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back to article Asus Eee PC 900 Linux Edition

It's not even a year since Asus first demo'd the machine that would become the Eee PC 701 - aka the Eee PC 4G - and here we are reviewing the second version, the 900. The 701 was first shown in June 2007 and was launched the following October. It quickly won plaudits for its compact, highly portable size and its low cost. We …

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Paris Hilton

I thought it was an eeepc...

...but it can't be because there is no beach babe.

Paris because she's the next best thing on here.

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Alien

location of microphone

> Nearby is the microphone, as before.

sorry? my 701 has the microphone underneath the keyboard at the front of the unit. not up beside the webcam.

why would people buy this when the atom version is coming out in a few months. also the smaller battery and higher price?

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A misunderstanding on the part of Asus

We don't need the extra storage space for the things that the Eee is used for - and I don't want to pay for it. I'd like a slightly larger screen area, and I'm prepared to pay for _that_, but not an extra 50% on the price of the current one.

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Anonymous Coward

Battery and partitions

If you read some of the forums... Battery seems to be related to the fire in LG. In Hong Kong they are actually offering replacement 5800mah free when available... but around the rest of the world they changed the spec at the very last minute to make it 4200. However there will be larger batteries available as add on... just a pity not as default.

keeping the second SSD on seperate partition is wise; it seems to be using different technology from the main partition. Therefore it really forces users to put 'regular' software on the 4GB partition which is for OS; and second partition for thier data files. Windows people will have to learn not to save to c:\ and shift 'my documents' over to the other partition.

Finally with the SSD installed it is not possible for the GPS type stuff. True but the second SSD is mounted using IDE technology; the mini-pcie socket does not have express signal connections. Thus any mini-pcie express card would always have to fit instead of the wifi.

Maybe with the Atom version and the new motherboard design then the extra connectors will become availalble.

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Lose the big SSD

And the price will be far more attractive.

It fixes all the issues that put me off the original, but the price point is now rubbish.

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Heart

Wha ....

Whu ..

... wha

... um ...

Where's the Friend on the Beach?

I feel lost and confused, disoriented, like somebody's just violated one of the sacred trusts I held so dear. All of a sudden life seems dreary and grey - it'll never be the same again.

Friend, we will miss you. RIP.

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Battery

Why on Earth would they reduce the battery capacity??

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Unhappy

No fit bird. I knew it.

No picture of a fit bird on a beach. Just as I predicted.

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Anonymous Coward

touchpad zooming

Slight disagreement with the review - you can actually zoom using the touchpad on loads of the applications - including the important ones like spreadsheet and word processing apps. It's also not a jerky process on all of the models, so in some cases can be quite useful.

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Anonymous Coward

Why then, is this not offered as a 4Gb?

Great, they fixed the right things: screen resolution, ...wait that was the only thing that really needed fixing in the 4GB. So where can I get one. Except I guess I'm missing something:

If the extra flash memory is in the expansion port, why can the system not be offered as a 4Gb or "customisable giggage" machine? I imagine the extra SSD contributes to the cost in a significant way?

You analysis of consumer's consideration matches mine - if the machine was in £280 range, I would start saving now (and yes, probably only buy when I see the Atom based eee)

chanoch

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Lesswatts

The vanilla linux kernel and associated daemons are notoriously power-inefficient. I'd be interested to hear the results of the battery life benchmark with the patches from lesswatts.org applied, which claim to lower power usage by up to 30%.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry to be a pedant...

...but Gates never said 640K is all you'd ever need.

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All you need is....

...battery life and 3G connectivity.

Seriously, 3 hours is not sufficient. I don't understand why they don't adopt a constant-thickness form factor, and fill out the extra space with battery. It's like the had a core requirement for it to look good in brochure shots, regardless of practical reality.

Keep the extra storage, I'd take a heavier 3G 4GB Eee with 6 hour battery life over a lighter non-3G 20GB 3 hour version any day, provided the larger battery and 3G don't stick out all over the place.

At £300+ the current model is neither cheap toy nor serious portable proposition.

John

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Boffin

No SpeedStep, only 2-step BIOS option :(

Another inaccuracy in the article: The Celeron ULV processor used in the 701 & the 900 doesn't have, for reasons better known to Intel, any SpeedStep capability.

