Eee PC: Bigger than a PDA, smaller than a laptop

Anthony Caruana
14 February, 2008
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The Asus Eee PC might have a funny name but it’s a great little computer. At a tick over 900g, it’s small and light enough to pop into just about any bag. As an ultra-compact system it does plenty although it has some limitations.

On the hardware side, the Eee PC is robust and ready to go at a moment’s notice. By eschewing a spinning hard disk and using 4GB of flash memory it’s able to save on power and deliver a lightning-fast start-up time. The Eee PC runs Xandros Linux and the installed applications, including the Open Office Suite, launched quickly and typical actions like launching and saving documents never kept us waiting. The 7-inch display runs at 800×480, which is adequate, and there’s a VGA output for connecting a screen or projector.

When a computer is shrunk to this size, one thing that does suffer is data input. The Eee PC’s keyboard sports a full set of keys, although I found that the reduced size of the keys lead to numerous errors. Once I’d tapped in a couple of hundred words (the equivalent of a short letter), my error rate dropped. There’s a touchpad for controlling the mouse pointer and a large button. However, the button was unreliable with many clicks going unrecognised making me think that there was no button and that the only way to click was by tapping on the pad.

In addition to Open Office, there’s Firefox for browsing, Thunderbird for e-mail and a host of other programs. If you prefer to use a full keyboard and mouse with the Eee PC or plug in a memory stick, there are three USB 2 ports. Comms are covered WiFi and it was able lock into wireless access points easily. My shared printer, hanging off a Mac Mini, was automatically found and set up, I could see shared folders on the family’s Macs. The Eee PC appeared in Finder when I shared a folder, making document movement between the Eee PC and my Mac very straightforward.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The Eee PC represents good value as a mobile computer. It fills the gap between a full laptop and a PDA, delivering a desktop computing experience in a tiny, lightweight package that fits nicely in a networked Mac environment. If it included integrated 3G or HSDPA comms it would be a killer device.

Asus Eee PC

Type Portable computer
Rating 3
Pros Small, integrates with Mac network
Cons Feels like Windows
SRP AUD$499
Manufacturer Asus
Distributors Brightpoint Australia 1300 300 213; Ingram Micro Australia 1300 651 124; Synnex Australia 1300 100 100
Reviewer: Anthony Caruana

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