I decided to buy myself a present for New Year's Eve, a brand new EeePC 900 16Gb. I bought the version with Windows XP, sold at roughly 300€ (VAT included), not because I am such a fan of Windows but rather because it was the only version in stock. Over the last two days I had the opportunity to give it a wild ride, so I just had to write about my impressions with this tiny gem! This, and stuff I tried on it as well ;)

Opening the box

The box contents are more than satisfactory: the EeePC and its battery, a home charger (its cables have a convenient Velcro table to keep them tidy during transportation), a wipe clothe, a soft carrying pouch (good for keeping scratches away, I don't think it will stand the test of time, though), a system restoration DVD, a quick start leaflet, a manual and a warranty card.

The overall impression from the box contents is more than satisfactory. I really liked two details: the wipe clothe and the Velcro tape of the charger's cables. I didn't like the pouch quality, it "feels" like a cheap imitation, but I might be wrong with this.

 

The hardware

Weighing less than a kilo (998 grams to be exact), it is really a portable computer in every aspect! My 3+ Kg notebook was often left behind, even when I had to meed with a friend somewhere near, mostly because it is too heavy and too bulky to carry on the bus, train, etc. The EeePC (inside its carrying pouch) snuggily fits inside my bag - whose pockets are slightly larger than A4 size - leaving enough space to fit my stuff on top of it. So, I give a big A+ on portability.

Counter-intuitively, the small screen form factor (wide screen, 8.9") is not as inconvenient as one might think. It's not too small to work with, but I wouldn't do delicate work on it for 8 hours in a single stretch. It's OK for the intended purpose (web surfing, email, office applications). It's ultra bright, thanks to its LED backlight technology, but I didn't have the chance to test it out on a sunny day yet. It makes me very confident, though, that it will pose no problem even in such an occasion.

The tiny keyboard is very responsive, but it somehow feels "fake", probably because to the inevitable small size of its keys and the short travel distance. If you have fat fingers forget about being able to type, sorry. The layout is a bit awkward, it takes a few hours until you get the hang of it. Not that you'll be able to touch type on it, but after a while you'll be able to type in a bearable speed without much typing mistakes.

The Elantech touchpad is very comfortable to use, thanks to its magnificent feel on the fingers (it's kind of silky, sweaty fingers will not "stick" on it, like on other laptop touchpads I've tried) and the large area you won't have much of a problem with it. Just make sure to adjust the pointer speed on the Control Panel; the default is too fast and makes accurate pointing virtually impossible. I really liked the multi-finger gestures (like three-finger tap for right-clicking and two-finger slide for scroll wheel emulation). I didn't like the extra, fancy features of the touchpad driver (zoom in/out, rotation, magnifier) because they slow down the response and eventually make the touchpad tough to live with.

The SSD is ultra-fast, it feels like a regular hard disk, without the noise, heat and power drain of such. The processor, even though it runs at a mere 900MHz, it caters for a surprisingly snappy performance. I guess the 1Gb RAM and the "ASUS optimized operating system" helps towards this pleasant surprise. In fact, using the EeePC gave a more responsive feeling than my desktop (3 Ghz Celeron D, 2Gb RAM, 360Gb WD HDD), so it's very good value for its money. Browsing multiple web pages with Flash objects and heavy JavaScript on Firefox didn't give me as much as a hiccup. Well done, ASUS!

The embedded web camera and microphone are a far cry from being top notch, but they are generally workable. The web camera quality is middle end, seriously lacks sharpness but works adequately in low-light environments. It also seems to be anti-glare, meaning that a bright light source behind you won't produce a disturbing halo around you. The microphone's quality is very low, making you sound like a robot, mostly due its noise-cancellation feature. The speakers are very good - their size considered.

 

Software

The included software covers most basic needs: Skype, Microsoft Works, Adobe Reader come pre-installed in the SSD. A small note, though. Trying to install IE 7 ended up in an installation error. You'll have to install a "fix" from the ASUS site before you can apply updates and install IE7. Just remember to reboot after the installation of the fixes! IMHO, this is a serious oversight for a machine equipped with XP SP3, as IE6 is an old, insecure, sub-standard browser. As a personal preference, I ultimately installed and use Firefox.

I really liked the pre-installed NOD32 anti-virus and anti-spyware solution. It's a great - and necessary - bonus. I appreciated they chose the fast and accurate NOD32 over the popular with OEM manufacturers but slow and innacurate Norton Internet Security. Since it comes pre-installed, you won't forget to enable it, either. Nice one!

Apart from that, my only woe is that even StarOffice 8 is included in the recovery DVD, it is not installed by default. Shame. You can always copy it to a pen drive and install it, though.

 

Next steps

My next steps will be creating a recovery USB stick (I don't like the idea of having to buy a USB DVD-ROM just in case I screw up my EeePC), trying out Mandriva Linux One 2009 from a bootable USB stick and ultimately installing Mandriva Linux 2009 on an 8Gb USB stick. So far, I am in the process of testing these out. Hopefully, I'll be able to write more about it later. Oh, yes, and some photos... I was too busy :D

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