The 701 has an on-board ASIC which reduces the FSB down to 66MHz (although various hacks have been produced to restore this to 100MHz, but reportedly this was somewhat fragile and raising the speed straight to 100MHz could lead to system-freezes. Stepping up to 100MHz worked better, but the consensus seems to be that 80-90MHz is more stable) whereas the 900 now has a BIOS option to choose 600MHz (66MHz FSB) or 900MHz (100MHz FSB) - but still no way to change this whilst the machine is running.

Real power-management is probably the greatest benefit that the Atom version will bring... it certainly won't be performance: despite its advanced features (AMD64 instructions, SSE4, etc.) a 1.6GHz Atom is thoroughly trounced in benchmarks by the very 900MHz Celeron that the eee currently uses!

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Ged
Dead Vulture

Tony Smith should be ashamed

It's considered criminal offence for El-Reg to to write about the eeepc and not link the BOTB pic.

Bring back the noose...

Dead bird pic or obvious reasons ...

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Price creep is always a danger

I own a 701 and its great - a dirt cheap, ultra mobile computer with wifi, browser, email, office, skype and more. Yes the screen is cramped, but it works and did I mention it's cheap?

The screen is the most obvious deficiency in the 701 but I don't think it justifies the 900s large price. Once the price creeps up it gets uncomfortably close and even exceeds that of some laptops. Yes the 900 is small but if it costs the same or more over a *real* PC you are no longer getting a bargain.

IMO, the 9" model should only be a bit more than the 701 for which you get the larger screen and none of the other stuff they packed into the 900. That stuff isn't needed and it just drives the price up too far.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@Stuart

I stand corrected.

The Bios contains an Operation Mode setting in the Advanced panel. It flips the 900 between "high performance" mode and "power saving".

There's a Bios Boost option too: start-up time is usually 28s, but this falls to 24s when Bios Boost is turned on.

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J
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Yeah

It's practically perfect for me now, except for the price... (longer battery life wouldn't be bad at all either) It IS too close to a "regular" laptop, portability issues notwithstanding.

I guess it would add "logistical complexity", but I agree they should offer a 4 (maybe 8?) GB version for the folks who don't need all that extra space, it would save quite some money. I am one of those sometimes shooting RAW with a DSLR (the noise reduction is too aggressive, so the jpegs look a little soft, detail is lost, blah blah) when the pics matter more, so the bigger SSD is great for me. Let's wait a while longer, new CPU, etc. and this can become the perfect traveling machine for me.

Almost there.

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J
Dead Vulture

Oh...

And shame on you for neglecting the BOTB!

I was already expecting her somwhere, with a caption running somewhat like: "EeePC and friend, she prefers it bigger".

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Partitions

Why would a Linux Novice be bothered about the number of partitions?

1. You would normally have *more* than three on a Linux machine.

2. There is no "C", "D" etc. partitions are mounted on directories so that, in fact, a Linux Filesystem always seems like a flat one. Mine extends over 4 drives on 2 computers - not counting the optical drives - which are also mounted as directories.

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Anonymous Coward

You want the Asus EEE girl.

There is a little tool that will do this.

Google for cybervisor if you like

And the image to change to [P] is:

http://regmedia.co.uk/2007/06/06/asus_eeepc_2.jpg

It is all Asus EEE girls for me :)

Oh and I am in the process of building a distro (gentoo based build system) for the eee and flash memory devices (i.e. grub or lilo booting from the thumb stick with a squashfs and unionfs), so if you are interested in pitching in, drop a message on the visor and I will probably pick it up.

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Trackpoint

Can we have a trackpoint, please? The IBM trackpoints are so much nicer, especially as they allow a 3-button mouse (with emulated scroll). And there'd then be more space for the keyboard.

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life without wifi?

Can we get a measurement of how long the battery will last without the wifi on and connected? wifi is a power hog, and I can't use it on the plane.

And, where did the speakers go?

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Linux

Shame

Shame no beach babe , as the writer pointed out each model has it's own niche and undoubtedly the mod crowd will have equal fun and games and add a touch screen when they can source the parts as appropriate !

Also a shame no second clip on flat battery pack option as used in one of Toshiba's past rugged long lived designs from the turn of the last century , to add a degree of versatility that many of today's designs still lack of short battery life away from the mains ! Especially one nameless logo envelope product which is heavier then another with an optical drive but designed without the ease to change out the battery , missing vital ports and the easiest unit to be pawned security wise too !

Choices , nice review and looks very tempting indeed !

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@David Benoit

The speakers are now under the keyboard.

And the reason the keyboard doesn't flex in the middle is because the keyboard's metal backplate is sitting on the top of the 3 big chips and acting as their heatsink! So no cold fingers on a winter night with this little baby!

