I recently purchased an Asus EeePC. There are several models now-I bought the black Surf 4G. My main reason for buying it is for when I travel. While I do already own a few obsolete laptops, the ones that are reliable are bulky and either have non-working or very limited batteries. I could buy new batteries for some of them, but the batteries would actually cost more than I paid for the laptops. I do have a once very nice Gateway subnotebook. But, it has seen some brutal days in the hands of the previous owner and sadly cannot be relied upon to work regularly.
My main reason for getting a travel laptop is that I anticipate getting stuck at the airport due to cancelled flights and delays. That seems to be an annoying fact about travel today. Having a laptop makes such stays more tolerable. I just finished loading seven full length movies onto a SD card and they should help ease the pain of sitting in those airport chairs listening to the announcements of cancelled flights and the weeping of my fellow travelers.
Since I bought the EeePC for travel, my impressions are based on that purpose. In this regard, the EeePC has a lot going for it.
First, it is small and light. Its largest dimension is 8.9 inches and it weighs about 2 pounds. As such, it is ideal for travel.
Second, it has an SSD (Solid State Drive). Put in simple terms, the drive has no moving mechanical parts. This makes it fast, light and very shock resistant. A conventional hard drive is more vulnerable to jolts and jarring, making laptops equiped with them less ideal for travel. On the downside, the drive is small. On my version (the Surf 4G), the drive is only 4 GB.
Third, it boots and shutsdown very quickly. This means that you can turn it off quickly when you have to rush to your gate when they undelay your previously delayed flight.
Fourth, it has built in wireless networking so there is no external card to carry around. The wireless range is quite good-it can pick up routers in my neighborhood that my old iBook’s Airport card can’t detect. If you are stuck at an airport with wireless, you can surf the web and search for a new flight. Or write snarky blogs about how air travel is horrendous these days.
Fifth, it has all the basic software needed. For work, it has Open Office and can read and write Office files (2003/2004 and earlier). For web browsing it has Firefox. For dealing with boredom, it has music and video players. I tested it with the MPEG-1 movies (ripped from DVD years ago) and they worked just fine. The speakers are adequate, but I prefer using earbuds.
Sixth, the battery life is okay (a bit shy of 3 hours) and the adapter is compact (and has just two prongs).
Seventh, while the processor is an older and slower model the laptop is very responsive. Mine has 512 MB of RAM, which can be upgraded (1GB if you stick with the default OS, 2GB if you change the OS). I decided to stick with just the 512. That is plenty of RAM for most tasks.
Seventh, it has three USB 2 connectors and an SD slot so you can plug in extra media. I have two 8 GB SD cards for extra storage. The version I have, the Surf 4G, only has a 4 GB drive, so the extra storage is important. So, you can load up on music, movies and work to keep you occupied and take your mind off the fact that you are stuck in Atlanta or a similar airport.
Eigth, there is the price. My 4G was $350. You can get a 2G for $300, but the extra $50 gets you 2GB more hard drive space as well as the capacity to upgrade the RAM. Smartphones and PDAs sell for more and actually deliver less functionality. For the price, the EeePC is an amazing deal.
There are some downsides to the device. However, most of these arise from the qualities that make it ideal for travel.
First, it is small and hence has a small ( 7 inch) screen and a small keyboard. I got used to the keyboard quickly and found the monitor acceptable. It does have an external VGA port so you can plug in a monitor-but that is not a feature you’d use while in the process of traveling. However, the smallness is also an asset. Before you buy one, you might want to see if you can actually try typing on one. I suspect that some people will find the small size annoying. You can, of course, add a mouse and keyboard. But, for travel that is just more stuff to carry. If I was willing to carry that much stuff, I’d just pack one of my old laptops.
Second, the operating system is a modified version of Xandros. I rather like Linux, but this means that you cannot run Windows software (you can, perhaps, install Wine and run some Windows software). You can install Windows XP on the EeePC-Asus thoughtfully includes all the Windows drivers on a CD.
Also, the default setup is kind of a Fisher Price interface-with big buttons for all the functions. This makes it easy and simple to use, but I know I will feel shame if anyone actually sees me using such an interface. You can switch to a normal desktop, but you have to do some tweaking. Asus really needs to make switching to a real desktop an easy option. You can install other flavors of Linux, such as Ubuntu. Naturally, the results can vary quite a bit. Since I want a stable, reliable travel laptop that just works, I’m going to resist my normal urge to tinker with the OS. For now.
My overall impression is that the EeePC will be an ideal travel laptop, although I suspect I will find the operating system a bit limiting. If you are looking for a small, light travel laptop, you’ll probably be very pleased with the EeePC.