This is a read-only archive. Find the latest Linux articles, documentation, and answers at the new Linux.com!

Linux.com

Feature: Reviews

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

By Lisa Hoover on January 11, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

Share    Print    Comments   

The Asus Eee PC has been heralded as a groundbreaking new computing experience and great for children. While the computer didn't bowl me over, my kids were another matter.

When you hear about how small the Eee is, believe it: the unit measures approximately nine by six inches and weighs a mere two pounds. It's hard to take something that small seriously because it looks like a toy (and its name sounds like a sneeze). Open the lid, however, and you'll find power and features that belie its diminutive size.

Hardware

Asus managed to pack a surprising amount of heft into one little package. All the units have a 900MHz Intel Celeron fan-cooled processor, but different models are equipped with varying memory specifications. My review unit has 512MB socketed RAM (upgradeable to 2GB), and 4GB solid-state disk storage. Asus opted to build the Eee with SSD rather than a hard drive so stored data would be less susceptible to shock and possible data loss or corruption. All units are also equipped with 802.11b/g wireless LAN.

The integrated Intel GMA 900 graphics processor handled whatever games or videos I threw at it without skipping a beat. The unit sports a 7-inch 800x480 LCD screen with LED backlight that was crisp and clear in all kinds of lighting. I was impressed by the (optional) built-in webcam, microphone, and stereo speakers -- nice touches for an entry-level computer.

While hardware the Eee provides out of the box is noteworthy, the amount of peripherals you can add on is simply dazzling. Asus crammed several ports and outlets into the right and left sides of the unit: three 2.0 USB ports, VGA out, Ethernet and modem ports, microphone input and headphone jacks, a lock slot, and even an MMC/SD card reader.

Software

The Eee PC comes preloaded with a spiffy operating system based on Xandros Linux and running KDE. It boots in seconds to reveal a tabbed screen that divides the bundled applications into sections. Wikipdeia, Skype, iGoogle, and Firefox are in the Internet section; OpenOffice.org, a note-taker, and a PDF reader are filed under the Work; games, a photo manager, and a media player are in the Play section. There are six sections in all, each packed with apps, and you can customize the tab names via the command line.

Although much of the pre-installed software is aimed at children (TuxMath, an interactive periodic table, a dictionary), there are plenty of apps to keep most adults occupied as well -- the robust personal information manager Kontact, Mozilla's Thunderbird email client, and the aforementioned OpenOffice.org suite among them. Additional software is available for download via Debian repositories.

Eee PC vs. 24" iMac

The Eee PC and me

I spent the better part of a week trying to incorporate the Eee PC into my already computer-centric life by substituting it for one of my other computers as I worked and played. Much as I'd hoped for a different outcome, the Eee PC and I just aren't meant to be together.

For starters, the touchpad drove me to distraction. It's all of two inches wide (not that there's room for it to be much larger) and its button is sticky and hard to press. After experimenting with various touchpad sensitivity settings, I finally gave up and attached a USB mouse.

What really ruined the experience for me, however, was the unreliable wireless Internet connection. It worked out of the box, but after a couple of days the connection inexplicably failed and refused to reconnect to my office wireless. After a long bout of tinkering -- while all the other computers in my office stayed connected, ruling out a router issue -- an online search revealed that I'm not alone in my troubles. While I was never able to solve my connection problems, many Eee PC users say they've been told by Asus technical support that the unit must be paired with a "qualified router" -- documentation that I was unable to locate.

While the Eee keyboard is decidedly teeny, there was only a small learning curve while I got used to it, and soon I was able to type at near normal speed. For someone with larger hands, however, adapting to the small keyboard might be an insurmountable obstacle.

I have no quibble with the selected software and apps. The familiar favorites -- OpenOffice.org, Skype, Firefox, Pidgin -- made me feel at home when I turned on the Eee for the first time. I never got used to the slightly cartoonish icons, but that's just a personal preference.

Perhaps if I'd been able to work online more effectively I would have had better success incorporating the Eee PC into my daily routine. It's exceptionally well-designed and has a great package of software. It's tiny enough to slip in a small bag as I run out the door, yet sturdy enough that I don't feel I have to handle it gingerly.

The Eee PC and my kids

After I got to know the Eee PC, I handed it over to its target market: my kids. Though they've been around computers all their young lives and are used to seeing them all over our home, they were genuinely smitten with the Eee.

My three sons range in age from 10 to 7 and each took a liking to a different aspect of the unit. My oldest immediately homed in on the math and science apps and actually traded in his alloted Gameboy time for extra time with the Eee. Once he discovered the Planetarium app, he spent many evenings plugging in coordinates, then trying to locate the Belt of Orion and other evening sky goodies.

