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Wednesday, 14 January 2009
You could even grow to love it... the Asus eee pc 901
I've been an early adopter and user of new technology for getting on for 20 years - it kind of goes with the day job, which, not to overcomplicate matters or lose you in the very first sentence, is somewhat concerned with IT and telecoms. Notwithstanding - or perhaps because of - this familiarity with the territory, I've never felt a great deal of affection for tech and least of all for the primary tool of every techworker's trade, the laptop PC. Mostly heavy, slow, ugly, often narky... the laptop has always been for me the utilitarian tool of the working shill, not an accessory suited to the debonair hipster-about-town whose preferences naturally tend to the small, perfectly-formed and discreet. Admittedly, them Apples look pretty cool, but most are still big and anyway, like most non-media, low-grade technocrats, I've always had Microsoft PCs thrust on me.
My ambivalent-at-best attitude to the laptop may have turned a corner however, because exciting new things have happened in their design over the last year.
I got one of these here little devices for Christmas - I'd coveted one for months since my pal Marchant had got one and had finally decided the purchase was justified (or as justified as a tech purchase can ever be) - and I have to tell you it's been my boon companion ever since. What is it? Technically it's the snappily named Asus eee PC 901 (I know, will they never learn?), but what it really is is a baby laptop with a bright 9 inch screen, a usable keyboard, all that Windows stuff, a good battery and a lovely piano-black finish. To cut to the chase for anyone who's in a hurry, it's a terrific little machine and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants a good personal PC that can almost be carried in a pocket, and is prepared to work with relatively little onboard storage (stick with me as this needn't necessarily be a problem).
the upside, of which there is plenty:
looks great, nice finish, build feels very solid and classy despite being so light, keyboard and buttons very professional - everyone who has seen it wants one.
screen brightness and usability - visibility - are good
battery life seems to be at least five hours - the best I've had from any laptop or notebook. Some people claim to get much more.
general responsiveness is excellent - it just feels fast, and I'm told a cheap and easy memory upgrade makes it faster still.
wi-fi access seems particularly good too - I can go from a cold start to online and wasting time in less than a minute. Compared to the conventional Dell laptop with Vista I bought for Chez Hipster a year ago, (which, no matter what I do to it, runs like a sick donkey with two broken legs) this is fantastic.
the downside, which honestly, need hardly concern you:
everything is good but there's no getting away from the fact that it is also small. It's a fabulous bit of kit for working on trains, planes, the back of taxis, especially for quick internet access and emails and so on. But you wouldn't want to be squinting at it all day and you wouldn't really want to write a novel on this keyboard, not unless you have the dearest little pixey fingers. However: plug it into a keyboard (I'm writing this on a nice basic Logitech keyboard which cost me nearly £10) and a monitor and you won't know the difference. In fact, from this point of view it's better than a standard notebook as it takes up so little deskspace.
there's not a lot of storage for documents and programs and so forth. However, you can add more as easily as inserting an SD card, just like the one you maybe have on your camera or phone (I immediately added 16gb at a cost of around £20), and you can get into the habit of using external storage for stuff you're not using every day - I have mine plugged into to a big external hard drive type of thing when I'm sitting at my desk. Personally, though, I find that more and more of the stuff I do is web-based anyway, from Google Mail and Docs to Flickr and Blogger, so the problem is starting to disappear anyway.
In conclusion, if you're prepared to work around its natural limitations, this is a great, truly portable and even stylish personal notebook. I never thought I'd say this about a laptop, but I'm damned close to feeling some affection for it!