When I had my first hands-on experience with the ASUS Eee PC, I came away impressed with the package, but pricing was a sticking point, given the sacrifices. At the originally-announced $199 price point, the Eee 701 would have been an absolute steal, but at double that, it was less desirable to me. Specifically, I had issues the tiny screen and mediocre battery life. I suggested waiting for a 9″ or 10″ version that could (potentially) solve most if not all the problems I had with the 7″ model.
Now that the Eee PC 900 series has been announced and reviews are coming in, I’d like to follow up on some of the points I made in my previous article. I don’t have an Eee PC 900 in my possession, so like with the HP 2133 Mini-Note, I’ll have to make do with the observations of other reviewers.
Clearly the main change has been with the display. At 8.9″, ASUS has solved one of my main concerns with the Eee PC 701, display size and resolution. The new 1024×600 resolution yields 60% more real estate than the 800×480 resolution of the 7″ Eee PC. Furthermore, the display size increase did not come at the expense of size or portability. The speakers have been moved to the bottom of the machine, leaving almost the entire lid for the display itself. Not only does the improved display make the device more usable, it also vastly improves its aesthetics. No longer are there thick black bezels to ruin the cute design of the Eee PC.
It would be a shame to need a mouse to make user input pain-free, so I’m glad ASUS has increased the size and functionality of the touchpad. I wrote about touchpad functionality not long ago, so it pleases me that ASUS is thinking along the same lines. The touchpad is proportionally very large and the two-finger scrolling capability is impressive as well. Compared to the Eee PC 701, the Eee 900’s touchpad looks to have almost twice the surface area. That along with the increased screen size and resolution should make usability significantly better, especially on the go.
Courtesy of VR-Zone
Storage size has also been increased, quite significantly, especially with the Linux version. Both Linux and Windows configurations come with 4GB NAND flash soldered on the mainboard, and an additional 8GB (Windows) or 16GB (Linux) flash module. These increases help justify the increase in price, which is now $549USD for both Windows and Linux machines.
But not all is well. Like I harped in my HP 2133 commentary, the key here is battery life, and with the larger display, it has taken a bit of a dive from the Eee 701’s already mediocre battery life. Reviewers are observing in the range of 2 to 2.5 hours of productivity battery life. Watching videos or doing anything more intensive will drop than down to 1.5 hours. This is unacceptable for something that’s supposed to be an on-the-go device. The battery in the Eee PC 900 is rated at just under 42Whr, which means at the high-end of the observed battery life, this device is still pulling over 16W in productivity mode. To put that in perspective, that’s as much or more than my M1330 under the same load conditions.
I’m extremely tempted by this iteration of the Eee PC. It’s so close to being perfect for my mobile-productivity needs. One of my biggest gripes with the 701, the display size, has been rectified in the 900. Now, stuff a more power-efficient processor in there (Intel’s upcoming Atom processor is slated to make an appearance in a future version), boost battery life on the standard 4 cell to over 4 hours and I will definitely consider it for purchase.