Sunday, March 16, 2008

Product Review: Asus Eee PC 2g Surf

I'm a contractor. This means I've moved around a lot working in different offices, and I've often lamented the lack of a means of checking my email and searching for jobs without using the client's Internet facilities (which would probably be barred anyway).

Anyone who's tried to do serious browsing or emailing on a mobile phone will probably relate to how bloody frustrating it is, so I decided that a small laptop was needed. One I could bring into work and connect to mobile roadband with. I needed something light, with a proper keyboard, reasonably sized screen, but small enough to be innocuous and not arouse corporate suspicion that I may be writing this review rather than designing service management processes. I didn't want to spend a lot, and there isn't a lot available under the £400 mark that I was prepared to live with or spend the money on. Most options were compromises between price, weight, and functionality.

Except for the ASUS Eee PC. A small sub-notebook running a customized Linux build and coming pre-loaded with Openoffice, Skype, and several other tools.  The manufacturers have done a good job of providing you with just about everything you'd need day to day. You can create documents, spreadsheets, and databases. You can watch movies (DivX supported out the box), play a few games, listen to MP3s and connect to the net through the built in wireless, modem or RJ45 network port (or external USB 3g modem but more on this in a moment) and talk to people on Skype and Pidgin instant Messenger which supports major chat networks (MSN,AIM,YIM,AOL, and ICQ plus others). Handily, and curiously, the manufacturers have provided application icons which are links to Google Docs and Wikipedia - giving these the impression of being applications rather than mere web addresses.

The 7" screen is small but usable, and the battery life is quoted as being 3.5 hours (depending on use). The Eee has a QWERTY keyboard which, though smaller than a full size keyboard, still allows fairly rapid typing with few mistakes once you get used to it. The Eee has 3 USB 2.0 ports, and external VGA connector as well as headphone & microphone jacks plus a smart card expansion slot.

In the box, as well as the Eee, mains charger, manual, quick start guide, warranty card and restore CD come a support CD with Windows XP drivers and an instruction guide detailing how to install XP. Having even having been a Windows user for years, I'm actually very happy with the standard Linux OS and applications and installing Windows is something I've not needed to consider.

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