First of all, this will cover how I feel of Eee PC and surely I have both impressions and disappointments; however, in this article I will talk about Eee PC with Xandros Linux only; I just want to know how good Eee really is, not something else. You will find Windows XP Eee PC in the second month article though, so this way you will get more depth in detail. Hope this would be interesting.

First Impression:-

You will have no idea how it actually is if you haven’t seen this in person; its size seems to fit in every lady bag. This could help you image how small it is. Moreover, Eee PC is just getting into people so fast; it likes sort of love at first sight feeling really; one of my friends instantly decided to get Eee PC as soon as selling her old laptop after touching and testing on my Eee PC. How could you believe that? but it’s real.

That feeling gets into me too; I really impress how small, portable, neat, yet powerful it is. I could turn it on and it would be ready for me to use in less than 25 seconds–this is coming from turn-off state, not hibernate or standby or any kind. From using experience, you will not find any lag much such as 2-4 sec for opening Firefox, Skype, and most, but you will have about 8 sec lag with OpenOffice which I think it’s not bad at all. This proves that 900MHz is more than enough to run this device; IMO, since Eee PC’s screen is only 800px*480px could be the main reason why it doesn’t require that heavy processor.

Size does matter

it really matters for Eee PC. Since it is both the vital factor for everyone interesting in it and main reason why it has a drawback. For you guys who hesitate to get one, I think all these following photos could help you a bit. I can say that the 7-inch screen is enough to show enough web content, and you could increase font size as you want as well. No doubt with the quality of screen–nice, crisp, wide range of brightness, LED-backlit–no leakage, about 133 DPI. Unfortunately, if this has an option for larger screen, it would be excellent. I would rather give $100 for 3” more.

         

Size does effect keyboard as well. For Eee PC, you have almost standard notebook keyboard layout but just smaller, darned small and some awkward key position. I found this is just too small for my hand, but once I forced myself, I’m okay with it. I can type almost 90% correct because around 7 keys on the right is just too small to type precisely without looking it and right shift and arrows are in damned awkward position. Eee which sells on other countries might have another layout though. About the quality, you won’t find any hi-end feeling in very portable laptop like this, but it is not that much flex to effect your typing experience indeed. Another thing that I hate about this keyboard is grave accent (`)  position; it’s between “esc” and “f1” instead of right before “1” as usual. Oh I almost forget mention missing “ctrl” key on the right as well. Overall, in order to compromise with small size and a full keyboard, so this is such a good deal.

   

Smaller chassis also exacerbates mouse pad size; this is the thing I don’t like about Eee.  It doesn’t mean it’s not good to use–still working great, but it’s just too small sometimes. If Asus just enlarges this a bit or about twice bigger than this (just increase the width of mouse pad like you see on MacBook), it should be very good addition. Furthermore, I will always impress the soft feeling of the button, unfortunately you can’t find that with the mouse button on Eee. You are likely to put a bit hard, then you will here “CLICK” loud enough so that you can hear from 3 feet away. This doesn’t effect anything but I just don’t like it. Let me tell you something, it’s just a joke to me when I first got Eee PC. I thought, from what I saw, the mouse has only one button, I had tried several times to press on the center, but it’s not working as it should. After a while I realized that it does have 2 buttons (left and right), but on the same cover. I was stupid enough to press the center which is not the button at all. What a shame!

 

The result of smaller size is need to use smaller size of battery as well to avoid something extra out of the body; however, the battery life estimation by Asus is 3 hours. I easily achieve that level with WiFi on, brightness as 50%. By the way, I haven’t had a chance to track any of CPU frequency or voltage that may vary by the time, maybe it usually runs by the half of CPU spec–I will let you know later.

Core Programs:

For the OS, I regularly use openSUSE, so with any Linux distros I don’t have much trouble; nonetheless, WiFi with the Linux is well-known problem. Unfortunately, connecting to wireless network with Eee is a breeze; Xandros Linux handles the wireless network very very well, so impressive. About installing other language inputs, esp. Thai, please jump to this blog. For other questions, this is such a great advantage of learning Linux because, like you can see with Ubuntu, there is such a great wiki & community to help you out or for finding any information you want to know.

I have read an article somewhere about Eee PC, he complained about how difficult to get a printer works with Linux, but frankly I haven’t had any problem with both local printer (USB) and network printer (Ethernet). I think for local printer it’s much easier than downloading very large driver+program for windows because, with Eee PC, only several clicks through wizard. Then you are all set. By the way, printers around me and my folks are all HP, so I haven’t had any chance to test with other brands. If I have a chance, I’ll let you know. The following is the adding network printer wizard, it’s almost automatic.

   
   

VGA port in Eee PC is awesome. You can just pop your monitor up into Eee; then you’re all set. Eee PC will detect the resolution, refresh rate perfectly, I really mean that. If you are Linux user, you know how bad Linux is when detecting the monitor. I mostly have to do anything myself for sort of strange resolution like wide screen, esp. 1440900. Eee PC surprisingly detects my 19” LCD with 1440900 resolution without any problem and it works as mirror mode which is displaying the same resolution on both screen. Strangely, at first loading x-window, the resolution will be based on the external monitor, but if you switch display mode (Fn+F5), it will change to be based on Eee’s screen. All you have to do is reloading x-window (ctrl+alt+backspace) to get the external monitor resolution. There is no lag; everything is flawlessly. This is such a easy and impressive part.

