Asus EEE PC – some first thoughts

Asus EEE PC at StarbucksMy impulse control issues regarding anything small and gadget-y continue. I’m now the proud owner of an Asus EEE PC – the new Linux sub-notebook with a solid state hard-drive.

It seems to be getting a lot of press at the moment (I’ve been seeing reviews pop up all over the place – like PC Pro and TrustedReviews while I’ve been waiting for my pre-order to wing it’s way to me) so I’m reluctant to write yet another review. But I just couldn’t resist the excuse to make a few comments and take a few photos of it!

Asus EEE PC and a Treo 650The specs

First – the specs. There are different models available, but I went for the one with a 4GB hard-drive, 512MB memory, and a 900MHz Intel Celeron processor.

It came with the Xandros Linux distro preinstalled, with OpenOffice for Word, Excel and Powerpoint docs, Firefox, Pidgin IM client, Thunderbird for email and RSS, Skype, and more (over 40 apps in the default install) already installed and customised for the screen dimensions.

It’s small…

Asus EEE PC and a ThinkPad T60I was expecting it to be small. But I was still surprised when I took it out of the box. It’s a teeny little thing! And so light! Even with the battery in, it weighs hardly anything.

It easily fits in my bag (no, I won’t call it a “man bag” dammit πŸ™‚) and even with the power adaptor, you’ll hardly notice the weight.

…but not too small

Asus EEE PC at StarbucksPretty much every review I’ve read about the EEE PC have made the point about it’s usability by saying that they wrote their review on the EEE PC. Never let it be said that I’m one to back away from a clichΓ© – I’d love to be able to say wrote this post on the EEE. Unfortunately, that would involve prising the device from my wife’s fingers – a feat which I’m not having much luck with at the moment.

The keyboard has got a great feel, and took no time at all to get used to. The screen – while small – isn’t too bad. And with full-screen modes in apps like Firefox, you can use enough of it to be comfortable.

Surprisingly powerful

It’s not a powerhouse. I’m not gonna be editing video or playing Halo on it anytime soon. But for a cheap laptop, I’ve been surprised by how snappy it’s performance is.

To get an idea of how effective the graphics module is, take a look at this YouTube video of someone running Ubuntu on an EEE PC. Seriously… wow.

“Normal” tasks react quick enough – OpenOffice launches in a couple of seconds, in much the same way that it does on my ThinkPad. I’ve had Firefox with a bunch of tabs open, pidgin running with a couple of conversations on the go, an mp3 playing, and OpenOffice working on a Word doc – all without it starting to crawl.

I’ve come very close to buying things like the Nokia Internet tablets before, but they are always a bit of a trade-off – they are closer to being internet appliances. This isn’t. You can do almost anything you’d do on a full laptop – just on a slightly smaller screen. All the AJAX and Flash-heavy websites I’ve tried so far have worked absolutely fine. You can use it to watch YouTube or Daily Show videos without any problems – which makes a change from what was my most powerful mobile device before this (the HTC Advantage).

the EEE PC GUI - a launcher added to the Xandros distroThe full power of Linux is never too far away – even when you’re in the newbie-friendly “Easy Mode”, just press Ctrl-Alt-T to launch a terminal window.

Very cool for a command-line hippy like me. πŸ™‚

It’s pretty

The border between the laptop lid and the actual screen is a bit big. But that aside, it’s a very cool looking bit of kit. Considering how much of the Asus marketing has focused on this being a child-friendly computer, it doesn’t look like a toy computer.

And it seems to be getting noticed here in Starbucks. (Although not as much as the HTC Advantage + bluetooth keyboard combo I’m writing this on, but that always seems to get people’s attention!)

It’s fun

It’s hard to explain why, but I’ve really enjoyed using it. Partly this is me being a big geek, but I think it’s also because this is a fun little device.

I am almost looking forward to working on docs like the SYA Business Plan (ugh… is it really that time again?) or preparing my next presentation as it’ll give me a chance to get some work done on it. It’s that sweet.


Asus EEE PCThe storage space on it isn’t all that great. Even with the 4gb model that I’ve gone for, once you subtract the space taken up by Linux and the preinstalled apps, you’ve only got about a gig and a half left. But it does have a slot for SD memory cards, with support for the faster SDHC cards.

The creator of the YouTube video embedded above said that he left the default Xandros install on the hard drive, and created a bootable Ubuntu installation on an SDHC card. If you can run an OS from an SDHC card and still get that sort of performance, then that seems like the way to go – you get the power of Compiz when you have access to a power source and don’t mind hammering the battery with intensive graphics processing (I’m guessing here, but surely it’s gotta hit the battery?), but still have access to the quick elegant simplicity of the Xandros launcher when you’re on the move.

Asus EEE PC and a DS LiteIt also means that I can install apps onto SDHC cards that might take up too much space on the hard-drive. For example, I’m thinking of setting up an SDHC card as a development environment with an Eclipse install on it. Despite my concerns about the resource requirements of running Eclipse, I’ve read comments on forums from people saying that they use eclipse perfectly happily on the EEE PC. It could be quite a nice little development sandbox for hacking at bits of code on the train.

