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The EeePC 900 Review May 6, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Hardware, Review.

Ok gang, here’s the short and sweet review. (Check the June 2008 issue of Mobile Philippines for the fleshed-out version.)

Almost everything else is the same, except for the following:

  • Larger screen – 8.9″, 1024×600
  • More RAM – 1gb built-in
  • More storage – Windows XP version has a 12gb SSD, Linux has 20gb
  • Better webcam – 1.3 megapixel
  • Mic’s now beside the webcam
  • Speakers were moved to the bottom
  • Bigger touchpad – with FingerGlide multi-touch features
  • Just a hair bigger, thicker and heavier than the 701
  • More vents on the underside
  • Only comes in white and black (for now, but good luck getting black)

Ok. Here’s the good stuff, the stuff I think you’d be most curious to know, in no particular order:

  • Trackpad buttons are a bit hard to press; at least the button is longer in shape, which minimizes zig-when-zagging mistakes
  • As of now, I don’t know where the multi-touch pinching can work – doesn’t seem to work on any of the included apps (still exploring this)
  • Two-finger scrolling is nice, but limited; hey, it’s a short trackpad – it’s not swiiiiiiipe, swiiiiiiipe as with a Mac, but more like swipeswipeswipeswipeswipe
  • No two-finger tapping to replace right clicks (like on Macs); at least I think so. Haven’t found the pref setting for it, anyway. [UPDATE: Found it. It’s buried in the Mouse prefs under Control Panel. And apparently it’s more full-featured than originally thought. The ElanTech pad has all the features and conveniences of the Apple multi-touch trackpad. Good then.]
  • Trackpad size also inadequate for pinch-zooming; your fingers barely have room to move apart before they jam up against the edges of the pad (for me at least; I have big fingers); so like swiping, it’s pinchpinchpinchpinchpinch
  • The productivity app add-ons are…wait for it …Microsoft Works and Star Suite 8 from Sun Micro. Eh?
  • Whenever it starts up Microsoft Works, the app warns you that screen resolution is below Microsoft’s recommended minimum – which is 1024×768. Eh? Didn’t they know that coming in? They could have at least reset the app to the proper setting so we don’t keep getting reminded that the screen is still tiny.
  • Speakers are now on the bottom; loud, but needs room around the base to be heard
  • Screen is beautiful, but not too bright; kinda like the proverbial dumb blonde
  • The microphone is now beside the webcam. Finally.
  • Getting the Linux version is a no-brainer; 20gb is a big deal; you can dump Linux and install Windows later. You got an XP installer around, right? You have any idea how much an 8gb SSD costs these days?
  • Keyboard still sucks. Same one from the 701, save for the markings on the Windows key – it ain’t the little house no more. It’s at least more sturdy and solid.
  • Build quality seems better all around. Seems. Can’t prove it, but it feels like it is.
  • The faux modem hole is gone, rubber cover and all; no sense pretending there’ll ever will be a modem for this thing, after all.
  • Battery life sucks. No numbers yet, but I can tell you it sucks. Bigger screen, more ram, larger SSDs – and then you match those with a weaker battery than the previous (and less-equipped, hence less needy) model? Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder? (I hope this changes with the release version.)
  • The hinge seems abnormally tight; I need two hands to open it up, and with difficulty at that. Then again maybe it’s just this unit.
  • Doesn’t seem to get unreasonably warm. Then again, my old 701 never did too. At least there are more vents on the underside.
  • The included pouch sucks big time; what happened to the sexy, black neoprene? It’s like exchanging black thongs for granny panties.
  • A power brick? Doh! Bring back the cellphone charger!
  • From a plain-vanilla config, boots up in 30 sec. Shuts down in 31. Cool.
  • Response time is about what you’d expect from a capable PC. Not fantastic, but not a slouch either. In fact, it’s a lot better than I expected. But still and all, it’s what you’d expect from Windows XP. No more, no less.
  • Here’s the surprise: that 12gb SSD? It’s two drives – a 4 and an 8! At least that’s what System Information tells me. I think it’s the old built-in 4gb of the 701, plus an extra 8gb SSD in the ol’ extra slot. (Can’t tell because I’m not allowed to open it.) Makes sense from a production standpoint. Old mold, then just stick an extra SSD in. (Now I’m wondering how the 20gb Linux version is configured – a 4gb on-board and a 16gb in the slot?) This is something we don’t see in any of the press releases and company literature. Why do I feel like someone’s cheating? [UPDATE: Apparently this info is in the eeepc.asus.com website already. My guesses were right. Question now is, can we swap SSDs when we want, or are they hard-soldered into the port?]

