An executive netbook? We asked for one and for our sins Asus appears to have delivered one. Called the Eee PC S101, it is Asus' latest effort to create a new niche in netbook computing. It attempts to re-create the premium look and feel of an ultra-portable notebook, but with the processing power and price more familiar to netbooks. We only need to find out whether it can deliver the right balance of quality, features and price to make the "premium" netbook a worthwhile investment, so let's get on with it.
Visually it certainly pushes all the right buttons. If the only measure of success was you didn't want people to think you were cheap, then the S101 passes with flying colours. It has a classy and cohesive feel that's very reminiscent of Asus' own ultra-portable, the U2E, though it lacks the leathery touches. What it does have, however, is a rather attractive mocha brown lid and though it's just as glossy as a "regular" Eee PC, it doesn't have that toy-like veneer that so divides opinion.
Furthermore, whereas all the other Eee PCs have a slightly bulbous feel to them, the S101 takes every opportunity to make itself look and feel as slim as possible. Every corner and edge is curved, tapered and tucked to create a machine that undeniably earns the ultra-slim tagline Asus has chosen to give it. It's obviously a light machine too, weighing in at just 1.1kg thanks to a lower capacity four-cell 4,900mAh capacity battery compared to the six-cell and 6,600mAh efforts of the Eee PC 901 and 1000H. We'll get onto how this affects battery life a little later.
First, though, we should further enjoy the delights offered by the S101s sleek and slim chassis. Inside, below the keyboard, it's finished in an attractive and classy black brushed metal and this is supplanted by glossy black plastic around the keyboard and screen. Meanwhile the edges and hinge are completed by a faux-chrome finish that nicely complements the darker touches, something that's continued on the outside edges of the display.
Just above the keyboard are some nicely backlit status lights and in addition to the power button on the right there's a power profile shortcut as well. As in other Eee PCs the webcam is housed above the screen while the accompanying microphones are below it, an arrangement that works just fine.
Continuing the intelligent design, we rather like how the air vent and primary connections, including VGA, Ethernet, DC-in and lock slot, are all housed on the back within a slightly enlarged section that tapers down again around the hinges. This ensures that the sides remain relative uncluttered, with just a USB port, headphone and microphone jacks on the right and a further two USB ports on the left. Finally, there's also a memory card reader on the back and though this isn't the most convenient location for regular access, it's integrated quite neatly and if you buy the Windows version you get a 16GB SDHC card for it too.