I wished for an EeePC since the 8.9 inches models came out a few
months ago, because I needed to buy a laptop for my wife. I was
tired of helping her with Windows issues and I wished for a Linux
laptop working out of the box and not intended for Linux-savvy
users. The EeePC seemed an ideal choice, also because of its
dimensions and weight (my wife wanted something small).
Actually, 8.9 inches seemed too small to me, so I was waiting for
the new 10.2 inches model. When I got the money as a present, I spent
a couple of days googling, but I could not find a Linux model with the
10.2'' display here in Italy. I hope this is just accidental and that
Asus will keep offering Linux even for the new and bigger
As I have mentioned
elsewhere, I am really tired of buying laptops just to wipe out
their operating system: for the first time the EeePC allowed me to buy
a Linux laptop and I wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity.
So I bought the 8.9 inches model, the EeePC 901. In theory it should
be available in many colors (I wanted it pink) but in practice in
Italy you have the choice between black and white (I have got the
Since the main user of this machine is my wife,
I do not plan to install anything nontrivial on it, and
I would be happy to keep the default Xandros distribution if it
works fine. I have seen many advanced users criticizing Xandros,
and probably they are right - if I was the main user, I
would probably install Ubuntu since it is my main operating system
at work - but it must say that it is really easy to use for
computer illiterate people.
I bought the machine, I installed the battery without looking at the
manual, I powered it on, and in seconds I was already surfing the Net with
my wireless network. It was the first time in my life I had a similar
experience with a Linux machine, and it was really heart warming ;)
Today I tried to connect to a traditional LAN at my
parents' home, and it also worked perfectly well at the first attempt
without requiring any configuration at all. Audio, video, recognition
of USB devices and an external monitor worked out of the box (actually
I had to run a setup script to view certain .avi files, but the script
was already installed on my machine and it was easy to find its
existence with a bit of googling) and this is also something I was not
There is a set of very nice applications bundled with the netbook:
in particular the StarOffice productivity suite. My wife has the
need of a Word-like editor and she was happy with the StarOffice
There is a self-update system provided by Xandros, which however does
not look to be working perfectly well (it seems it cannot install
some upgrades by Xandros itself ?) however I do not care much
about that for the moment: we will see if it becomes a problem.
The first day I used it, a couple of times the system became irresponsive
and I had to reboot it, but now it seems to work fine. The media player
is very fluid and the audio pretty much decent for a machine this size
The things that worried me the most before bying the EeePC were
the screen size and the keyboard size. The screen is very bright and
readable: however it is tiring to look at it for many hours, so
I will recommend my wife to connect thee EeePC to our external monitor
if she has a lot of work to do. Incidentally, whereas the resolution
of the display is 1024x600, the EeePC also supports a more tradititional
1024x768 resolution when connected to an external monitor, which is
just fine for me since I have a 4:3 monitor.
The keyboard is very small and at the beginning it was difficult to
write with it: I must say however that after a few hours of typing I
am becoming proficient with it. My wife has smaller hands than me
and is perfectly happy with the keyboard.
Actually, In this moment I am writing
these notes on the EeePC while we are in train, coming back home.
Still, I think a bigger keyboard would be a nice thing to have.
For this reason I have wondered a lot about buying a 904H model, which
has a larger keyboard (but a display of the same size): this model is
available with Linux, has a 160 GB traditional hard disk it is also
much cheaper than the 901. Still, at the end, I decided to buy the
901, which features an Atom processor and 7+ hours battery life. For
my wife and me battery life is extremely important; moreover she
wanted a very light machine and the 901 model weights 1.1 Kg, whereas
the 904 model weights 1.45 Kg. The 901 is also smaller and fits in her
small bag: for a men that may be less important.
I was not sure about the solid state disk vs the traditional hard
disk: at the same price the difference is between 20 GB of space vs
160GB of space, so initially I thought a traditional hard would have
been a better choice. However, now that I have EeePC in hand I have
changed my mind: the machine is so light that it is very easy to drop
it accidentally. I feel much better having a safer solid state disk.
