First Look: Hands-on with the Asus Eee 701 PC

Ini adalah first look hands-on Asus Eee 701 PC yang ditulis oleh Melissa J. Perenson, editor PC World. Asus Eee 701 PC adalah laptop mini keluaran Asus yang diberi nama triple E (Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play) berbasis Linux dan tanpa harddisk (hanya menggunakan flash media). Inilah laptop termurah yang ada di pasaran dan akan membanjiri Asia dalam bulan-bulan mendatang. Berminat?

Asus EeeFirst Look: Hands-on with the Asus Eee 701 PC
This miniature budget notebook may not be preloaded with Windows, but it ably serves most on-the-go computing needs.

Melissa J. Perenson, PC World

To me, the ultrasmall, ultra lightweight computer remains the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, you still pay a premium for miniaturization. The $399 Asus Eee PC 701 (available November 1) shatters that perception, though. For a fraction of the cost of competing ultramobile computing devices, Asus delivers a highly functional portable, without the fancy specs.

Eee PC isn’t for everyone; its modest components see to that. The unit is packed with a small, 7-inch, low-resolution display; virtually non-existent on-board storage (just 4GB of solid-state memory, of which the system requires 2.4GB, leaving just 1.4 of user-available memory); low memory (512MB, at a time when notebooks typically come with a minimum of 1GB); and an Intel Mobile Processor that doesn’t even merit anything more specific than that designation in the system information screen. Opening even the built-in Longman Dictionary took time.

However, after my initial hands-on with the unit, I do see Eee PC appealing to the highly mobile–including road warriors and students–and to those who want an unobtrusive and inexpensive computer for basic Web surfing, word processing, and e-mail.

Initial Setup
Upon first boot, I was greeted not by the familiar chime of Windows but by a license agreement for the Asus Desktop OS. After clicking “I agree,” I proceeded through the First Boot Wizard. I selected my keyboard type (English/US), entered my name, chose a password (you can set it up to log in automatically upon system start-up), set the date and time, let the system reboot, and voila, I was off and running.

The system immediately rebooted into the Linux-based Asus desktop interface. And right away, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Asus describes the device “as easy to use as any electrical appliance, like a toaster or a microwave.” I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I agree with the company’s confident assertion that the Eee PC is easy to use.

Asus’s operating environment mimics much of Windows’ functionality (for example, a Home button where the Start button would be; a Taskbar that shows open apps and apps in memory; and window minimize, maximize, and resize controls). A nice addition is the happy face icon at the lower right for Eee PC usage tips, and the green SOS icon (hover the pointer over the icon to figure out what it is) to show you which apps are open in the background–and how to close them.

The most confusing part of the interface is the row of icons in the Taskbar-equivalent at the bottom of the display. The icons are tiny, and sometimes I opened apps without realizing I hadn’t closed them–which in turn sapped memory and made the Taskbar more cluttered until I went back to close those apps.

Functional Built-in Applications
You can install Windows XP on the device if you choose, but only business travelers might need it. With applications like Mozilla Firefox for Web browsing and Thunderbird for e-mail, and for word processing and spreadsheet needs, you’ll be able to seamlessly continue being productive.

The tabbed desktop screen is uncluttered, graced by large icons that clearly state their purpose. At the top of the interface are six tabs, each containing a cluster of apps that represent a specific activity: Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings, Favorites. The latter actually lets you choose which app icons should appear on the screen–handy if you know exactly what you want, and how you want to access it.

The icons represent both built-in apps and shortcuts to Web-based applications, and they cover a wide degree of functionality. Among those provided are Xandros Antivirus (set to automatically update virus definitions); iGoogle and Google Docs, and Wikipedia shortcuts; Skype and Pidgin (instant messaging) clients; an eBook reader; Internet Radio; Web Mail shortcuts (for Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL); and Adobe Acrobat Reader.

In my experience, moving files from my Windows desktop to the Eee PC went smoothly. When I plugged in a USB flash drive or a Secure Digital card, up popped a window asking which program I wanted to open the device with–File Manager (reminiscent of Windows Explorer), Music Manager, or Image Manager.

I had no problems opening PDF files; ditto for high-resolution JPEG photos, MP3 files, and for .AVI, .MOV, and .WMV video files. Sometimes files took awhile to open, though: for example, a three-page Word document took a few moments to open in I could even multitask: the Asus operating system allows multiple open application windows, so I could browse an Excel spreadsheet in OpenOffice while listening to an MP3 playlist.

