Two weeks ago I acquired a netbook for travel. I face a few weeks on the road, and a light device that's good for email, web and writing will be just the thing. So I bought an Asus Eee PC, model 1001P.
The iPad was very tempting, but unfortunately, although it looks way cool, at heart it's a toy. Try typing on it, or connecting a USB. Or multitasking. The iPad is however streets ahead of everything else as an eReader. I much prefer the high quality backlit screen of the iPad to any of the eInk systems, and I never thought I'd find myself saying that. If only someone could marry Apple's product management to Microsoft's engineering, it would be awesome.
So I got the Eee PC, and my girls instantly named the machine Giggles. Forthwith is Gary's evaluation of Giggles.
First, the good news:
The battery life is incredible at 9 hours or more. Who would have thought advertising could tell the truth?
The small keyboard's not as much of an impediment as I expected. If like me you can touch type then you'll hit a lot of wrong keys, but it can be got used to with a lot of practise. Ditto, the mousepad is small but usable.
Connectivity is surprisingly good. (and far better than that iPad I mentioned…)
I expected a restrictive 10.1" screen size and therefore was not disappointed. It's usable for writing.
The portability is excellent. I carry Giggles to places where I used to take pen and paper.
It's so cheap, it's like buying a disposable computer. Value for money is A+.
Now for the bad news. Considering what I paid for it, it's rude to complain, but that won't stop me:
The Intel graphics chip is awful. Giggles is happiest at 1024x600 with no external monitor. Giggles can drive an external monitor—even my 24" monitor in portrait mode—but don't expect to look at it too long without getting eyestrain or a headache. There is a weird problem which I haven't worked out yet with viewing video from disk files—audio works but video is nothing but black—though streamed video from the net works fine.
You can practically see the steam-driven cogs make the CPU tick over. Sometimes I type text, and a few seconds later the machine catches up. No one in their right mind would run Vista or Win 7 on this box. XP's the strained limit. It might actually make a reasonably undemanding linux platform.
Asus includes a whole pile of "helpful" system utilities. These silently take over from standard Windows control panel dialogs, so that things don't behave like they should. For example, you can set screen resolution through the standard dialog all you like; and it won't do a thing because Asus has pre-installed a service called astray that sets the resolution to 800x600. You can see the resolution change from your own settings on boot as soon as astray starts. It took me two days to realize how much my life would improve if I hunted own and removed all the "helpful" utilities. Vanilla XP works just fine.
All in all, very usable as a takeaway machine. I might even manage to write while I'm away.