Moreover, I have already a couple of external hard disks, so
disk real estate is not an issue for me.
I have discovered now that the EeePC came with a
free 20GB storage area on the web !
A very welcome surprise indeed. That means that I can keep a backup
copy of all my documents there, which is very important, especially
for my wife. I have not seen a backup utility yet, but I assume it
is there somewhere or that it will be available soon.
I can also put there family videos, since there
is a generous limit of 200 MB per file. This is definitely a
significant plus. It must be a very recent addition, since it was
not advertised in Italy.
How fast is the EeePC? I did some experiment by executing the pystone
benchmark, which is used to test the performance of Python on various
system (the EeePC comes with Python preinstalled, both in the 2.4
version and in the 2.5 version, a very welcome surprise for a long
time Pythonista like myself).
The EeePC 901 has actually four available performance modes: power
saving (the slower mode), high performance and auto high performance
(it is not clear to me what the difference is between these two) and
super performance (the fastest mode). You can switch between modes
very easily by pressing a hot key. I compared the performance against
my 18 months old MacBook, which performs at 50,000
pystones/second (the higher the number, the better).
In the power saving mode the EeePC performs at 14,000 pystones/second
(4 times slower than the MacBook), in the high performance mode at 18,000
pystones/second (3 times slower) whereas in the super performance mode
performs at 20,000 pystones/second (2.5 times slower). It seems to
me a decent result for a machine which was not designed for speed.
Still, I must say that sound and video are perfectly fluid and nice on
the EeePC, so you do not see much of the performance hit. What you
notice is a longer startup time of the applications. For instance,
you have to wait a couple of seconds to see the media player pop up.
Yesterday I tried to make a phone call with Skype (the EeePC comes
with Skype pre-installed and pre-configured: there is even a hot
key to call it directly!). No surprises there: it worked at the first
attempt, without issues. However I must say that the video looked less
fluid and less bright than on my MacBook: I must try another
time with a better connection and with a better lightning to be sure.
Today I had the problem of running a Windows program on the EeePC:
I googled on the Italians EeePC forums, found out the recipe to
download Wine (it was enough to add a couple of Debian sources
to the /etc/apt/sources.list), I installed it and the program
runs just fine: excelsior!
There is just one thing that does not work: if I connect my digital
camera to the EeePC, it is not recognized and nothing happens. It
is strange since I expected to see the camera as an external device
and I have checked that USB pens and disks are recognized without problems
by the EeePC. Moreover the camera works, I can transfer my pictures
to any other box, including Linux boxes. I must investigate what it is
happening, but I haven't got the time yet.
All in all, I am pretty happy with the EeePC, which is pretty good for
its intended usage. On the other hand, it cannot replace a developer
laptop yet. By comparing the 8.9 inches of the EeePC with the 13.3
inches of the MacBook, I think that I would need a display of at least
11-12 inches to work confortably, and a correspondly large
keyboard. I mean, the 901 keyboard is perfectly fine and responsive,
but it is just too small for my hands. For what concerns the weight,
I think 1.5 Kg would be reasonable.
As of now, the largest Eeepc
model has a 10.2 inches display, but I am pretty sure than soon or later
they will launch a bigger model. Then, I would consider it as a
possible replacement for a regular laptop. Notice that I don't play
video games, nor I am interested in video editing or any other CPU intensive
task, nor I use Eclipse, so the performance is a non-issue for me. For me,
Linux is the selling point. Moreover, there is very large and growing
community of enthusiastic EeePC users out there, and this is important
too. It is the reason why I have not considered netbooks from
other vendors, which are newcomers in this game.
Post Scriptum: I have no connections with Asus and this
recension was completely spontaneous. On the other hand, if somebody
at Asus is reading this and wants me to review some other model,
I will accept a gift ;)