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For some time I have been aware of a much hyped product which was due to be released in November of 2007. This Ultra Portable laptop was originally pitched to sell at $200 (which would have made it around £100), but has since increased in price until its sale price in the UK is £211.

However for a UMPC this is still very cheap.

Called the Asus Eee PC 4G (the Eee stands for Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play), this unit ships with a solid state 4 Gigabyte Disk with a preloaded Linux based OS, which boasts a boot time of 15 seconds.


The specifications for this laptop are equally impressive for the price tag.

- 7" compact design and only 0.92kg
- Durable, shock-proof solid-state design
- Rich network and wireless connectivity
- Graphic user interface for simplicity and ease of use
- Over 40 built-in applications for learn, work and play

Mobility & Reliability
¿ At 7" and weighing only 0.92kg, you can take the Eee PC anywhere. ¿ Bumps and shocks are no longer issues. With a dependable solid-state disk, you get unparalleled shock-protection and reliability. ¿ Power-efficient design provides longer operating time when on the go.

Ease & Technology
¿ With a rapid start-up time, the Eee PC is always ready to get into action. ¿ No technical manual required with the specially designed, user-friendly and intuitive graphic interface.

Work & Connectivity
¿ You're always connected with built-in WiFi 802.11 b/g that automatically detects and connects to the Internet at any hotspot. ¿ The Eee PC includes the documents and the e-mails software, and a suite of other productivity software to help keep you on track. ¿ Upload photos and videos and share them instantly on Flickr or YouTube without waiting till you get home.

Media & Entertainment
¿ Enjoy music and videos with extensive support for a wide range of digital multimedia. ¿ Log on to Skype or other network, and you can connect with friends anywhere, anytime. ¿ Clear up wire clutter with the built-in card reader, camera, speakers, and microphone.

The Eee PC is running a version of Intel's 910 mobile chipset, it uses a 900MHz Intel Dothan based Pentium M CPU, it has 512MB of DDR2 memory, full 802.11g wireless capability, and a flash-based hard drive. There will be at least two different models of the Eee PC, with the current version using a 4GB flash hard drive and yet to be released version using a 8GB drive.

Although 4GB of storage is extremely small when you consider that the industry is shipping 750GB hard drives on the desktop and 200GB+ hard drives on the notebook front already, the 4GB flash drive keeps costs very low, and cheap external storage can very easily be added to the Eee PC. The Eee has 4 USB slots, a Media Card reader which is compatible with all major card media (MMC, etc). Also in addition to the wireless networking, the Eee has a wired NIC.

Whilst the Eee ships with a pre-loaded Linux based OS, it is capable of running Windows XP, although the small Solid State Disk will be quickly used, so it is recommended that you only install those features that you really need.

You can read more about this laptop at http://eeepc.asus.com/en/

Also there are a number of reviews on the web and several of these are listed below:http://www.hothardware.com/Articles/Hands_on_with_the_ASUS_Eee/

http://reviews.cnet.co.uk/laptops/0,39030092,49293507-1,00.htm

http://www.engadget.com/2007/11/01/eee-pc-review-roundup/

http://www.trustedreviews.com/notebooks/review/2007/10/30/Asus-Eee-PC-4G-701/p1
 If you want to see what the Linux front end looks like, there is a simulator already on the net which effectively demonstrates most fo the screen function of the device. You can find this at http://honeypothack.com/eee/internet.htm

Anyway, within the School of Geography we have ordered one of these devices to evaluate for a range of purposes, not least of which is provision of an inexpensive fieldwork laptop which has a low replacement cost if damaged in the field. Other members of staff have already started to express an interest in this device as well.

I'll post a hands on review as soon as we have recieved this device and had chance to test it, in the mean time if you would like to have a look at this when it arrives let me know.

John


5 Comments

  1. Well its come, PC World failed to deliver in spectacular style, so one cancelled order later and a re-order from Ebuyer and its here next day.
     First Impressions

    Well lets start by saying that the box it arrived in is smaller than some laptops. Upon opening the laptop is very small, and light. Build quality is better than I expected, and the keyboard is responsive, if a little small. You're not going to write a novel on this thing.

    But it has 3 USB slots so nothing to stop you plugging a full size keyboard into it if you want to do some major league typing.

     Setup was a doddle on the native Linux OS, answer half a dozen questions and you're off.

    More to follow....

  2. The 14 Year Old Challenge

    Well, I took the wee beastie home last night and decided to subject it to the ultimate challenge, a teenage girl. Thats right we let Nuggie loose on the Asus Eee PC.

    The first E in the name was definately well earned as she picked up the laptop and was off browsing with no problem.

    Strangely the smaller keyboard actually work well for her hands (and Kelly's) so I guess a womans touch is the charm on the smaller keyboard.

    The Firefox browser handled all the web pages she chucked at it including the dreaded neopets and runescape, so handling Java applications is not a problem.

    In fact the only problem I had, was convincing her it wasn't windows (wink)

  3. Windows, will it run it or is the advert over hyping it

    Todays test was to try and install windows XP and MS Office onto the Eee.

    The instructions in the book were clear and easy to follow, but the installation process takes quite a while using a USB DVD drive.

    Once windows was installed another long process followed installing the drivers. To be fair this process involved little interaction as the driver cd has one operation to install all 7 drivers.

    Following the optimising Windows XP guide in the manual freed up an additional Gig of Hard disk, which doesn't sound like much, but when you only have 4 its alot. Unfortunately I got a little carried away and deleted a wrong file, so I had a few error messages.

    Office was a straight forward install, but I removed all the unnecessary options to save space, leaving around 2.5 Gig free when I had finished.

    The windows booted, well fast, faster than a typical laptop infact. And running office was equally fast.

    So I guess we can say that this lil beast is fine as a windows lappy as well as Linux.

    On the topic of linux the restore using the included CD was straight forward and only took 5 minutes.

    Next test - The Eee and the Geek!

  4. Feedback from Paul Nathanail - School of Geography

    The EEE PC worked well; quick start up times were appreciated. The keyboard was fine (though I am used to small keys). I got it to work with an external disk drive and external screen - no problems there at all. It hooked up to my home wireless router and surfing times were fine. The charger seemed to get quite hot so I decided not to leave it plugged in overnight. I suspect the next version will have a larger flash drive (4GB is somewhat restricted) 

    Overall it handled well and for 200-00 is very good value.

  5. Feedback from Ian Conway- School of Geography

    Useability

    1) The touchpad suddenly lost all sensitivity. I had to go to the set up
    and access the sensitivity bar to move it from minimum to maximum
    sensitivity.

    2) Battery life could be important for such a portable device. What is
    the cost of replacement batteries? Are they like i-pods where the cost
    is over 50% of the replacement cost of the device.

    3) It ran 'word', powerpoint and opened some photos on a memory stick
    OK.

    4) I think that using it outdoors in the field for research might find
    the limit of its durability.

    5) In summary I found it pretty straightforward and easy to use.

        Ian