Friday, 5 June 2009

Review: ASUS eeePC 701SD Linux

I recently picked one of these machines up for $279 bucks at the local computer shop. This is under their buy price so I figure it's a pretty good deal really. I've been interested in the netbook scene for a while and the eeePC was the one that caught my imagination first. Although I have had the Dell L400 it still wasn't a netbook. The specs of the 701 are readily available on the net - for the purposes my work I've upgraded mine in the following way - swapped in a 1GB RAM DIMM and installed an 8GB SD card to double the internal 8GB SSD's storage. I don't really intend on using this PC to watch movies and the like and I've only got a minimal amount of data to store on it so the 16GB of storage is more than adequate.

I love the lightness of this machine - I store it in the top part of my camera bag (a Targus one) and it fits easily without increasing the overall bulk of the bag. I take it pretty much everywhere - the ports available are exceptionally useful - 3 USB 2 ports, Ethernet, wireless Ethernet and SD card port too. Being able to quickly bring up a terminal windows (Ctrl-Alt-T) is really handy for the work I do when I'm network testing. The LCD is nice and bright and readable, the speakers aren't bad either for their size and the keyboard is fairly responsive.

Probably my biggest gripe, no definitely my biggest gripe - and one I can't really complain too much about - is the keyboard size. The width of my hand makes it hard to touch type on and I spend a fair amount of time looking at the keys. I've been spoilt by using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard 7000 at work, and a 4000 at home and these keyboards are lovely. The eeePC - yeah not so lovely but still quite usable. Typing in IRC can be a little bit of a trick - I really have to remember to review what I've typed prior to hitting the return key. That being said, I'm getting used to it and I am getting higher accuracy results with the keyboard. This entry, for example, has been typed on it and I find it no less accurate than the handwriting translation on my HP tablet. Bit of an ache in the fingers after a while though I must say and I would *not* like to be typing on it all day.

Battery life is pretty good - around the 3 hours, which I find to be more than adequate. If I'm doing work on my eeePC for more than 2 hours, I'll get my tablet out and use that instead - it has a much nicer keyboard and is a lot faster.

The RAM upgrade to the eeePC has made a huge difference - the speed of the system is greatly enhanced by having the additional memory available and it is much more acceptable to use. Prior to this upgrade I found that it sometimes lagged in responsiveness.

Updating and installing new software is very easy and there seems to be quite a bit of software available for this device, all installable via single click from the ASUS website. Given it's Linux OS once you drop into a command line and use apt-get it's even easier to install software :-) X forwarding and the like all work and monitoring servers and things is very easy on this device. In short I like it a lot and I'll probably upgrade to an eeePC 1000 or something similar once I'm in a buying frame of mind again.

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