Anthony on , , , , 08 Dec 2008 10:28 pm

Local media guy Buzz Bishop had some questions about the netbook, so rather than miss the opportunity to write a few hundred words that no one will read, I thought I’d post it here. :)

We’ve had the Eee 901 for 5 months now.  The original intention with the netbook was for it to be a second laptop since our main laptop had been completely taken over by Gwen. There was also the thought to use it for geocaching too, but our geocaching activities have tapered off significantly due to the pending and subsequent arrival of Quinlan. Further, we’ve discovered that it’s still a bit too awkward to have in the car in the heat of the hunt.  However, we have used it on a couple road trips where we’ve had MS Streets & Trips and the USB GPS and used it to find our way around the back country of Washington State as well as Vancouver Island.

It’s turned out to be great to pick up and and take places. It is definitely the best thing to take on business trips. It’s small, light, and runs forever on the battery.  With WiFi on the whole time, I get about 5-5 1/2  hours without plugging in.  That’s long enough to get through even the longest of meetings. 5 1/2 hours almost gets me coast-to-coast on a plane (I’ll let you know how that goes on Saturday, but with the 2 kids it’s pretty unlikely I’ll get much opportunity to use it). It’s light and small enough that it tucks into my day bag without displacing anything.  It’s powerful enough for note-taking, and for running Powerpoint. Even reading PDFs and eBooks is convenient. If I were the sort (and had the time) it’d be ideal for taking to coffee shops too.

Day-to-day use is mostly what it was designed for: travelling the tubes. In the morning I check my various email accounts, blogs and Twitter before scanning the paper and eating breakfast. At night, since we’re pretty much housebound with the two kids, it serves the same purposes: blogs, email and Twitter. But, because it’s so small and light, I can use it in front of the TV, in the kitchen, or in bed as easily as not. There’s no way I’d lug the big 17″ laptop around like this.

I was a little worried about daily use and both the size of the screen and the keyboard, but neither has turned out to be an issue.  The screen is bright, crisp, and easy on the eyes. I can touch-type on the keyboard with only a slightly higher error rate than normal. The screen is a little small, but the application I have the biggest issue with — Google Reader — can be customized so that it fills the screen and it actually ends up being quite comfortable to use.  I still have problems with inadvertent brushes of the touchpad, though.

So, for its purpose, it’s been great. However, it is definitely a second (or third, fourth, etc) computer. It’s awful for photo manipulation due to the small screen and small (and slow) SSD. There’s no DVD drive, so there’s no watching (or ripping) of DVDs. It’s definitely not a machine to do development on either. But for surfing the tubes, writing short documents, blogging and Tweeting, I’m in love.

Anthony on , , , , 11 Jul 2008 11:33 pm

This past week, our computer family grew by one.  You see, we bought one of those new ‘netbook’ class laptops — a brand new Asus Eee PC 901.

The 901 is a small laptop.  How small?  Well, it has a 9″ screen, and weighs in around 2.5 lbs.  It has one of those new Intel Atom CPUs, a dual-core CPU running at 800 MHz-1.6 GHz depending on what you’re doing.  Graphics are provided by the integrated Intel GMA 950 chipset.  It has a perfectly sufficient 1 GB RAM, which can be upgraded with standard laptop SODIMMs.  It comes with a 6-cell battery which means you’re going to get somewhere between 5 and 8 hours on a charge, again depending on what you’re doing.  It’s got both WiFi and Bluetooth built in.  It has no CD or DVD drive, and no hard drive.  It does have a 12 GB solid-state drive which means no moving parts, and extends the battery life.

You can get one preinstalled with either Windows XP (12 GB SSD) or with Linux (and a 20 GB SSD).  At the moment, however, you can only buy the Windows XP version.

It has a built-in 1.3 megapixel web cam, a microphone, speakers (as well as mic + headset jacks), VGA output, an SDHC reader, and 3 … count’em *3* USB ports.

In short, it is a diminutive but fully functional and fully capable laptop.

We got it because with Gwen’s new blogging gig, our ‘old’ laptop has effectively become hers.  So this one becomes effectively mine, plus it’s portable enough to bring to parks, coffee shops, etc.  Plus, it’s the ultimate geocaching companion.  I’ve already installed GSAK and MS Streets and Trips.  We have a USB GPS that works great with MS S&T, plus our Garmin Etrex Vista CX.  With the inverter that we have, it’ll make an easy road trip accessory.

After a few days of using it, it’s lived up to all my expectations.  I’ve adjusted to the tiny keyboard, and am able to touch type on it now without too many problems.  Mind you, I won’t be writing any theses with it, but this blog post is going ok! :)  The biggest issue with the keyboard is that the number row is shifted one key to the left, so I’m often typing 2 when I mean to type 1.  The speakers are awful, but functional.  The wifi works as expected.  I haven’t tried the Bluetooth.  The 12 GB storage seems small, but is more than sufficient for what we’re doing with it.  The CPU seems to work just as good as the Core 2 Duo in our Dell laptop.  I can stream avi’s from our media server like nobody’s business.  The battery life doesn’t disappoint.  The screen is bright and sharp.  It’s a little bit wonk with a wide-screen resolution of 1024×600 (usually it’s 1024×800) which means that reading web pages means a lot of vertical scrolling.

The biggest complaint I have is the touchpad.  It sometimes seems too sensitive and sometimes not sensitive enough.  As I’m typing my thumbs occasionally brush it and suddenly the cursor is somewhere unexpected.  Clicking on buttons, however, seems to require pounding instead of clicking.

Now, I just need to keep it away from Aidan…