My nine-year-old loved the media apps. He made "newscasts" of himself, then mailed them to family members. He organized his pictures and videos within their respective managers, and tested out different sound effects with the sound recorder. My seven-year-old budding artist thought Tux Paint suited him just fine, and liked using the Letter Game to learn new words.

All three were able to navigate in and around the apps that interested them with no help from Mom. They had no trouble figuring out how to save their work or where the apps they wanted were likely to be found. While my children are familiar with navigating their way around a computer, the Eee's software is laid out sensibly enough that even a novice user should have no trouble figuring it out.

The Eee's keyboard's small design is ideal for a child's hands. In fact, my kids said they found it easier to type on the smaller keyboard than on a standard one.

 

Maybe someday

The Eee PC is appropriate for people who are always on the go and for whom a smartphone just isn't smart enough. It seems to fit neatly in the gap left between smartphones that do little more than push email and full-blown laptops that are overkill in many mobile situations. I could easily see myself giving up my BlackBerry for a portable computer like this one and an EVDO card so I can truly work from anywhere. Perhaps in a future iteration the Eee PC will be exactly what I'm looking for.

If I were in the market to equip my children with a computer to call their own, there's no question -- the Eee PC gets my vote.

Share    Print    Comments   

Comments

on Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

Want a better OS on the Eee?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.185.160.3] on January 11, 2008 10:33 PM
If you want a better OS on the Eee, you can try eeeXubuntu, a custom version of Xubuntu for the Eee. It features native wireless and ethernet support, Fn key support, full graphics support, and many tweaks and customizations for the Eee's small screen. I haven't tried it myself, as I don't have an Eee (but I want one :P). You can find it at http://wiki.eeeuser.com/ubuntu:eeexubuntu:home

#

Re: Want a better OS on the Eee?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.91.147.35] on January 12, 2008 11:15 PM
Love the video! :)

#

Re: Want a better OS on the Eee? - it's a work in progress

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 204.50.208.4] on January 14, 2008 02:25 PM
one of the comments on OSNews also recommended the eeeXubuntu distro. They mentioned that the wireless and some other functions are working great but that support for some of the function keys and other bits of the hardware are still being developed. It'll surely continue to mature but just be aware and check the current progress before you jump in expecting it to be a 100% replacement OS.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Cap'n Ron on January 11, 2008 10:48 PM
Disappointing to learn so many had non-stellar wireless experiences. The primary purpose of laptop seems defeated if it is not totally an untethered device. May we expect more on the mysterious qualified router ? Is a proprietory relationship between router (transmitter) and LAN chip (receiver) - inadvertant or deliberate - possible ?

#

Wireless best out of alll my devices

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.133.255.207] on January 11, 2008 11:47 PM
I've personally found that the Eee has the best performance wireless out of all my devices, better range and ease of connection.

Granted, the supplied instructions were not sufficient to find out how to make the key be remembered (answer, use [Network] rather than [Wireless networks]) but that was mentioned in the forum.

#

Re: Wireless best out of alll my devices

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 84.69.188.76] on January 13, 2008 09:30 PM
Hi. Interesting that your little Eee doesn't remember the WEP key either. I've managed to get the internet via my wireless box on a couple of occasions, but I just can't get it to retain the WEP key consistently. How do you do it???? Trying to get techncial support for Asus is about as fruitful as using a chocolate teapot!!!! Please help me. xxx

#

Re(1): Wireless best out of alll my devices - good god man, switch to WPA

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 204.50.208.4] on January 14, 2008 02:29 PM
WEP is a dead fish and may as well be a wide open wifi point. Unless you have some technical limitations that forces you to use WEP (PalmOS device or WEP only router perhaps?), for the love of Baud, switch to WPA or WPA2 preshared keys. As far as I know, the Eee supports WPA for wifi.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 142.59.19.115] on January 12, 2008 03:20 AM
I use the Eee PC every day - using it now actually. The WiFi is great, the touchpad is great. If you are at a desk, then you can plug a bigger screen, keyboard and mouse in. The screen will automatically scale to a higher resolution. My huge paws can span 12 notes on a piano and I use the little keyboard without much trouble. Everybody that sees it wants one.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.111.137.241] on January 12, 2008 02:40 PM
I give up (and so does Wikipedia) - just what is a "qualified router"?

