Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Low-Cost Product Review: Asus Eee PC

Recently I tried out a new laptop: the Asus Eee PC. In the end I returned it, paying a 15 percent restocking fee, but that's not to say I won't miss the little bugger.

I thought I would share my impressions with you because I think this would be a good low-cost laptop for people who are on the go a lot. If I were still a working reporter, I would definitely buy one.

What it's like: It only weighs two pounds. I love that! I would slip it into my diaper bag and actually forget I had it with me. It is not, of course, as big as a regular laptop -- the keyboard and screen are both smaller. The version I bought uses Linux, which I would recommend (it was so peppy and also cheaper than the Windows version). The version of Linux it used was tweaked especially for this computer and the interface was extremely intuitive. I don't think any Windows user would have trouble using the interface, and the programs such as the Firefox Web browser and OpenOffice work just like Explorer and Word. It doesn't have any kind of drive, just a bunch of card slots and cable ports. And, of course, built-in wireless.

Pros: It worked quickly, which is what I was yearning for after years of using a laptop that gets slower with each new Windows patch. I liked being able to load the SD card from my camera right into it. The wireless system was able to pick up all kinds of networks and getting online was very easy. The screen was somewhat readable in daylight. And it is soooo light.

Cons: The keyboard is so small that a touch typer like me makes a lot of unexpected mistakes. I gave it a couple of weeks to see if I could get used to it, but in the end I found myself missing a full-sized keyboard. The small monitor size means you have to scroll a lot, but that didn't bother me. You have to re-connect to wireless every time the computer wakes up from sleep, something that really annoyed me. Sometimes it lost its wireless connection for no apparent reason. Reconnecting was easy, but it still annoyed me. Finally, the mouse-click button was hard to press. That sounds minor, but in the end this may be why I returned the computer. Also, the battery did not seem to last very long, only an hour or two. I think maybe the battery was draining while the unit was supposed to be asleep.

In the final analysis: At $350 (there are models for less with less memory, and models with more memory and with Windows for more), this was a great performing laptop for a writer who isn't interested in video games or media (although video did play on it just fine). It is ultraportable. However, you may feel a bit silly hunched over such a tiny laptop and pecking out keys if you mainly use it -- like I did -- while sitting on your couch.
Looks like there is now a more expensive version out with a bigger screen, but the same sized keyboard. Now that I returned my Eee, I'm trying to decide between just getting a lighter full-size laptop (I always liked my Fujitsu Lifebook but they are too expensive) and trying out the Wind.

Note: The link above takes you to Amazon, where I am signed up for the affiliate program. That means if you buy the product through this link, I would make money! So if you end up buying an Eee, by all means buy it here and help me pay the cleaning lady so I can write more!