My Eee review
So I picked up a 4G Eee Friday, and I thought I'd post a mini-review (which I'm naturally doing from the Eee). :)
What I was looking for was a field computer for work. I just need something to help me keep track of my notes as well as to use MS Excel spreadsheets. I debated going with a Windows Mobile PDA, but when I realized that the cheapest PDA is priced competitively with the entry level Eee, I thought tossed the PDA idea and went with a fully-functional notebook. I didn't want a big, bulky notebook either, as I'd like to take this around without needing a huge carry bag (in fact, the Eee actually fits inside one of my clipboards). When it came down to it, the Eee seemed like the perfect option for what I needed.
My initial plan was to go with the base model and then install an nLited version of Win2k, which would hopefully give me what I needed without getting too resource intensive. I ended up going with the 4G (vs 2G) for the extra storage space ($349), but I lucked out when I discovered the 4G has upgradable RAM, which the 2G does not (though 512mb is more than enough for 2k).
First of all, yes, this thing is tiny. It took a little trial-and-error, but eventually I managed to get 2k on it. The hardest part was working around the lack of an optical drive. You either need a USB external optical drive, or a desktop PC and a sizable USB storage device. I just transferred files to my 2GB thumb drive for my installation needs. Installing the drivers was actually pretty easy, as the Asus-provided XP-driver CD worked just fine on 2k. The same was true for all the other apps. Here's what I installed on the machine:
Office2000 (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access)
Paint Shop Pro 9
Firefox 3.0 RC
Total space used: 1.27gb
I guess I could have gone with the 2G and still had room to spare. :p
The keyboard is smaller than average, but after a couple days, I've actually gotten pretty fast typing on it. I'm also getting better with the small trackpad (which thankfully scrolls left and right and up and down). The screen size is actually pretty usable, despite being only 800 x 480. It's wise to auto-hide the taskbar and shrink your toolbars as much as possible. Here's a couple examples of the space you end up with when you manage it carefully:
Mobility isn't too bad either. At 2lbs, this thing is a fly-weight, yet I don't feel like it's fragile in the slightest. The WiFi adapter actually does pretty well, too, as it picks up both of my neighbors' wireless signals. :) Connections seem to hold up well, and surfing speeds seem fast enough. Battery life is also decent. I managed to get about 3-4 hours on my first full charge, and that included tasks like installing windows and other apps. Boot up is also quick, taking 30 seconds to get from power-on to using windows.
Well, that's all I for now. I'm sure I'll add more later, especially after I test it out at work. :)
I'm looking forward to more on this machine. They've certainly been a sales success, which means they're meeting a need that no one else filled before.
I've filled my own requirements in this area with a Dell Latitude C400 T&L 12.1" screen P3 733 Tualatin notebook. It's been great as the laptop I take to work at the venues with access. I picked it up from craigslist already set up with XP, 1G of ram and a wireless G card. It gave me a fright recently with a dark screen boot, but has been working since. Craigslist has just provided its eventual successor last week, an IBM X31 T&L with a 1.4G Pentium M. This one needs more ram and a wireless card and eventually a faster hdd, but I already like the keyboard layout, trackpoint characteristics and the screen better than the Dell. And I can notice the increase in speed.
I could certainly see an Eee in my future. I'm surprised you didn't try the linux install for a week or so before reinstalling. Was it MS Office compatibility that drove that decision? I need Excel to run a crew bill estimate macro that Open Office can't handle.
Yeah, I'm quite the Excel junkie, and I really don't want to spend time learning the subtle differences of OO, nor do I wish to face compatibility nuances. Much of what I produce ends up getting sent around the company, so I need those files to work in Excel, guaranteed. I'm also certain that I'll be doing a Powerpoint presentation with it one of these days. I'm sure OO would work, but all the Office programs load in less than a second from the SSD, and my total office install of Powerpoint, Word, Excel and Access is ~130mb. OO seems a bit slower to load and the toolbars seem to take up more room than Excels.
I did fiddle with the linux distro for a while, but I found it to generally consume a little more screen real estate than Win2k (every pixel matters when you only have 800x480 to work with), and there are a few 3rd party apps that I wanted to have on the Eee (like PSP9).
I did use it a little today at work. I'll give some more impressions later. Right now I gotta move a bed for the wife! :)
Forgot to mention something last night: Mini Menu for FF. It autohides the menu bar and gives you a button to bring it up when you need it.
Wrong name; old eyes misreading tiny script on the button. It's called disable menu. But there's another that does the same thing by hitting the Alt key. It's called Hide Menubar.
And while I was finding that, I found another good one:Smart Bookmarks Bar. For anyone that uses the Bookmarks toolbar and fills it up, this one hides the names (brings the text up with mouseover) and leaves the icons, enabling many more.
Well, so far so good after a week at work. I did find myself using Excel quite a bit from my car. Under normal circumstances, I would come across something in the field that wasn't right and not know any details. Now I can just power this up and have a look myself. I think the biggest challenge is to remember to pack all my needed files onto a thumb drive.
Battery life doesn't seem to be an issue either. While I would never get a full 8 hour day on a charge, I don't use the Eee so much that I would need that much battery life. After using it for the day, I end up with 40-60% charge when I get home.
The keyboard is also getting easier and easier to use everyday. At first I really struggled with the keys, as I don't type correctly, nor do I have skinny fingers, but now I can type just as fast as on a regular keyboard. Keyboard feel is satisfactory, and all the keys are in expected places. That includes having CTRL to the left of FN. The only real odd-ball is the tilde, with is above the number 2. Otherwise, it's an ideal layout.
Since I last wrote, I've since installed MS Outlook and have exported my work calendar to this machine, which helps me track my schedule better. Outlook manages to receive emails through my Gmail account, but I still haven't figured out an easy way to send new appointments to this outlook (forwarding the email through Gmail appears to take away the "Accept" option). Perhaps I will make progress on that as time goes on, but so far it's a hangup.
The thing I really like about this machine is the speediness thanks to the SSD. Never do you really feel like the machine is underpowered for its task. MS office apps open in less than a second, and boot up is very quick. I plan to upgrade the OS to Windows XP for a few extra features, namely the more advanced wireless security encryption protocols (which 2k lacks) and the integrated features like picture viewer, zip support, IE7, and clear type. I also hear that XP can boot in 15-20 seconds on the Eee, so that's a bonus too.
All in all, I've been pretty happy with things. It's a handy little tool! More thoughts to come!
Well, I installed XPpro (SP3) over the weekend, and after some serious nliting and process killing, I end up with this:
Total space consumed is 2.09gb, with the following programs installed:
Firefox 3 (RC1)
Boottime from power button to windows is about 25 seconds. Wireless works great, though it does use more battery, especially on 802.11g speeds.