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zomgwtfbbq?

No girl?

sigh.... u ph4il !

:P

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Happy

anyway

I was getting sick of that girl. Can we have a new one?

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Paris Hilton

BOTB

At near £350 Asus have lost the plot! The eeePC isn't *that* good! Just another SSD PC with a small form factor. Clearly it was BOTB that was the main selling point, and even that has gone now.

Paris, 'cos she never knows what she's doing wrong either.

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Happy

@b4k4

Sad bugger. You should get out more.

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Linux

Nice but...

It's nice and all that but a bit too pricey for my liking. Saying that with all these other small machines coming out on the market that's surely going to lower the price over time.

I had a play with the EeePC 701 today, such a nice little unit, but it sounds like this new one is just right with the bigger screens and bigger touchpad/buttons (I found the buttons on the 701 to be too small for my liking).

Rob

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b

tracking this space

http://www.eupeople.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=487

not sure about that 'either the extra 16gb or the 3g modem' thing..that sounds daft.

they need to internalise that extra storage.

like the space tho, it's what "laptops" always should have been from day one, imo..(obviously SSD's are a recent thing)..

:)

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right upgrades wrong price

At 220ish the 701 was just so right. Right size, right price, only the screen could have been better and at that sort of price worth buying even if you already have a laptop. So now they have fixed the screen but pretty much torched the whole point of buying one, I just had a look on ebuyer to see what I could get for 320-340, it is up against some very serious competition that will realistically outperform it in every way and it loses that 'so cheap I must get one' factor.

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@Joe

They reduced the battery capacity so it wouldn't blow up on your lap !! The older battery was so over-packed that it had a possibility of catching fire in the least pretext !! However, a larger capacity less-packed battery would be greatly appreciated !!

@Sorry to be a pedant... You are right !! It was the High Lords of IBM that decreed that there will *NEVER* be any need for more than 640K !! They based this decision on the fact that the "New" IBM PC would be an uprated semi-autonomous "dumb terminal" intended to run with LU6.2 to connect to the "real processors" in the IBM mainframes/minis !! As with many things, the damn machines developed a life of their own and the rest, say they say, is history !! Various horrible means were used to bypass the IBM BIOS-imposed 640K limit and it was only when the BIOS was re-written by others that the limit was abolished !! American MegaTrend is one that comes to mind !!

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Still tempted, but ...

Came to this thread after a weekend jaunt where I saw what I presume to be the earlier model in PC World. At £250.

Hardly 'what the heck' price, but as I now need to walk with one foot on the pavement and one in the gutter just to lug a 'normal' lappy, and moblys or PDAs just don't cut it for serious surfing, emailing or even the odd bit of actual work on the move, it is in my zone of interest. Jase, are those you scoped also as small?

As the purple shirt and and pink spots didn't know at the store, might any gurus here know if the thing works with a 3 wireless dongle?

Great if it does/would. But having bought the latter from phone4U on the assurance it would work on my 12" MacG4 running 10.2.4... and it doesn't (and let's not go into all that did, and didn't go down to try and make all that evolve - it can't) I don't want to make another daft travel-friendly PC purchase on poor sales info.

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So, what next?

A bigger "fixed" SSD would be good, but I'd rather have a double SDHC slot than a pre-fitted extra SSD.

On the other hand, my experience suggests that Windows is a bit more user-friendly than Linux when dealing with removable drives.

This is aimed at a higher price-point. It deserves a different BOTB.

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Stop

@Jase

"I just had a look on ebuyer to see what I could get for 320-340, it is up against some very serious competition that will realistically outperform it in every way"

...except size.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@Michael

I don't understand your beef with these things. If you don't want something small, buy something big - it's your choice. As you say, the price is the same, so pay it for performance, or pay it for portability.

But I would say that the 701 is certainly *not* useless. I've used the one I bought at two major shows - CES and Mobile World Congress - and, while the small screen size was slightly inconvenient, it didn't prevent me producing and editing copy; getting photos and editing them; uploading all of said pics and stories to El Reg's server; playing some movies stored on SD card; video-Skyping the wife and child; staying with Vulture Central through IM.

I installed Windows so I even got to connect using a HSDPA 3G modem.

In short, almost everything* I'd otherwise have done with my 'regular' laptop, but with a darn sight less hardware to lug about.

Thumbs up to Asus et al, I say.

*Mac OS X programming which, for obvious reasons, I can't do on the Eee.

