October; that's when we first set eyes on the original Eee PC 4G 701 yet it feels like an age ago. What was once a tentative step into the unknown has become a runaway success story and with the choice in the cheap-small-and-portable mini-notebook market reaching obscene levels, it's not one Asus can claim solely its own any longer.
It can claim, however, to have defined a segment that until not long ago didn't even exist and the Eee PC name has become as synonymous with this kind of product as the name Hoover has to the Vacuum Cleaner. And, with Intel delivering the first custom designed ‘NetBook' CPU, the Atom, the Eee PC finally has a CPU that's meant for the task.
Yes, that's right, after all the anticipation the Eee PC 901 is the first Intel Atom powered Eee PC. Running as standard at 1.6GHz the Atom processor is designed to be as frugal as possible, while delivering the performance required to browse the Internet, watch videos, listen to music and plenty else besides. This may sound simple enough, but the achievement is nothing short of remarkable.
Not only does it mean you can do more for longer, it also makes for a cooler and quieter machine as well. This is reflected in the smaller and slimmer air vent on the 901, one of the most obvious differences between this and the Celeron-powered Eee PC 900 we looked at back in April. During use, particularly in power saver mode (more on which later), the 901 is as close to silent as can be. You have to put the fan up to your ear to clearly hear it whirring away.
This is helped, of course, by the fact that the 901 continues to use NAND Flash for storage, 20GB in our Linux-based sample, rather than a mechanical drive. A lack of moving parts means less heat, more responsive performance and greater durability and in a machine this size these are great qualities to have.
And, since we're on the topic of durability, for what is still a relatively cheap machine - we still contend £319 is astounding value for what you're getting - the Eee PC 901 is incredibly well made. Its small, compact chassis feels strong and well put together and the screen hinge is as chunky and secure as the screen is well protected. Moreover, the provided slip cover means you can chuck the Eee into any bag and not worry a jot.