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EeePC Review - Part 1

Personal computing has never been so portable, or so affordable, so I’d like to tell you about the Asus EeePC “Ultramobile” computer that I purchased.

The EeePC -- it’s pronounced E-P-C -- is a joint venture between Intel and Asus. Weighing in at only 2 pounds, the EeePC is very cool. Running a customized version of Xandros, the unit itself is very small, but surprisingly fast. The EeePC gets its goofy name from Asus’s advertising slogan, “Easy to learn; Easy to work, Easy to play.”

With only a 4 gigs of storage to work with, the first thing I did was obtain a second 4GB SD card, which I purchased from for $23. (Note: An 8GB model will probably be available by the time you read this, so be sure to check the Asus Web site for the most current information.)

The EeePC ships with 512MB of memory, but can support up to 1GB so the second thing to do—if you don’t mind voiding the warranty—is to replace the included 512MB with a 1GB module. There is only one memory slot, so you can’t add to the existing memory; you have to replace it. I bought the additional memory from Newegg, also for $23.

The unit’s seven-inch display is very good. I think if Asus really wanted to, they could increase resolution from its native 800 x 480, but this isn’t intended to be a super-computer, it’s just a nice little system that serves as a wonderful addition to your current computer. If you keep that in mind, and don’t let your expectations run wild, the display is excellent.

Users with bratwurst-size phalanges will not like the keyboard, but users like me, with slender-yet-manly digits, won’t have much of a problem. It has a full QWERTY keyboard, but it does take some getting used to, and you will find yourself typing in the cracks on occasion. But like anything new, the more you use it, the more proficient you will become. You can also use an external USB keyboard, if you prefer.

The built-in touchpad isn't anything fancy, and it’s smaller than you’re probably used to, but then again, so is everything about the EeePC—and that’s the point. As I mentioned regarding the keyboard, the touchpad takes some getting used to, also, but once you do, you will find that it works fine.

I used the touchpad for a few days and found it to be either too sensitive or not sensitive enough, but I suspect a lot of that has to do with my lack of technique. You can adjust the sensitivity and responsiveness by selecting Settings from the menu bar, then Touchpad.

The touchpad also features a "one button" click-pad that functions as a toggle. In other words, if you press the left side of a chrome button located at the base of the touchpad, it will result in a left-click. If you press the right side of the button—care to guess? That’s right, it results in a right-click. So intuitive!

From, I also purchased a Targus USB mini-mouse (not to be confused with Minnie Mouse), that’s about the size of, and clearly resembles, a large roach. For me, it provides a faster, more precise response than using the touchpad. Just plug it into one of the two USB ports and you’re off and mousing.

The heart of the system is an Intel Celeron processor. I know what you’re thinking, how fast can it possibly be with a Celeron processor? Well, it is surprisingly speedy. Booting up from a dead-cold start, the Desktop appears in 26 seconds flat. Why? Because it is not handicapped by Windows’ bloated presence.

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What surprised me most of all, and actually brought tears to my eyes, was that the EeePC comes with an actual printed manual. Yes, it has a cover, a table of contents, you can turn the pages, and even make notes on them. I haven’t seen a printed manual in years, and the English translation from its native Chinese is actually pretty decent.

I don’t consider this a plus, but the user manual devotes an entire section to installing XP. What’s the point? The Xandros distribution of Linux that’s factory installed is excellent and the idea here is to get away from Windows. So don’t buy an EeePC and put XP on it, for heaven’s sake. And if you do, don’t tell me about it.

To sum up the pros and cons, on the “pro” list, the EeePC is small and light, weighing in at just a smidge over two pounds. In fact, the people I’ve shown it to thought it was a portable DVD player. Its overall dimensions are 8 3/4 by 6 1/4, by 3/4 of an inch thick, so it’s slightly larger than a thin paperback book. You can easily throw it into a backpack, briefcase, or into your pants pocket—if you’re stuck in your cargo-pants phase. (Hang in there, I’m just sure they’re coming back.)

I like its flash memory instead of a traditional hard drive, and as I mentioned, additional storage is easily added through the use of an SD memory card. Some day mechanical drives will be a thing of the past, so if you decide to purchase an EeePC, you’re actually taking a little sneak peak into the future.

The manual warns about the unit’s excessive heat, and cautions that you should not leave the EeePC on your lap, or any other part of your anatomy, in order to prevent discomfort or injury from heat exposure—which begs the question, “What other parts of your anatomy would you possibly leave it on?”

The manual stops just short of suggesting that you wear oven mitts when using the EeePC, but based on my experience, that’s overstating the heat issue. It runs warm, but certainly not warmer than any other notebook I’ve ever used. The keypad can get a little warm, which will be appreciated in colder climates, so I’ve decided to consider that as a plus. There is a cooling fan that will kick in after a few minutes, but the fan runs so quietly, even if you used the device for taking notes at a funeral, it would not be disruptive and nobody would even notice.

If you’re super concerned about heat, you can also purchase a Belkin CushTop lap pad for $22 through Newegg. Interestingly enough, if you go to Belkin directly, you can buy up this little number for $35. Go figure. What I do like about the CushTop is that it’s a hollowed-out lap pad so you can shove the EeePC inside it, for easy and safe transportation. Unfortunately, it’s 17 x 13 in size, so it’s about twice as large as the EeePC.

Click HERE to read Part 2 of this riveting, compelling review of the EeePC “Ultramobile” computer.

Mr. M.

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