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Reviewer Eees and ahhs over $400 Linux mini-laptop

Oct 30, 2007 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

An ultra-low-cost Linux-based mini-laptop has received four stars and an Editor's Choice award in a recent Laptop Magazine review. The Asus Eee PC (3EPC) 701 ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) was praised for its clutter-free desktop, fast start-up, and — considering the price — generous… features.

Earlier reports pegged the Eee PC's price at $190, and then at $250. However, the first shipping model in the 3EPC line barely squeezes in under $400.

Still, reviewer Mark Spoonauer says the laptop compares well to other UMPCs, some of which cost even more.

Standard features include a 900MHz Intel Celeron processor, 512MB RAM, and a 4GB solid-state hard drive, expandable via an SD card slot. I/O interfaces include built-in 802.11b/g WiFi, three USB ports, a VGA port for external displays, and wired Ethernet and modem jacks. There are also headphone and mic jacks.

Asus EEE PC 701

Spoonauer likes the ease of use and set-up of the Eee PC, as well as the small footprint, fast start-up, and lack of “crapware.” These attributes stem largely from its Linux foundation, in this case an Asus-branded version of Xandros. Most applications load in about eight seconds, writes Spoonbauer, and Web-surfing performance is reasonably fast, with capable handling of sites that use Ajax and Flash.

The review praises the quality of the 7-inch, 800×480 WVGA LCD display, noting that several other UMPCs top out at 5 to 6 inches. Image quality is maintained when the device is used to drive an external 20-inch ViewSonic monitor at 1024×768, Spoonbauer reports.

Spoonbauer is impressed with MPEG-4 video playback, and he says the small stereo speakers work fine playing MP3s and WMAs. The laptop cooperated with a wide variety of peripherals, including keyboards and mice, he reports.

Spoonbauer liked the selection of pre-installed software, praising the Firefox browser, Skype VoIP, instant messaging client, and learning games. Other pre-installed applications include 2.0, a file manager, a PDF reader, and the Thunderbird email client.

EEE PC 701's Xandros desktop

On the downside, the built-in keyboard reportedly is somewhat poorly designed, and the reviewer was unhappy with the limited 4GB storage and lack of a DVD drive. Battery life topped out at a meager 3.5 hours, yet the charging adapter is quite compact.

Spoonbauer found it difficult to find and install new applications, and the lack of overall application selection was deficient compared to Windows and Mac laptops, he reckons. Other drawbacks included a webcam that wasn't working properly (Asus is working on new drivers), and some poorly formatted menu screens.

Asus is targeting the Eee PC at children and seniors, and the reviewer believes that they will appreciate the “streamlined, tab-based interface.” Yet, he suggests that the intended audience may not like the small screen. With its low cost and footprint, the 3EPC may be more suitable as a general-purpose, secondary Internet appliance or travel computer, he suggests.

Summing up, Spoonbauer noted that the Eee PC “runs circles around UMPCs powered by Vista and XP, in terms of performance, price, and ease of use, but not application support.” To see the entire review, click here.

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