Here’s my take on the whole thing:

I’d buy one if I didn’t have something else already. I don’t want to repeat the reasons why the EeePC is one of the best things to happen to computing; we all know that already. The EeePC 900 effectively takes out most of the negative points about the 701, as in a bigger screen and more storage, and keeps a few – namely the battery and the keyboard.

The sticking point here is the price; whatever SRP it ends up with, it will be too much – because it’ll have slipped off the sweet spot the 701 was in. 70% of the original magic of the EeePC was from the low price point, to be honest. For a few bucks more, you can get a more fully configured and equipped (albeit chunkier and heavier) entry-level laptop. If you feel the ultraportability is worth the shortcomings, then by all means, get one.

And those of us with a 701 already? It’s worth the upgrade, if you can sell the old one and use the cash to fund the move-up. Think of it this way: for a larger screen, a larger trackpad with multi-touch functions, a better webcam, five times the solid state storage and double the RAM, would you shell out an extra PHP8,000 (US$200)?

Ha. I thought so.

So there you go. Our quick-and-dirty review. More elaboration as we move along. In the meantime, feel free to discuss in the Comments section.



1. Floyd Piedad - May 7, 2008

As a 701 user, the price difference cannot justify the extra features until the CPU itself changes to the ATOM. I pass this time.
Now about that HP Mini….

2. knicksdefense - May 7, 2008

very solid review. thanks for writing it. i have been bugging J&R about when they are going to start doing preorders, but they’re not budging, I actually was in there today and they’re not giving any timetables or even pricepoints on the eeepc 900. if anyone knows where you can actually put in a preorder (i’ve seen that press release list, none of them are taking orders afaik) please let a brother know because i’m on a dell inspiron 8100 running only ubuntu and the thing weighs 9lbs and it is time to go truly mobile.

i’m still very tempted every time i go in there to get the 701. $400 is just what I thought a laptop should cost, not $550 and up. I think I paid $1700 for the inspiron back in 2001. “tech-mol-ogy,” big up yourself.

3. reverseengineer - May 7, 2008

@knicksdefense: oh, I could tell you horror stories about how much I paid for what back in the day. Still happening, actually. Some folk never learn. 🙂

4. Mac-A-Doodle » Will the new EeePC slow down sales of the Macbook Air? - May 7, 2008

[…] you’re at all curious, I have an unboxing gallery and a quick-and-dirty-review over at my EeePC blog. (Yes, I have a life outside of Macs.) […]

5. Chu - May 7, 2008

Any news when it will actually be in stores? I was about to buy a 701 but then decided to wait for this but final price and availability in stores would be main considerations.

The folks at OSx86 are getting closer and closer to getting Tiger running on the 701, once they do, this 900 is going to be pure magic. The MacBook Mini that never was.

6. nenyalorien/Lorie - May 9, 2008

@Chu: yeah! that would REALLY be amazing! It’s like having a Macbook Air for a fourth of the price! 😀

But I would still want BOTH the eeepc 900 and the MBA…

The eeePC 900 was what made me truly want an eeePC now..

Thank you, Sir Adel!

7. mr nice ash - May 9, 2008

wow. you’re too lucky to have a first hand review of this beautiful thing. I want to upgrade…

8. Rey - May 11, 2008

what up with the 4400MAh battery? Do you think Asus will replace em with higher capacity batts free of charge like they’re doing for hong kong early adapters?

9. knicksdefense - May 17, 2008

yo rey, I saw the 900 today at J&R music world in manhattan. it has a 5800 maH battery. you heard it here first!

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