The Music Manager is inelegant and no iTunes in terms of its ease of use; however, the interface is fairly straightforward and something even neophytes can figure out. You have a modicum of control–for example, you can change equalizer presets (yes, doing so helps–at the baseline, music sounded even more tinny and flat through the built-in stereo speakers) or create your own equalizer setting. And you can build playlists.

The unit’s KDE Image Manager is similarly inelegant, with the window divided into three sections (as with the Music Manager, this organization is by default; you can close or customize it if you choose). My images looked adequate on-screen and opened quickly (including high-resolution 13-megapixel images). Right-clicking on an open image yields a variety of viewing options, including slideshow mode and–bonus points here–the ability to view the image full screen (terrific for photography enthusiasts who want to get in close and cross whether an image is blurry).

Since the Eee PC is Asus’ answer to the One Laptop Per Child initiative, the company targets students with the education-minded apps under its Learn tab. These apps include a periodic table, KStars’ Planetarium for burgeoning astronomers, letter games, a typing assistant, and math tutorials. The Eee PC also has a handful of games for all ages, such as Sudoku, Solitaire, and a variant on Tetris.

Modest Specs
The Eee PC is small: 8.9 by 6.5 by 1.4 inches deep, and weighs 2 pounds. By comparison, Fujitsu’s petite LifeBook P1610 notebook measures 9.1 by 6.6 by 1.4 inches, and weighs about 2.2 pounds (incidentally, that notebook’s starting price is four times that of the Eee PC).

The unit has a touchpad and one button with left- and right-click functionality; you can also double-tap on the touchpad to select an item, or double-tap and hold the button to drag an item. The right side of the touchpad can double as a scrollbar.

Along the right side, you’ll find an SD/MMC card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA-monitor port, and a Kensington Lock port. At left, you’ll find (from back to front): ethernet, RJ-11, and a third USB 2.0 ports; and microphone and headphone jacks. At the bottom rests a reset button, which you’d use to jumpstart the system in the event the OS cannot turn off or restart. This model also includes integrated 802.11 b/g, a built-in .3-megapixel webcam for video recording or taking pictures, and a mono microphone.

The keyboard is small–it reminded me of the Fujitsu P1610’s keyboard, actually. I have small hands, and I found I could type on the keyboard with only minor complaints (striking the wrong key here and there). Touch-typing was a bit challenging, though, and if you have large hands, you’ll find the keyboard more difficult to use. Still, this keyboard sure beats trying to type on a cell-phone PDA, like the AT&T Tilt.

Is it Getting Hot in Here?
My biggest complaint about the Eee PC is that it gets toasty warm during use. And I don’t mean warm just near the battery–it gets warm all over. The palm rest, the keyboard, the touchpad, and the touchpad’s single select button all felt warm to the touch after just 30 minutes of use. Even the USB drive I plugged into the USB port became warm. The heat only got worse with time and further use.

Another issue: My test unit often emitted a low-pitched whirring and grinding noise. While no worse than a hard drive spinning up, considering this unit lacks a hard drive, the noise was disquieting. It was obvious in a quiet room (with only a desktop PCs own low-grade cacophony as background noise), and it was annoying to hear. Not to mention that the noise made me uneasy; I couldn’t help but wonder which component was the source.

Sometimes, I found the operations a bit sluggish; mostly, though, I found the system’s responsiveness acceptable. I had one weird issue when a pop-up artifact denoting the filename wouldn’t go away. A quick reboot of the system took care of that. (From powered off to controlling the Asus Desktop screen takes less than 30 seconds — an impressively fast boot-up.)

My final gripe of significance: In my hands-on experience, the battery gauge proved highly inaccurate. It reported 30 percent of power left after two hours and 30 minutes of light to moderate use; yet the gauge showed the battery as being practically empty, and it looked identical to when the system reported having 40 percent of power left. (Asus rates the four-cell battery for about 3.5 hours of use, depending upon your activity.)

Portable Computing for All
The Eee PC is no power system: You won’t want to do video editing, or even image editing, on the device, and it’s not going to serve as the multimedia center for your home. However, the Eee PC provides a high level of functionality at a highly affordable price. Furthermore, it does so while opening the concept of the ultraportable PC to the masses. The small keyboard and screen and the modest internal specs might be a deterrent for some, but for students and those of us who lust after lightweight portables for life on the go, the Eee PC can easily fill that niche. And then some.

Published by

Erwin M.

Saya suka mengikuti perkembangan teknologi digital, senang jalan-jalan, memotret, menulis dan minum kopi. Pernah bekerja sebagai engineer di industri TV broadcasting, namun kini saya lebih banyak aktif di bidang fotografi khususnya mengajar kursus dan tur fotografi bersama