   

SD slot, the way to save your SSD life. I am not sure how long SSD will last but for 8GB model you will have SSD on PCIe slot, thus you may find a 8/16GB SSD PCIe to change in the future. However, I think it will last more than 3 years because there are tons of smart phone using the same kind of storage and they still are in great shape now. For instance, my treo has accessed to NVFS every single day, now it’s about 2 years old or so and it does not show anything strange at all. In addition, I still haven’t heard of NVFS palm devices die because of reaching maximum read/write limit, so there is nothing to worry much. For myself, I save the e-mail data and almost every documents on SD. I haven’t found any lag when accessing the data. So, if you have like 4, 8, or 16GB SDHC, it could be a real good deal; just to reserve SSD for any programs or OS and SD for any data. As a result, you will likely to have your Eee PC for good :-D

Being portable computer nowadays, it’s all about internet, maybe a bit document work but that can be done via internet as well. Thus we will focus on how good Eee PC handles the network and the internet. Xandros Linux in Eee PC uses Firefox, Pidgin, and Skype as main web browser and instant messenger. So you mostly find very good experience with surfing websites; for IM, Pidgin also known as very best IM for Linux which is able to handle almost every protocol around; Skype is also the a very good VoIP client and more importantly it is updated to suit for particularly Eee PC since Skype developer owns Eee PC as well. (how lucky we are!) but nothing is perfect…

  1. Firefox is not 100% same as it is on PC; I have no idea why but it should be on the code that web developer does recognize what OS is as well. As a result, you will find some sites don’t show up correctly or don’t show up at all. Fortunately, that’s very minority. For example, espritshop.com, some bank websites ….. Besides some sites mentioned, Firefox handles AJAX, javascript, Flash, Java Applet without any problem. I found that some Java Applet will cause few-second freeze (loading JVM) but everything will be fine then. If you need to change the menu font size, go to /home/user/.mozilla/firefox/xx…xx/chrome, then you can edit in the file ‘userChrome.css’

  2. Due to screen size, you may need to decrease menu font size or use full screen mode (F11) for better surfing experience.

  3. Skype still cannot turn on and off the camera automatically. You still have to do on your own, even though you can do some tweaks to make it easier but … as you know, it’s just not ready out-of-the-box which most people don’t like.

  4. Easy mode is not tweakable or not easy to tweak at all. Although you could edit the file directly, it’s just not that easy which I think it really should be editable by GUI, changing the backgrounds at least, because that interface is really intuitive enough for everyone to use computer. IMO, I prefer easy mode to advanced mode (KDE) just because it’s enough for the job. But if you really want to add/remove it, you have to get into terminal and type

     sudo kwrite /opt/xandros/share/AsusLauncher/simpleui.rc 
    

    then you will see bunchs of text (XML). If you want to add new icon, add something like this:-

     <parcel simplecat="Internet" extraargs="/opt/thunderbird/thunderbird" icon="asus_norm.png" selected_icon="asus_hi.png">
         <name lang="en">Thunderbird</name>
     </parcel>
    

    for more detail:- you could go to wiki on eeeuser.com

  5. A bug found in easy mode: ‘ or “ and right “alt” are not usable but you could press both right “alt” and ‘ to get ‘ as a result. This is very annoyed to me. I’m not sure of this is the result of my tweak or it’s from the beginning but I don’t find this problem with advanced mode or even in Ubuntu Live CD.

  6. Standby mode is mediocre; I found that it wastes roughly 10% per hour. This could mean Asus tweaks for very fast booting for a reason; they want you to turn off instead of standing by. For missing hibernation, that could mean Asus want to avoid more often accessing SSD which could cause shorter SSD life. At this point, I think Windows might do better job. We’ll see later on.

  7. I don’t know if this is a disadvantage, but it doesn’t provide a software management for end-user (real add/remove programs, not only an update/add some programs) at all. I think there should be a lot of folk who at least want to clean up the unused program like OpenOffice to retain space for other jobs. However, you could use Synaptic Manager that’s already in Eee by terminal and command

     sudo synaptic
    

then you will be able add/remove the program as you want to get more space now.

Overall

I could say that this is the best gadget of 2007 for sure, but for this year (2008), there are still a lot to come since Eee PC has changed the wind completely. More and more manufacturers tend to release sub-notebook or portable notebook at bargain price. OLPC that we thought as it was the same league as Eee PC is downing the ocean because the value:performance is not even on par. On the contrary, Eee PC is almost fighting on the same division as UMPC at the $1000 price range. This is such a big change! Kudos to Asus that braves enough to show an innovation at the right price. Damn! I still couldn’t imagine how good Palm Foleo is.. 10” screen, real full keyboard, available CF/SD slot for storage.. Is that dump idea to drop it? Oh man, I really want to try one of them.

Get back to Eee PC, I bet that you will find this tiny, yet powerful machine worth every penny you spend on it! If you want something light, small, and durable for surfing web and checking e-mail, go get one. Then, if you ask me whether or not this is suitable for kids, I would say it might not be a good idea though since it still needs some tweaks to get an optimal performance for entertainment; nevertheless, for Internet, work & some fun, this is way better than bulky laptop indeed.