When you review over a hundred products a year, it's a rare thing to become truly excited about something. Yet, when Asus' Eee PC landed in our office recently it garnered genuine excitement. Indeed, when we first heard about the Eee PC it immediately drew comparisons to the burgeoning and frankly imperfect UMPC sector. However, as we learned more about the device, it generated more interesting comparisons to such yesteryear classics as the Psion Series 5 and the legendary netBook. Is the Eee PC the natural successor to such devices?
Possibly, maybe: in truth I'm in a playful mood right now, so you'll have to follow the trail of crumbs instead. First things first though, what is it? Fundamentally, the Eee PC is a compact and low power sub-notebook. It is based on the Intel 915GM chipset and is powered by a 900MHz Intel Celeron processor. Weighing a mere 920g and with dimensions of 225 × 165 × 21~35mm, it's the perfect size for carrying around in a small bag or simply by hand. It's small enough too that it can be used in more or less any environment, be it plane, train or cardboard box - so long as you can sit down, you can comfortably use the Eee PC.
For example, right now I'm writing these words while sitting in Heathrow Terminal 1 waiting for a colleague to finally emerge from the Arrivals lounge. Surrounded as I am by hoards of taxi drivers and screaming children it isn't the most comfortable place in which to work, but with the Eee PC rested on my lap it's a good deal easier. Even compared to the smallest and lightest ultra-portables its size is appreciably advantageous, with me now comfortably working away in bed, burning the midnight oil.
These are the sort of environments in which the Eee PC excels and it's being marketed as ideal for those who want something small and Wi-Fi enabled, particularly for children but it's also quite compelling for adults. To help keep costs down the system ships with a custom version of Linux, with its own intuitive tabbed interface that's split into Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings and Favourites categories. Each tab is populated by a large array of shortcuts to pre-installed software and Internet services/utilities, with practically every need catered for. Before I delve deeper into the software though, let's take a closer look at the hardware behind the Eee PC.