Review: Size does matter
After a few days of messing around with the Eee, it's time to wrap up our review. I can already feel Fudo's fiery breath on my neck and there's no time to waste, so let's get down to business. In case you've missed our preview, check it out here, as we're skipping the introduction.
Let's start with the box, as you're probably going to get your Eee in it, unless you're one of those people who don't mind getting blood-stained notebooks without an AC adapter at bargain prices.
The box contains two user manuals, a comprehensive one and an abridged version, a warranty card, AC adapter, Support DVD and the Eee itself. The whole package is ridiculously small and looks pretty good. Your first task will be to stick the battery onto the Eee. The mechanism is very simple, yet sturdy. Once the battery pack clicks in it doesn't budge, it fits like a glove. This is nice to see, as many people would expect such a low-priced machine to be put together cheaply, but in this department it just feels like a pricey laptop. Rock solid, as Asus PR people would say.
We tested the 4G Surf version, which ships with a 4-cell 4400mAh 7.4V Li-Ion battery. The non-Surf 4G and 8G come with a slightly more powerful 5200mAh battery and a Webcam. We managed to squeeze just under three hours of life out of our sample. Not bad, but not that great, either. While running demanding applications (if there are any that can run on the Eee) and using Wi-Fi, you can expect this time to drop. On the other hand, you should easily get more than three hours if you're using the Eee for light browsing, chat and writing emails.
Its AC adapter comes with a thin 3 meter (10 foot) cord, it has no "brick" and this helps. The power connector is located at the back and the thin, long cable makes your life easier if you have to use it while recharging. The biggest downside to the battery is its weight compared to the rest of the machine. When you fully open the screen it's on the brink of tipping over and this tends to annoy from time to time.
Once you've charged it, push this silver thingy, count to 20-ish and you're set to go.
It's fast, and shutdown is even faster, well under 10 seconds if you've closed your apps prior to shutting down. Ah, in order to power up, you'll need to open the lid. The hinges are massive, they look like they could deal with a screen twice the size of the 7-inch dwarf on the Eee. Both the lid and the hinges look like they can take whatever you throw at them, the whole thing feels very durable, indeed.
So here it is, the customized Xandros Linux in its full glory, or rather lack of it. We'll get back to it later on, let's talk hardware first. As we've said in our preview, the screen leaves much to be desired. Indoors it's not all that bad, but outside it disappoints, in spite of its LED backlight. This usually wouldn't be a huge drawback, but the Eee is touted as an ultra-portable PC and it's supposed to be used wherever your business takes you. The resolution is 800x480 and this is its biggest problem. Most Websites nowadays are designed for 1024, and an 800 pixel horizontal resolution will get you in trouble sooner or later. Fonts in some applications look huge, but you can try adjusting the font size if you don't mind looking at even smaller letters. The huge black bezel hides two speakers. They're adequate but not great.
Let's take a closer look at the rest of the machine. As you can see, on the left hand side you'll find the Ethernet connector, a useless modem connector, one USB, microphone in and line out. There's also a tiny ventilation opening in the middle, keep this in mind for later on.
On the right side there's an SD/MMC memory card slot, two USB ports, a VGA out and finally, the Kensington lock slot. The battery is the thickest part of the whole package, the thickness ranges from 21mm at the front to 35mm at the back. This allows for a somewhat more comfortable typing position and better airflow while the Eee is on a flat surface, but the Eee is not intended to be used as a desktop.
You probably know the Eee's specs by now, but here's a quick reminder. It's powered by a 900 MHz Intel Celeron-M ULV 353 clocked at 630MHz (70MHz x 9), uses an Intel 910GML series chipset and Intel's GMA 900 IGP. The 512MB of DDR2 memory is expandable via a single memory slot, but you can forget about upgrading the 4GB SSD, as it is soldered onto the motherboard. Apart from the 100Mb Ethernet, it also has an Atheros 802.11b/802.11g wireless card, so connectivity shouldn't be an issue.
Might not sound like much by today's standards, but this is more than enough for the lean, customized Xandros Linux. Remember the ventilation opening on the side ? Well, here's a look at the bottom.
The rest of the ventilation openings are at the bottom. You don't expect such an underpowered machine to heat up much anyway, but if you're going to use it on your lap, you'll cover almost all the vents. Nothing serious, it will heat up a bit, just enough to keep you warm in these chilly spring days.