The Work tab gives you access to OpenOffice, for all your word processing, spreadsheet and presentation needs – and yes you can save in Microsoft Office format. Here you’ll also find a PDF reader, a simple notes program and a shortcut to Thunderbird for all your email needs. This is also where File manager lives, which basically equates to Windows Explorer and lets you search through all your folders.
The Learn tab is clearly aimed at the education sector, which is a big part of the Eee PC market. Here you’ll find games and applications to help improve your vocabulary, spelling and even maths ability. There’s also a basic Paint program here, which is similar to the identically named application found in Windows, while the Science icon will give you access to a periodic table and a planetarium.
The Play tab brings up all the fun stuff like the Media Player, Music Manager and Webcam utility. There’s also a Sound Recorder and a Games icon, which gives you access to a handful of pre-loaded games, including the obligatory Solitaire.
The Settings tab gives you access to all the system utilities and configuration applications. Here you can configure the touchpad, change the date and time, monitor disk usage and implement a virus scan of the system. The Add/Remove programs button also lives here, which not only lets you install or uninstall applications, but also checks for updates on all your installed programs. Finally the Favourites tab is just that, a place where you can store all your favourite links and shortcuts.
Despite the very small chassis, Asus has managed to squeeze in a surprising amount of connectivity. On the right you’ll find a D-SUB port for hooking the Eee PC 900 up to an external monitor. Next to this are two USB 2.0 ports, along with an SD card slot. Considering how cheap flash memory is these days, the SD card slot means that even if you do run low on internal storage, augmentation won’t be expensive.
On the left there’s a third USB 2.0 port, which is one more than you’ll find on most fully featured ultra-portable notebooks. Here you’ll also find headphone and mic sockets – so you’ve got a choice of using a traditional or USB headset while taking advantage of that webcam and pre-installed Skype. Of course there is a microphone built into the lid of the machine, but you’re always better off using a proper headset.
The final connection on the left is an Ethernet port for the 10/100 network adapter. It’s worth noting that the Apple MacBook air doesn’t have an Ethernet port, despite being considerably larger and heavier than the Eee PC 900, making Apple’s machine look like a lightweight in metaphorical rather than literal terms. Of course you also get 802.11b/g wireless built-in – Draft-N would have been nice, but let’s hope that when the Atom version arrives it wll be Draft-N compliant.