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EeePC Review - Part 2

In Part 1 of this review, I covered some of the basic features and a few of my initial impressions of the EeePC, which runs a custom version of the Linux (Xandros) operating system. In this, Part 2 of my review, Iíll share a few more observations about this little computer thatís just perfect for the geek on the go.

When you open the EeePCís lid and press the plastic-thatís-supposed-to-look-like-chrome power button, youíll hearówell, youíll hear just about nothing. Itís almost eerie because itís so quiet, and youíll tend to question if you even pressed the power button. But a few seconds later youíll see the power indicator spring to life, and the EeePC splash screen will appear.

If you want to upgrade your EeePC, the first decision youíll have to make is whether you want to void your warranty by installing a gig of memory. At least that was the thinking originally. But in roaming around the Web, I found a statement from Asus that says that upgrading RAM (in models that permit it) does NOT void your warranty. I bought the 701, 4-gig model and replaced the 512 factory-installed memory with 1 gig. Iím not sure if that voids my warranty or not, but I donít really care. It was my experience that it ran great with 512MB of RAM, so I wouldnít consider increasing the RAM to be vitally important. But it was available, and thatís enough of a reason for me to want to give it a try.

I should note, too, that even though the EeePC comes with 4GB solid-state storage, only about 1.3 gigs are available for data, the rest is consumed by the operating system. With that in mind, you might want to order an additional SD card. It simply slips into a slot on the right side of the unit. Installing this additional storage is truly a no-brainer. Your biggest challenge will be to insert it right-side-up. If you canít get that right, Iím sorry, but youíll have to turn in your unit.

The battery is a 5200 mAh battery. I had never heard of an mAh battery, other than when saying something like, ďGet your hands off mah battery.Ē I learned that mAh stands for MilliAmp Hour, a term that describes how much energy a particular battery will hold.

As far as the EeePCís battery, youíll get up to 3.5 hours use, depending if wireless is enabled, speakers are on, and the level of brightness of the LCD.

Another nice feature is the small AC power adapter. It has a cord that stretches nine feet, which provides ample opportunity to get tangled up in it and break your neck. What Asus needs to do is incorporate a retractable power cord within the unit itself. How cool would that be, not to have to carry around an AC adapter? (Memo to Asus: Send any royalties for this brilliant suggestion to Michael Cady c/o RedSeven Computers.) It takes about four hours to recharge a totally drained battery, with the unit off.

The display, even though only seven inches, and only 800 x 480 resolution, is excellent. The text is clear, and is plenty bright. The viewing angles aren't horrible from side to side, but the vertical viewing angles leave a little bit to be desired. Thatís easily resolved if you simply sit down behind the keyboard instead of standing above it. Presto! Problem solved.

What few criticisms I have about the EeePC are minor, particularly in light of the fact that the 4GB unit I purchased a scant cost $399. A 2GB unit is only $299! How can you afford not to have one?

Speaking of price, I was cleaning out my desk last week when I came across a 1996 purchase receipt. It was for a new IBM 760ED ThinkPad, with 16MB of RAM, a 2.1 gig hard drive, a data-dusting 28.8 modem, all weighing in at a truss-bustiní 7.3 lbs. My special price for this bad boy: $6800. The price of the EeePC is less than the amount of sales tax I paid for that beast.

The EeePCís Desktop menu layout is about as simple and straight-forward as it can be. You can initiate a command to enable the ďAdvancedĒ mode, which results in a fuller-featured KDE Desktop, but I havenít figured out how to do that yet. For the time being, the Easy Desktop format is good enough for me.

Across the top of the Desktop are a series of tabs: Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings, Favorites, and Help.

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The Internet tab is self-explanatory. You will note, however, that there are two ďConnectionĒ icons in Easy mode. I discovered that itís best to use the Network icon to access your wireless connection because it remembers any router key information. For some reason, the Wireless Networks tab doesnít do that. At least it didnít for me. Maybe it hates me. Iíll have to get back to you on that.

