It’s fortunate then that Asus has done an excellent job with the design, producing a simple, unfussy but nonetheless attractive machine. Finished in classy looking pearlescent white, it looks and feels like a product that ought to cost a lot more. Unlike other super-light notebooks like Toshiba’s Portégé R500, it feels sturdy and well put together thanks to some chunky screen hinges and a general feeling of density and compactness. Importantly, the outer casing is well protected and should make sure the screen won’t crack under the merest amount of pressure.
Even better, the keyboard for a machine of this size is a work of pure brilliance. For sure, it’s small and does take some getting used to, but given a short amount of time it’s perfectly possible to maintain a brisk and consistent typing speed. Keys have just the right amount of travel and provide a crisp and even response, while the layout is surprisingly decent given the size. If any further proof were needed, this entire review was written on the Eee PC and it didn’t take any more time than it would normally.
This is also helped by the software provided, with the generally excellent Open Office on hand for all your office productivity needs. Along with a word processor there’s Presentation and Spreadsheet applications, while under the Work tab you can also access Adobe Reader, as well as Thunderbird for email and a Dictionary.
Moving to the Internet tab there’s plenty to see, including shortcuts to popular mail services such as Gmail and Hotmail, as well as links to Wikipedia, Google Documents and Internet Radio. Skype comes pre-loaded, along with the excellent multi-platform instant messenger, Pidgen. Internet browsing is supplied by Firefox, though of all things the browsing experience on the Eee PC isn’t as seamless as it could be.
Why? To begin with the screen resolution isn’t ideal. Since a great majority of websites default to 1024 pixels wide, the 800 pixel width means many websites can’t fit into the screen. There’s also little in the way of scaling of web pages as found in Mobile Safari on the iPhone, which makes browsing on the lower resolution screen awkward at times. These aren’t insurmountable problems, but it may make some people think twice and as a result one has to wonder whether Opera might have been a better option as the default browser
It’s known to be quicker and less resource intensive than Firefox, while it’s also better optimised for mobile devices with low resolution screens. Of course, the Linux proficient among you could happily install Opera yourselves, though the command line jiggery-pokery involved is hardly end user friendly.
In favour of Linux though, it does mean that the Eee PC boots up impressively quickly, in the region of 15 seconds. Moreover, the standby mode provides a near instant restart, just like other mobile devices. It also means that, despite the relatively slow components, the Eee PC doesn’t grind to a complete halt. It still isn’t fast mind you, but it’s perfectly useable for the usage required.
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