Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eee PC 4G: hands-on

The recent trend in mobile computing is to create affordable, portable, and somewhat underpowered ultra mobile PCs (UMPCs). Asus was one of the first to launch a cheap UMPC which sold like hotcakes, and that is none other than the well-known Eee PC.

It has already been on the market for a while, and there are new competing machines such as the HP Mini-note, which is a great road warrior btw. I have been playing with the 7-inch Eee PC in stores before, but today I had the chance to physically interact with it at home for a while. My dad's friend just got a 4G version, and so I explored it. :)

This machine runs on Linux, and uses software such as OpenOffice, SMPlayer and Firefox as alternatives to Office, WMP or IE on Windows respectively.

It costs around S$400, so quality isn't top notch. It is worth your every cent though, despite how 'toy-ish' it feels. It is a no-frills, simple to use, straightforward machine with emphasis on the Internet (web 2.0 stuff such as Google Docs) and also on education (there is a dictionary and periodic table pre-installed).

Extremely portable, the Eee PC is an ideal choice for students, or for casual web-surfing and presentations to clients. I like the 3 USB and VGA ports, but don't quite like the small low-res 7-inch screen. Of course there is the bigger 9 inch model, which promises more screen space. This Eee PC runs on 512 MB RAM, but it feels snappy.

There is plenty of simple games installed too, but too kiddish for adults. This is a potato game that Shawn really enjoyed:

And that's Shawn posing with the 'Penguin Racer' game on screen, which is a lot of fun too!

However, no computer is ever perfect. What I don't quite like is the stiff mouse button, the small trackpad, the small 'backspace' key which I always miss... and to nick-pick, the hinge is a tad too stiff.

Overall, highly recommended as a secondary laptop. Verdict: 4/5

Advantages: very affordable, portable and light. Performs acceptably well and has a neat and user-friendly interface. Also has a handy black casing which fits the Eee PC snugly.

Disadvantages: Screen too small and 4GB flash drive is pathetic (can slot in an SD card to solve that).

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