By default, wireless should be enabled at start-up, but you can make sure your wireless is enabled by pressing the Function Key plus F2.

Under the Internet tab, youíll find your Web mail setup where you can access Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or (gasp) AOL. The Web icon launches Firefox and thereís an icon for Google, Skype, Messenger, Google Docs, the KDE World Clock, which is very cool, a shortcut to Wikipedia, and Internet Radio.

The Work tab displays various office-related programs. OpenOffice 2.0 comes installed. As long-time subscribers of my weekly computer-help newsletter know, you can avoid spending hundreds of dollars for the purchase Microsoft Office if you use OpenOffice, instead. It does virtually everything Microsoft Office does, plus itís free. Boom! Thereís the cost of your EeePC right there.

Nice big icons on the Work tab take you to Accessories, which includes a calculator, Information Manager, and a screen capture utility. The Work tab also provides shortcuts to OpenOfficeís documents, spreadsheets and presentation software, plus a Mail icon, which launches my favorite mail client, Thunderbird.

Thereís also a File Manager, which is a Windows Explorer-like interface, a dictionary that is truly dreadful, and a Notes feature that functions like a yellow Post-It notes feature.

The Learn tab at the top of the Desktop is geared towards the kiddies. It has basic programs to assist your little slackers with math, language, science and artóas if theyíre going to actually learn something. Sure, they are.

The Play tab has some pre-loaded games, such as Solitaire, Frozen Bubble, Penguin Racer, Sudoku, Potato Guy, LTris, and arguably the most popular game in the Ďhood, Crack Attack. For purposes of full disclosure, other than Solitaire and Sudoku, I have no idea what any of those other games are or how theyíre played.

The Play tab also has a media player, photo manager and video manager. The sound recorder isnít the best and with the microphone positioned next to the touchpad, it records a lot of extraneous noise. But then again, remember that the whole kit and most of the caboodle only cost $399 (or $299, depending on the model), so youíve got to cut it some slack.

The Settings tab, not surprisingly, is where youíll find your user settings and related tweakables. Here you can add printers or programs, which Iíll cover in a future article, plus you can check your system with the integrated diagnostic tools. It also includes an anti-virus program, and thatís not because Linux needs protection from viruses, but rather if somebody sends you a file that has a virus, before you forward it to somebody else, itís a good idea to check it for viruses. Your EeePC wonít be affected in the least, however. Such are the joys of using Linux.

Clicking the System Info icon displays some information thatís good to know, such as the BIOS version and date, build information, CPU type, memory size, and battery status.

The manual instructs new users to update the systemís BIOS first thing, which is easily accomplished by clicking Settings > Add/Remove Software. After I updated the BIOS, I started receiving a CMOS error on startup, but by updating the BIOS a second time, I was able to resolve that problem.

Adding and removing programs is as simple as clicking the Add/Remove Software icon while online, letting it check for updates/new programs. If it finds anything, it will display it immediately and you can then elect to install any updates. Itís very, very easy.

I bought my EeePC through and as I said, I paid $399 for the 4GB model, plus I bought 1GB of memory for $23, a 4GB SD card, also for $23, and the Targus mini-mouse for $16, so my grand total, out-the-door, including tax, title, lube, oil and filter, was $480. If youíre located in Arizona and youíre interested in purchasing one or more EeePCs (they make great gifts!) purchase it from your local Linux experts at RedSeven Computers, for the best support available anywhere. And tell them ďMr. ModemĒ sent you!

All things considered, I think this is an outstanding little computer. Itís not the official computer of NASA, and youíll never see chess champion Gary Kasparov playing against it, but for a very easy-to-use, Linux-based system thatís perfect for email, surfing the Web, and doing some light word processing, the EeePC cannot be beat.

Click HERE to read Part 1 of this riveting, compelling review of the EeePC ďUltramobileĒ computer.

Mr. M.

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