The ASUS EeeKeyboard PC has been in development for the better part of a year now and when we first saw the prototype model last year, we were none too impressed. It was wonky, didn't work too well but ASUS has since fixed all these problems. We got our hands on the latest prototype unit and can't help but be impressed with the build and features. There may be hardware changes according to ASUS, and we'll update this article accordingly when we get more confirmation from them. We're guessing though it's probably the Intel Atom platform that will be upgraded, as currently the EeeKeyboard PC prototype in our lab uses the older Intel Atom N270 with 1GB of memory, a 32GB SSD and a 5-inch touchscreen. A switch to the new Intel Atom N450 would mean better power efficiency and slightly better performance.
Let's start with the design first. As the name suggests, it's a keyboard, but the ASUS EeeKeyboard PC is no ordinary keyboard. It's a computer built into a keyboard's form factor and boy, does it feel just right. From the brushed aluminum surface to the resistive touchscreen, the design seems just perfect and conveys an elegant feel.
Moving on, the built-in EeeKeyboard PC Launcher (a custom ASUS program) allows a user to interact with the keyboard without a monitor, but is limited to the small screen size. Navigating was easy and smooth and we quite liked the feel. The various tabs offer different applications to launch on the small screen. The Web tab alone has browser, MSN, YouTube and other apps while the other tabs offer mini games or educational tools. There doesn't seem to be any way to add more apps for now, but we kind of doubt you'll really need to add too many apps in the first place. However that's not all for the Launcher sits atop a Windows operating system, so you've all the traditional PC functionality right on your hand; and you can extend your experience by using an external display. Our prototype came with Windows XP, but this could possibly change by the time it goes retail.
Lastly, the battery is built-in, so battery hot swapping is out of question. That said, it's still a pretty convenient device to carry around as all you need to do is hook it up to a monitor if you want to use it as normal computer. While the ASUS EeeKeyboard PC isn't a game changer or a device that will make everyone switch, it's still a device that offers users a new unique experience. HTPC users and those running multiple systems at home can already fathom ideas to convert this as their systems commander of sorts. Retail availability is expected to be in the later half of the year, so do keep an eye out for it.
*A special thanks to Courts for loaning us the first demo unit in Singapore.*