In case you haven't noticed, laptop computers have been getting ever more powerful, with bigger and more impressive screens, and ever bigger discs. The laptop used quite commonly here at Serio are variants of the Toshiba Satellite Pro.
Whilst it's OK, it is not any more portable that the old Compaq portables I had over 5 years ago. In fact, I suspect it's a bit heavier and for certain, the battery doesn't last as long.
That's where ASUS have came in with their EEE PC. Whereas laptop computers have typically sacrificed weight and battery life for features, ASUS have decided to try to create something that is literally not a pain in the neck by going for portability and battery life. My new 901 weighs 1Kg and is about slightly larger than a paperback novel, as shown in Figure 1.
Early versions of the ASUS suffered from poor connectivity, and were fiddly to use. With the EEE 901, most of these niggles are resolved.
To help users on the move, it doesn't have a conventional hard disc - ie, a mechanical one with a disc that spins. Instead it has a virtual 12GB (20GB on Linux) hard disc that is actually implemented in Solid State RAM, called a Solid State Shockproof Drive. It's something useful if you use the computer in environments where jolts are commonplace, like the Stansted Airport to Liverpool St Stansted Express I travelled on last week. The chance of a jolt damaging the disc is practically nil.
The screen is about 8 inches across and the resolution is 1024 x 600. It's readable, and you'll find yourself able to read most web pages and emails, but it does feel small. However, as the only alternative is a physically larger device, I'll have it the way it is.
The keyboard is, for me, the worst aspect. Maybe you just have to get used to it, but every sentence I type has a typo (nothing new there then), and the all important number pad keys like home and end are difficult to use. The feel of the keys is also not good, one just seems to merge in with the next.
There are two versions of the EEE 901. One machine comes installed with Linux, and one with Windows XP. The linux version has had some issues with connecting to wireless networks but the XP version seems OK.
The battery life is a claimed 8 hours. I'm not sure what you have to do to get that, but certainly 5 hours can be expected (way ahead of most laptops).
On the whole, I think it's great. When you are carrying it it's like you've forgotten your computer it is so light, and because the battery life is so good you don't need to carry the power supply around so much.
An alternative take on the ASUS eee is here (the earlier 701).