And for bigger long-term storage, the three USB-2 ports mean that you can always use a portable USB hard-drive. I’ve got a small 60GB drive that I use to store digital photos, and the Photo Manager software preinstalled on the EEE PC is perfectly happy at viewing, sorting and editing photos directly on a connected USB hard-drive.

Speaking of ports, you can always plug it into a monitor using the VGA port for a dual-screen setup.

They’ve thought about it

Asus EEE PC in it's bag The attention to the little details is nice. The solid state hard-drive is quieter than my ThinkPad and means that the battery life is longer, too. From the small power adaptor without a need for a power-brick (unlike my ThinkPad, whose powerbrick weighs nearly as much as the ThinkPad itself!) to the black neoprene sleeve included in the kit – it feels like they’ve thought about what it will be like to carry this thing on the road.

It’s cheap

All of this, delivered, for Β£219.99. That is a bargain. It delivers a lot of the promise of the UMPC vision, while still being more usable than UMPCs like the OQO and a fraction of the two grand price tag of the Sony UX UMPCs.

I love it

Asus EEE PCIn case it’s not been obvious enough, I love this device. It’s my new favourite toy.

Sorry, HTC Advantage – we’ve done a lot of work together, but you don’t run as quickly, you can’t let me use flash AJAX-y websites, your screen isn’t as big, your keyboard isn’t as nice, you don’t boot as quickly, you don’t have a command-line, and you’re limited to “Windows Mobile” specific apps. In short, you’re just not as much fun.

Everyone should get an EEE PC. Seriously – go order one now. πŸ™‚

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15 Responses to “Asus EEE PC – some first thoughts”

  1. Andy Piper says:

    Interesting. I heard about this thing on the TUAW podcast and they were talking about using it as a sub-notebook Mac by going down the Hackintosh route. Seems like a neat idea πŸ™‚

  2. James Taylor says:

    Darn it, now I really want one! It looks like there might finally be something to prise me away from my old ThinkPad 240. I wonder how it compares…

  3. dap says:

    Just a few questions.
    How are the batteries life when watching videos ?
    Also just wondering if anyone use it with vnc ….
    I have a nice setup at home with a projector but I can not found any wireless device, keyboard and mouse with a 20 meters signal working properly …
    so this could be a very nice remote control πŸ˜€

  4. dale says:


    Not sure about the battery life with videos – I’ve not really watched much video with it. Although now that BBC offer Linux-friendly streaming video that might be changing πŸ™‚

    I’ve not used it with VNC, although I’ve used rdesktop to Windows desktops a lot, and it works very well.

  5. Tim Tarrant says:

    I also purchased the Eee PC and agree with Dale. It’s software for video and audio is excellent and I regularly listen to radio programmes from the web using the bulit in wireless connection to my router. I would think twice about a an XP version if they are only offering Microsoft Works and are not including OpenOffice. If you are paying nearly ?300 for an XP version then you are getting close to the bottom end price of a laptop.
    One thing I cannot do wiith the Eee PC is use a USB Modem – they are all manufactured by Huwaei and are Windows and Mac compatible. Not yet found a download that will make it compatible with the Eee PC – I think there may be one out there so if anyone knows of it please post.

  6. […] I’ve been loaned a USB mobile broadband modem by 3 to try out for a few months. I’ll write a proper post about why I’ve got it and what I think of it later. First, I wanted to share how I got it working with my EEE PC. […]

  7. […] idea The EEE PC, and the slew of EEE PC alternatives that have followed it, have started to get more people […]

  8. […] It looks like a laptop, and is virtually the same size as the EEE PC. […]

  9. Clay says:

    Hi Dale

    Thanks for the report on this little baby. I’m thinking of getting one myself but am concerned about what pay as you go broadband dongles can be used. Ideally I’d be taking the Eee with me on European visits as well as places in the UK. Also, I’d like to be using Linux but the dongles I’ve seen so far like the Huawei E220 seem to only be supported by Windows 2000, XP or Vista. Do you have any tips?


  10. dale says:

    @Clay – I’ve used the Huawei E169 with the EEE PC (running Linux) although that was a bit of a pain. I’ve read several posts on forums of people saying that they’ve used the Huawei E220 without any problems, although I’ve not seen this for myself.

  11. sales says:

    Here’s the general average opinion of users:
    Great little companion for travel.
    Pros: lightweight, vey fast boot, simple, wireless entertainment, price just about right, fast battery charge + small charger, nice screen, super quick system restore
    Cons: runs very hot, no upgradability, small screen, short battery life, not great with office applications, tricky cpu settings, poor customizability.
    So: good for playing simple games, for beginners or users not demanding the power featues.

  12. bodydetox says:

    i love the Asus Eee PC, it is very light, cheap and portable. I also bought another unit for my girlfriend and she really likes it.

  13. Jhen Lee says:

    what i like about the Asus Eee PC is that it is very lightweight and very portable that you can just carry it anywhere.

  14. Kim says:

    Asus Eee is very convenient to carry. It is my walkaround laptop wherever i go. The battery life could have been better though