My Black 4GB ASUS EeePC
My Review: 7
(Disclaimer: I work for a company in this industry, and we have a peripheral interest in this device. My opinions of the device are my own and do not reflect those of my company or ASUS.)
I just got a black, 4GB, ASUS EeePC. I have some un-boxing and first run pictures scattered throughout the post, for your viewing pleasure.
For those not in the know, the EeePC is an ultra-miniature laptop that is supposed to have an ultra-miniature price. The original estimate for the 4GB model was supposed to be $200.00, but this beauty came with a $350 price tag in the end.
However, I still think it’s well worth it, for a variety of reasons:
- compactness – there is a 7″ screen, and only 2.5 lbs to lug around
- integrated wifi – you can connect anywhere and have a full computing experience
- integrated webcam – great for Skype calls with video chat (more on this later)
- solid state hard drive – there is no traditional hard drive, so the thing runs cooler and uses less energy
- runs a Linux OS (Xandros) – though you can get a version with Windows XP (Vista won’t fly this low)
It is possible to install a variety of different Operating Systems on this machine (Linux, OSX, Windows, someone even created an optimized flavor of Ubuntu). At the moment I am leaving the Xandros version of Linux on there.
The OS is set up with a tabbed desktop which offers a combination of different applications. Some of them are traditional Linux apps (like Open Office for document creation and Skype for VOIP calls). Other “applications” are really just hyper-links to bookmarked websites. For instance, there is an iGoogle icon which, when clicked, will launch Firefox (the default web browser) and bring you to iGoogle, Google’s widgetized personal desktop. This model is semi Web-driven and similar in some respects to Everex’s gOS. Interesting.
The specs are available on a variety of different websites, including Asus’s. Here is a snapshot:
- Dimensions: 225 × 165 × 21~35 mm (8.9 × 6.5 × 0.9~1.4 in)
- Display: 7 in (17.8 cm) 800×480 TFT LCD with LED backlight
- Graphics: Integrated Intel GMA 900 graphics processor (Shared Memory Architecture), additional VGA port (up to 1600×1280 pixels)
- Storage: 4 GB Solid state drive (SSD) flash
- Memory: 512 MB DDR2-667 (upgradeable to 2 GB)
- Communication: 10/100 Mbit Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless LAN mini PCI-E card (Atheros-based)
- Audio: Realtek ALC6628 Hi-Definition Audio 5.1 CODEC; built-in stereo speaker; built-in microphone
- Chipset: Intel 910GML series
- Expansion: two PCI Express Mini Card connectors (one internally, occupied by wireless network card, another empty, accessible from opening on back of unit)
- 0.3 megapixel camera, integrated in computer lid; up to 640×480, up to 30
- 3 USB 2.0 ports
- MMC/SD (HC) card reader
- Ethernet port, Modem port (non-functional, empty)
- Microphone input
- Headphone jack
- AC power jack
- VGA out
- Kensington lock slot
As a compare and contrast I set the EeePC up next to my “Desktop Replacement,” a 17″ HP PAvillion
I have had a couple of small issues so far. The Linux version of Skype that came pre-installed does not support video chat, which is an issue, especially when there’s a web-cam built into the lid. What a waste. Fortunately, Skype has a beta version for Linux that supports video. One problem though: after I installed and ran the beta version of Skype, it didn’t recognize the webcam. I did a little research on the inter-web and found a forum post on www.eeeuser.com that addressed the issue. Unfortunately the solution was a little too technical for me, so I went to my dude Ricky and asked for help. He had to do some command-line magic, and was able to make the webcam work on Skype. (BTW, if you want to open the command line window on EeePC version of Xandros, hit Ctrl+Alt+T – that will open it up for you.)
So, now I can use the video chat on Skype. This was the first time I have ever installed a Linux application, and it’s a littleb bit different than Windows or OS X; I’ll briefly describe the process:
Download the Beta version for Linux from the Skype download page – I chose the Xandros version. Save it to your computer, don’t run it out of the download. After the download is complete, go to the”Work” tab and open the File Manager. Click on the My Documents folder and you should see a file called: “skype-debian_188.8.131.52-1_i386.deb” Right click on that file and choose “Install DEB File…” That’s it. Then you need to figure out how to do the camera part. Follow the above link for those instructions.
So now, after all of that, I am good to go right? Wrong. I opened the web browser, navigated to Facebook, and noticed a friend whose birthday is today. I tried to leave them a video message (now that my camera works) and, sadly, “no camera found.” Sighhh.
Another quick search brought me here. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a ready solution yet. It looks as though Flash player for Linux won’t support the native webcam, but I’m no authority so I can’t say for sure. I will say this though. A big part of the utility for a device like this is in staying connected remotely. The webcam is a huge piece of the value for me. Skype is a big deal, and that is now solved. The Facebook problem sucks though. It’s fun to leave videos for your friends. I just want it to work, and it doesn’t.
The keyboard, as you might expect, is tiny and difficult to type with, especially if you have meaty fingers (like myself.) I am reduced more or less to a “hunt and peck” style of typing, but I think I will get used to it quickly. I don’t plan on writing any novels on this machine. (I am using my macbook to write this post. Clearly I have too many gadgets.) Speaking of the keyboard though, it does feel a little flimsy. The keys feel cheap (and they were) and the keyboard dips a little in the middle wen you type. May pose a problem down the line, especially with heavy usage.
Watching a movie on it actually works amazingly well; the screen looks great. The default player plays .AVI files without a hitch. The volume though, even when using headphones, is way too low. On an airplane, with good headphones, I could hardly hear the dialogue, and that was with the player volume and the system volume both maxed out. Weird.
The computing power is not overwhelming, it is a small machine with a relatively weak processor and a small(ish) amount of memory. I got the 4GB model, which, with operating system using up 2+ GB of that space, does not have a lot storage. So I got a 16GB SD card which gives me a ton more storage space. However, sometimes when I am playing music on the card, and I click on something else (like the browser or the file manager) the music stops and stutters. I might upgrade to more RAM at some point which I suspect will improve the problem. But overall, given the general specs and the purpose of the device, I feel like it works pretty well.
I’d like to see an improvement in the “out-of-the-box” experience. I think the webcam should “just work.” But in terms of layout, features, size, and general usability I think it does what it is supposed to do. And the light weight and size kicks ass. So, all in all I think it’s a good device. I give it a 7.