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The idea behind mini-notebooks and other small electronic gadgets pleases the techie in me. When I saw the first 7-inch model of the ASUS Eee PC, I thought that it was a great concept, but the keyboard was just a little too small for my hands. ASUS has since released its 1000 series of minis, which now include a 10-inch screen, larger keyboard and more processing power.
They’ve got the right size this time.
When I started unpacking the Eee, I was impressed with the way ASUS packaged the little notebook. I know it might be strange to include packaging material in a review, but any tech person who has removed a notebook from a crushed box knows the importance of packaging.
Inside the box was the usual “Getting Started” poster and a power brick. A nice addition to this mini-notebook is that ASUS includes a microfiber cloth for cleaning the shell and the screen, something that would be welcome with all notebook purchases. Also included on the notebook are three USB ports, a VGA connector, an Ethernet jack and a SD card reader.
The model that I evaluated came equipped with the 1.6 gigahertz Intel Atom processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 40GB solid-state hard drive and Linux (rather than Microsoft Windows). The Linux system boots fast, and everything I launched ran fast as well. But any programs that require a substantial amount of computing power will suffer because of the processor. For example, I loaded Windows XP during testing and noticed it took nearly 90 minutes to load Service Pack 3 on top of the WinXP SP2 install. I didn’t seem to run into these issues while using Linux, however, and I suspect that it has to do with the specially tuned version of the Xandros Linux distribution that came preloaded.
The mini came bundled with several open-source software titles, as well as Sun Microsystem StarOffice. I ran into some issues with StarOffice and ended up replacing it with a more current version of OpenOffice, which made the notebook more reliable.
I normally take a notebook computer to meetings so that I have my calendar available — as well as access to files, the web and e-mail as necessary. I decided to take the little Eee with me rather than my regular system. Technology personnel will appreciate the built-in Remote Desktop program that allows access to Windows servers wherever you can find a network connection.
When booting the notebook, it presents a unique operating environment with all your icons on the desktop arranged in folders — a bit different from the familiar launch or Start menu. I found the desktop easy to navigate for accessing preloaded programs but couldn’t figure out how to add programs to the screen. This was frustrating, but I quickly found some hacks on the web that let you to run the standard K Desktop Environment (KDE) instead of the standard Eee desktop, turning this into a quite powerful netbook.
Battery life on this unit was also impressive at five to six hours, and the standby/hibernate features extended battery life significantly.
Although I was pleased with the customized Xandros Linux version that came on the Eee, it needs some tweaks to accommodate a power user. The keyboard was much more useable than that of the 7-inch Eee, but I still ran into some issues with the right-hand Shift key because of its placement. It took a conscious effort to hit that key rather than the up arrow — many times I found myself typing one line higher than where I wanted to be.