to an Epson printer that is shared on our Windows network but this proved very difficult with me having to search around for drivers for Linux and have to make compromises in the printer functions that were supported. I also wanted to see about adding a Bluetooth USB dongle (something that this machine really needs if it's going to seriously compete as a mobile Internet device) and again Linux Bluetooth support, while there, is fiddly and un-friendly to setup.

Luckily I had a spare copy of Windows XP and Asus kindly supply a CD with all the XP drivers needed. After finding a USB CDROM drive (the laptop has no optical drive at all) and following the detailed instructions supplied by Asus for installing XP and optimising it for a laptop with an SSD drive I got XP installed and configured in under an hour.

After installing a cut down version of XP I had 1.5gb of space on the SSD free. Extra storage can be added via the SD card slot or by external USB storage. I added a 4GB SD card and configured "My Documents" to save onto the SD card.

What can I say, running XP the laptop works like a dream, occasionally the limits of a 7" screen are evident with dialogue boxes going off screen but again there are easy ways of dealing with this. The machine is snappy to boot and performs very well.

I installed Windows versions of the original software so that was Pidgin IM, Open Office, Firefox, Skype and everything just works. We're getting about 2-2.5hrs battery life with WiFi on permanently and the screen brightness turned down a few notches. I've ordered a 1GB DIMM to upgrade the RAM as I've read this makes a big difference in performance as the Windows paging file can then be switched off.

Overall I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this laptop, if you can find one in stock. Their popularity means they are hard to come by at the moment and sadly this means prices are inflated but the list price is just £219.99 - a steal if you can find one. I like it so much that as soon as they're back in stock at normal prices I'm going to get another for myself to use.

The only negative I can thing of is that I believe this should have Bluetooth as standard as it's being pushed as a mobile Internet device.

For a larger screen or more storage, other models are available from Asus.

My Score: 8.5 out of 10


1 comment:

  1. Hello there!

    I read your review of the Asus EEE with some interest, since I've just acquired one and was curious to see how people are coping with the lack of Bluetooth on it. I've got a Mikomi USB Bluetooth dongle which was a breeze to set up on my (Win XP) Dell Inspiron laptop, but I've been hesitant about even trying it on the Asus. Whilst I have no intention of switching to the XP OS (I installed the Linux "Full Desktop" mode option via a terminal window yesterday, and that provides some useful optional functionality when required), I was wondering just how fiddly it's likely to be if I plug the dongle in. (I'm very rusty with Linux generally, but it would be useful for uploading photos etc from my 'phone to the EEE, more than anyhing...)

    Any chance you could shed some light on the procedure before I dive in?