#

qualified router

Posted by: Lisa on January 12, 2008 09:55 PM
I don't know either, Anonymous. That was just the closest thing I could come to an answer, even when I contacted tech support. I spent quite a while trying to get to the bottom of the issue but since it was only a review unit and not one I was keeping, I finally had to give up an move on.

- Lisa

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.38.22.44] on January 12, 2008 03:06 PM
I've been using my eee pc since late November. I am puzzled by the problems others seem to be having with wireless. I have not encountered any issues. What has really sold me on the eee pc is the fact that I can run my Verizon Wireless Broadband USB modem out of the box (you do have to set it up as a modem via a walk-through in Xandros' network wizard). Funny enough--I plugged it into my work laptop (XP) and Windows choked on it and threw up several BSODs. A system restore fixed the issue, but I was reminded--again--of why I prefer Linux.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.38.22.44] on January 12, 2008 03:14 PM
I rip DVDs on my desktop and copy them to SD cards or USB drives. After installing VLC Media Player on my eee pc, I can now watch my movies while traveling (more than one flight attendant has asked me about it), check my emails, listen to XM Radio, etc., etc. Naturally I don't do these activities at the same time. :)

I LOVE MY EEE PC!

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.53.33.13] on January 12, 2008 08:28 PM
Surprising to find an article like this on linux.com about the linux wifi situation. It is a well known fact that there are many wifi APs out there that don't strictly adhere to specs, that the windows drivers often know how to handle, but sometimes not the linux ones. I've found wifi connectivity very good on my Eee, and I guess ASUS is still trying to improve its software. On the forum you linked to, it seems most problems are now resolved. Of course, incidentally flakey hardware is always a possibility.

#

Re: Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Lisa on January 12, 2008 09:57 PM
Yep, it does seem to have been resolved since I filed this story. Glad to hear it!

- Lisa

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.146.73.71] on January 13, 2008 12:47 AM
I just got my eee pc and it is amazing. Really nice touch was that it found my mac mini's printer I guess because apple use cups too. It is a really sweet machine. Everything just works. Except I keep hitting the up arrow instead of shift and I'm having a little trouble with some projectors not supporting the default resolution it puts out. This is easily solved but litterally everything else about the thing is so sweet.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.211.36.115] on January 13, 2008 03:33 PM

Poor Wireless - Seems Odd

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 221.126.140.166] on January 14, 2008 09:27 AM
It's too bad that you had problems with the wireless on your unit. I've had an Eee for several months now and I have to say it is--without question--the best wireless device I have every owned. It has connected to every access point I have ever tried and the reception is amazing. Area of my house that are not normally accessible with my other laptops are almost full strength with the Eee. It has no trouble picking up a signal through eight inches of concrete! Other friends of mine are also amazed by the reception quality.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.231.191.94] on January 14, 2008 07:29 PM
Luvvvv my new EeePC!!!! Using it now to type this message. Just bought it a week ago. I'm going to sit back a while and see what happens with the Xubuntu distro for the EeePC and then maybe I'll install it instead...but who knows...by then some other custom distros will be out for the EeePC.

Whatever...it is bringing Linux to a mainstream audience

#

Re: Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 206.48.0.60] on January 31, 2008 02:51 AM
hi there! i just bought my new EEEPC a couple days ago and i am also a new linux user. Would you be able to give some advice on how i could use the built in webcam for skype and messenger? Any suggesstions would be greatly appreciated.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 125.164.240.110] on January 15, 2008 02:46 AM
Just bought my eeepc 3 weeks ago. In the same time I bought N800. Eeepc more useful for me. It let N800 left behind n my drawer most of the time. Big bonus is the weight! Since I have my eeepc, feel my antique laptop very heavy as hell. I think Eeepc will be my main computer device now.

#

Review: Tiny Asus Eee packs a big punch

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 41.206.42.46] on January 18, 2008 09:58 AM
I have now received my eee PC 4g (701). I have tried to connect a USB modem issued by one of the local mobile phone companies, but the pc does not detect it. Anyone with an idea how this can be made to work?
Thanks
Greg

#

7 ASUS EEE Video Reviews

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.180.223.186] on January 23, 2008 08:20 PM

Wireless issues?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 119.11.99.78] on February 17, 2008 03:56 AM
I blew away Xandros and built a custom Gentoo installation.

While I was using the included OS, I noticed the wireless app doesn't disassociate correctly. Ctrl+Alt+T to open a terminal, "su -", enter your root password, "iwconfig ath0 essid none" or "iwconfig wlan0 essid none" should do the trick.

-wily

#

This story has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.



 
Tableless layout Validate XHTML 1.0 Strict Validate CSS Powered by Xaraya