For months, products such as the Sony Vaio TZ150 (also known as VGN-TZ18GN) or Fujitsu's U1010 have made their mark on the ultra portable computing market, and seen their fair share of action amongst the consumer purchasing choices. But all that has changed when the ASUS Eee PC's existence came into being, with demand far exceeding supply when it was launched in Taiwan just a few weeks back.
The ASUS Eee PC, though small in stature and weighing only 920g, is as much of a heavyweight (pun definitely intended here) as most other UMPCs in the market. With up to four versions of the ASUS Eee on sale, we received the Eee PC 4G version whose specs include a 900Mhz Intel Celeron Mobile CPU coupled with 512MB DDR2 RAM, sufficient for the most basic of applications, with a mild lag noticed on slightly more intensive programs.
Of special note here, is the efficiency at which the ASUS Eee boots up in a short span of 15 seconds or less, and you'll be greeted not by a generic Windows operating system, but a Linux-based Xandros running KDE. Over 40 applications are preloaded, covering communications (IM client), web browsing (Firefox), office productivity (OpenOffice 2.0) and other supporting software. Whilst some might be apprehensive over an unfamiliar Linux OS, alternatives do exist, with an official announcement of future versions of the ASUS Eee PCs running on Windows XP instead.
One main reason for its swift boot up is the 4GB solid state drive soldered onto its main board, which also reduces power consumption significantly and has higher tolerance to shocks. However, upon closer inspection, we found approximately only 1GB worth of storage capacity free for personal use, whilst the balance has been fully utilized for system needs and built-in applications.
Dealing beyond its internal design, we'll take a look at the aesthetic nature of the ASUS Eee. Undoubtedly, the pearly white body would be the crowd pleaser, designed with dimensions of 225 × 165 × 21mm.
The 7-inch TFT LCD screen might seem to bring a smudge of imperfection on the ASUS Eee with a low screen resolution support of up to 800 x 480, but it is actually very friendly on the eyes unlike those on the UMPC class. The screen is however flanked by integrated speakers which form a thick black border around it, and thus belittles the 7-inch LCD with regards to the laptop's overall size.
At its base, the ASUS Eee's keyboard is one that you'll love to hate, or hate to love. On one hand, the tactile feel easily surpasses most other ultraportables of its range (and those on UMPCs), yet it also shares the same deficiency as its siblings: a lack of adequate space. With the keys tightly packed within its 165mm width, this is where the ASUS Eee finds itself at a disadvantage for those with large hands. Others should find most of the main keys fairly useable but there is the awfully tiny touchpad to get over.
Input ports on the ASUS come in a wide range, with 3 USB ports, an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm earphone jack and microphone input, and finally a VGA out. In response to its limited storage capacity, a SDIO slot is found on the side too, which supports both SD and SDHC memory cards for additional storage options. Note that there is no optical drive on this ultraportable, so beware of the limitations.
A quick run on its battery life shows it to last just under 3 hours with moderate usage, though the ASUS Eee is rated with a 3.5 hours battery lifespan. Heat dissipation is sufficiently managed, but we found the ASUS Eee warm to the touch with intensive usage beyond 30 minutes.
With a clean design, decent specs that provide above average performance and an easily customizable operating system, the ASUS Eee PC could be the perfect holiday gift, if there's any stock left. Its form factor, light weight, modest screen and a proper keyboard catapults it well ahead of UMPCs like the Sony VGN-UX50, Fujitsu U1010 and others in terms of overall usability. And of course, not forgetting why the ASUS Eee has achieved the popularity it is enjoying is its affordability at just S$598 (~US$414) inclusive of tax. Not bad at all for what it offers.