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battery capacity

"They reduced the battery capacity so it wouldn't blow up on your lap !! The older battery was so over-packed that it had a possibility of catching fire in the least pretext !!"

That's a new one on me! I'm pretty sure the only reason they have reduced battery capacity is the shortage of batteries.

I've called SimplyGadgets (the supplier linked from this article) and the battery supplied is the 5200mAh (much better than 4400mAh but 10% less than 5800mAh - the latter having a slightly lower voltage of 7.2V vs 7.4V). I would imagine that all UK-bought machines will have this battery and that the review machine was a grey import from the Hong Kong market.

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Bloat

Why not just add the new screen and charge £250 for it? £329 is way too much for this kind of thing.

I could easily add the 16GB should I need it in the SDHC slot. These cards will cost about 50p in 6 months time.

And it would leave the internal space free for whatever I wanted to do with it.

I think I'll stick to my 4G 701, at least until the atom version comes along.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re. Battery Capacity

Anonymous: the review unit was supplied by Asus UK, so hardly a grey import. The battery supplied was 4400mAh, and we have to review the unit on the basis of what it does include, not what it might include.

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Not for me............

As a 701 owner I'm really happy with it. There are "tweaks" out there for speeding up the CPU and changing screen resolution. There is no way on the planet i'm stumping up another £110 over the 701 for a 901.

Like a lot of people have said £220 hits a sweet spot for a cheap ultra portable laptop. Its brilliant for the money. At £330 the 901 is up against some serious competition.

I think ASUS has stuffed up. They had the product and pricing structure bang on. The 901 is never going to take off the same way the 701 did.

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Linux

@Tony

I thought you installed XP so you could use Photoshop ;-)

I'm sorry to tell you that 3G modems work fine under Linux as well - though I concede that they might not have done when you got the machine - I wasn't looking at them then.

Perhaps it's worth pointing out that as well as using Gimp (or GimpShop) you can run Photoshop under wine - perhaps not the latest version, but who needs the latest version to make photos for a web publication?

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Competing with laptops?

"Indeed, but it's nonsense to suggest these aren't competing with laptops "different horses, different courses" - wtf is this if it isn't a laptop? "craptop" perhaps."

I'd call it a thin client. The original Eee was "mobile access to a real computer located elsewhere". A conventional laptop is a self-sufficient beast. Nice if that's what you want, but as a thin-client it is hugely over-specified and over-priced.

So no, they weren't competing with laptops. However, with the new price tag, they probably are.

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Go

@ Michael

As a serious amature photog, I can make the case that ANYTHING less than a quad-core, 4 Gigs of RAM, RAID-equipped desktop with dual 24" screens is insufficient for photo and video editing. Really - try it once and you can never go back.

But the average user doesn't have that, and uses various amounts of patience, the hand tool, and zooming to accomplish their tasks. Gets the job done (unless working with high-def video streams in real-time, for which there IS no solution other than what I described above). The 701 and such just demands MORE patience and zooming...OK, not great, but doable certainly.

I can almost guess that you are an American, unused to the mobile society that we have here in the EU (and exists in Asia). When the population uses mass transit as much or more than cars, then portability matters a great deal. The 701 is the perfect machine to take in a small messenger bag (even a manbag) while walking around a city and not even know it is there. You pack it as an accessory, not as a laptop - that is what I see as it's true value.

No, I don't own one - my Toshiba M200 still works for me too well, and I like a tablet form factor sometimes. But if I replaced it, I would definately get the Asus.

For everyone debating the 900, you can view it as Asus already HAS the 700, and is just expanding their model line-up and price points. From a marketing point of view, choice is always good. I would not be surprised to see an upgraded 750 or something in a few months, with a larger screen in the same 700 body perhaps...selling at £240 or so. Maybe with the Atom.

Posting with GO, as it's the least used symbol on the forum and feels discriminated against.

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Have ASUS signed a contract with the devil?

I wonder whether ASUS has signed a contract with Microsoft to not sell the Linux version for less than the price of the XP version? This would explain why we don't get a 4GB or 12GB Linux version. This means that once again we are paying a Microsoft tax, but this time in hardware that we don't necessarily need. If this is the case, then ASUS really deserve to flop with this one. We do not need the Microsoft middleman involved in the pricing of a Linux laptop. Hey, looks like Microsoft have almost screwed up OLPC project as well. If they're quick and they get their dirty little fingers into all the small-laptop manufacturers pockets, maybe they can still keep their monopoly? But only if we let them.

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