Despite all of its classy exterior touches, we shouldn’t forget that the S101’s innards a very much ‘netbook’ in origin. It’s powered by the usual 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and the Windows version features 1GB of RAM. For storage you get a 16GB SSD along side the 16GB SDHC card, bringing the total to 32GB, while network connectivity is handled by a Wireless-N capable Wi-Fi module and 10/100 Ethernet. You also get Bluetooth, so you’re hardly lacking in connectivity.
All this will set you back £449, though as you might have guessed from the pictures we’ve actually got the Linux version of the S101 here for review. It features a whopping 64GB SSD and 2GB of RAM as well, though Asus is still not certain it will actually be selling this version in the UK or at what price if it did. As such we’re reviewing the S101 as the Windows XP version, rather than the Linux version. As an observation, however, Asus’ Linux effort perhaps lacks the look and feel to match the S101’s sleek and professional pretensions – a view only enhanced by the fact you still get many of the more youth orientated applications loaded onto the machine.
In addition to all this you benefit from 20GBs of online “Eee Storage”, free for 18 months. This is a nice addition, though clearly not as convenient as having storage built-in. Software, on the Windows version, includes Windows Live Suite and Microsoft Works, while the Linux version will (if released) feature the usual array of pre-installed applications. As always you also benefit from a two year warranty.
Performance, given the specification, is more or less identical to those of previous netbooks, though the Linux version is noticeably peppier thanks to its complement of RAM. Nonetheless, in raw performance terms, the S101 has nothing that elevates it above a netbook costing half the price. This is obviously a bit of a mental barrier to get through, since plenty of people would reasonably argue about the value of such a proposition compared to the latest version of the MSI Wind, the U100-291UK. Now available for £339, less than the £360.00 we reviewed it at, it’s about as close to a comparable laptop replacement and is over £100 less.
As hinted at before the S101’s battery life is also inferior to those of its Eee PC counterparts, yet it’s not all bad news because it’s still very good and outperforms the majority of other netbooks. Running at 50 per cent brightness it managed to loop a standard definition video for four and a half hours using the Power Saving mode of Asus’ Super Hybrid Engine. This is a pretty solid result and general usage, including web browsing and word processing, produced regular four hour plus sessions. With very frugal use you could even manage five hours, so although it has less life in it than previous Eee PCs, it still trounces much of the competition.
All told we like the S101 in the same way that we like most ultra-portables notebooks, because it’s sleek, stylish and accomplished. Battery life is very good, while the keyboard, touchpad and basic feature set are also excellent, even if you don’t get much more than other cheaper netbooks. But price, as we all know, is an emotive issue. If you like your netbooks dirt cheap and care little for how they look and how you look using them, then it’s obviously not for you. If, however, you’ve liked the idea of a netbook but find the current efforts a little unrefined, then the S101 is your only real choice. As such, even if it’s not an “everyman” machine like other netbooks, we reckon the S101 deserves a recommendation because it’s discernibly different from what else is available – something you can’t say that often.
Score in detail