Naturally enough the keyboard and touchpad have seen some improvements. We particularly like the positive feel and response provided by the keyboard. Thanks to the compact frame there’s practically no flex and keys bounce back crisply, aiding brisk and error free typing. Most importantly, since the S101 uses a 10.2in screen, there’s ample space for decent size keys. It also helps that the keyboard stretches almost right to the edges, so all the space available has been well utilised without too much compromise to the keyboard layout.
There’s a large UK style Return key and pretty much every element of the keyboard is at it should be, including Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys mapped as secondary’s to the cursor keys. There is, however, one notable exception to this and it’s a problem carried over from all the Eee PCs: the right Shift key.
It’s a small annoying thing and it sits to the right of the upward cursor key. This leads to endless frustrations as you go to capitalise a letter, only to delete a whole paragraph instead because you hit the wrong key. It’s hard to describe how irritating this can be, but let’s just say we’ve come close to throwing the S101 out of the window as a consequence. Asus: sort it out!
All this is a shame since beyond this issue the keyboard can’t be faulted greatly and neither can the touchpad. It’s probably the largest one to feature on an Eee PC, but it doesn’t get in the way of typing. Like other Asus notebooks and netbooks, the touchpad buttons, in this instance a rocker-style strip, feel a little stiff but they’re perfectly usable nonetheless.
Such sentiments are repeated for the 10.2in, 1,024 x 600 display. We still rather wish that the resolution was higher, but there are other factors that prevent that and fundamentally it’s a very useable display. It has an anti-glare finish so reflections aren’t much of a problem and it’s suitably bright too, thus enhancing its outdoor credentials. Videos and photos are presented well, though sometimes with a slight lack of contrast, while text is very sharp and easy to read. Like most netbooks the viewing angles are pretty mediocre, but in a machine this small and cheap it’s not a great concern.
Like previous Eee PCs, a slip case is included, but instead of the usual neoprene effort, you get a smart suede-like affair with a magnetic flap. It’s very nice to handle and provides adequate protection when carrying your netbook around in a bag. And since the S101 is pretty well put together, small falls when inside the case shouldn’t be too much of a problem either. As mentioned earlier Windows versions also come with a 16GB SDHC card and it’s a smart move on Asus’ behalf, since we often find ourselves recommending one for expanding the internal storage. It has perhaps missed a trick, though, by not following Acer’s example by including two memory card slots – one for permanent storage and one for modular usage.