This post is being written from my wife's brand new Asus eee PC, an outrageously cool piece of hardware and an amazing tool altogether. Ever since I managed to get my hands on one of these babies (thanks to my recent trip to Boston and the great support from Sally), I wanted to take it for a spin: my wife was kind enough to lend me the gizmo for tonight, so here we go with a quick hands-on review, bullet-point style.
- first things first: you wouldn't believe how small this thing is. The moment I took it on my hands, my back wanted to throw a party to celebrate liberation from the 17" anvil from Apple I'm usually carrying around.
- the baby is outrageously cheap, It might not be thin enough to fit in a Manila envelope, but it gives you a lot of bang for the buck at 400$ all-in. Packaging also includes a nice neoprene sleeve (get that, Apple?), so it's not like Asus has been shaving pennies and go el-cheapo. Construction is sturdy, and I have to say that while it lacks Apple uber-polished flair, the eeePC looks and feels just like the average Lenovo from a quality standpoint: it's definitely not a toy.
- yours truly has big hands, with stocky fingers. I was afraid the small keyboard wouldn't have fit my bill, but I'm pleasantly surprised to see how fast I'm getting used to it. If you're not a touch typist, probably this is not your tool of the trade, but I can clearly see how, with some daily use, the eeePC can be a perfect companion for taking notes on the road. Of course this post is being edited on the eeePC itself (gotta eat your own dogfood).
- performance, so far, is just fine. Apps are snappy despite the 512MB of stock RAM, and the 2G+ of user-available storage seem to me more than enough for road warrior needs. Especially if you consider how you can max out RAM with a standard 2GB SO-DIMM and use any kind of flash-based storage to extend capacity. Wi-fi support is solid, though not as user friendly as my beloved Macs, and it's fast as a racing horse. Surprisingly fast, actually.
- connectivity is great. 3 USB ports, Ethernet, modem and VGA output with 1600×1200 resolution. And did I mention the included webcam? Apple is just biting the dust here.
- my main gripe, so far, is that you don't know in how many ways you will miss OS X until you have to go back to something else. I'm dying to use Expose', and I couldn't possibly live without Dashboard for a long time. I'm curious to see to what extent the eeePC can be hacked with Linux equivalents: I suspect screen estate might be a bit of an issue. Also, while I know this might be stretching Apple EULA quite a bit, I can't help noticing how people has been able to install OS X on this baby. Boy, now I'm tempted!
All in all, I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised by the EeePC, and I'm seriously considering getting one for myself during my next US trip (gotta love that weak dollar). My quest for the perfect computer setup is ongoing (more on this later), and so far the Asus has got quite a headstart over the Macbook Air mixed bag – though it will be very hard to resist the Apple allure. Yet, at 400$, this is the perfect and ultimate hacker joy, and something I highly recommend. Thumbs up, Asus, well done.