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First Full Review of New Asus Eee PC 900 266

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the several-hundred-more-than-before dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After months of rumors, the new 8.9in screen Eee PC is out in the open and the first review is online. As well as the larger screen you get 1GB RAM, 20GB Storage and a multi-touch touchpad. It costs more than the old Eee PC, but it definitely sounds like it's worth the extra cash." I always thought the appeal of the original was the ridiculously low price, coupled with the ease of hacking. Not sure if the sequel will meet that challenge.
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First Full Review of New Asus Eee PC 900

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:27AM (#23089142)
    A less-than-2-hour battery life is a huge problem for a machine touting itself as an ultra-portable. Everything else on these new models are pretty much spot-on. But a short battery life sort of defeats the purpose, methinks, unless their slogan is "Take it anywhere, just not too far from an outlet."
  • by athloi (1075845) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:47AM (#23089434) Homepage Journal
    What people like about the Eee is that it does 90% of what a computer does for the price and portability of a cell phone.

    Toying with that formula is unwise. Instead, further pare down the bloated Xandros and XP installs so that people can use a 4-8 GB machine.

    I thought they were going to install Intel's Atom in the next revision?

    Regardless, the Eee is an important step for open source and Linux. See Asus Micro Laptop Brings Linux to the Desktop [].
  • Evangelize (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PinkyDead (862370) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:09AM (#23089808) Journal
    I saw a post the other day pointing out that Asus were not evangelizing Linux - it just happened to be the best O/S for their needs.

    Well you could've fooled me. They're doing a better job than those that are doing it deliberately. 20G vs 12G, sweet.
  • by dbcad7 (771464) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:20AM (#23089964)
    The HP looks pretty good.. Don't care for Suse though.. Am sure it would run Xubuntu (pretty sure anyway), but I wonder about getting it to do the compiz thing like the EEE with the Via graphics chip they have on the HP.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:25AM (#23090050)
    I had the previous version of the eee and returned it after a few weeks. I bought it to use while traveling and it was functionally fine. But when I tried to use it in my lap (at conferences and on the bus, train, etc.), it had an annoying habit of flopping over onto its back. With the battery in the back undre the the hinge, there is not enough weight under the keyboard. When used at the slightest incline, it flops onto its back (to view the screen well you have to tilt any laptop down a bit when it is resting on your thighs). Hopefully they fixed this problem with the new version. Where did the speakers move to? if they put them up front that might help.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:38AM (#23090260) Homepage
    Unless there is absolutely some major reason you need Doom and the heavyweight versions of office applications with you at all times, you can do better with an HPC Pro machine.

    I picked up a couple of NEC MobilePro machines for $50 on eBay. Windows CE 3, with Pocket Office, Pocket Internet Explorer, etc. I also picked up a Cabletron Roamabout PCMCIA wireless card for $10 with free shipping.

    I get:

    - Touch-type-able keyboard same as Eee PC
    - Less weight
    - Less bulk
    - Instant on, instant off
    - MS Pocket Office and a reasonable range of CE apps
    - Many hours of battery life (at least 6)
    - If you really need "FULL" Office, you can get SoftMaker office for $100

    Just for fun, I tried installing NetBSD on one of these with X using a 4GB CF card and it worked fine, just like any X desktop. But I decided that I just wanted the original functionality so it's back to Windows CE for me, with 4GB of storage and a touch-type-able keyboard and all for $60 cash, and it's small enough to sit on your lap, open, on the subway even in rush hour crowds, which can't be said for the Eee PC.
  • Re:xp? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by edremy (36408) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:43AM (#23090356) Journal
    Something like I have with my digital camera- you plug the battery directly into the charger. Right now the eee charges rather slowly from wall current so when the battery is dead I'm stuck for a while. It would be far easier just to pull a fresh battery from the charger and swap with the dead one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @10:50AM (#23090492)
    Keep in mind this thing is less than 1kg. Just buy another battery.

    Also consider this is with sound / wireless and full brightness on.

    I don't always need sound / wireless on.

    I've already put my eeepc up for sale I'm getting one of these e900's pronto
  • Re:xp? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pherthyl (445706) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:09AM (#23090824)
    >> there are dialog windows that run off the screen in Linux apps too.

    Of course on Linux you can easily hold the ALT key and drag the window to make the buttons visible. Not possible on windows without third party hacks.
  • by caseih (160668) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:13AM (#23090906)
    Sure, but that's ridiculous to have to resort to giant batteries just to get a decent amount of battery life. The real problem is Linux's lack of decent power management, as well as the hardware manufacturers' reluctance to support Linux in any way. In this case, though, you'd think ASUS would have some incentive to work with Linux kernel developers to improve the situation. Sadly, though, Linux on laptops of any king is pretty abysmal when it comes to basic features like power management, suspend-and-resume, etc. windows Vista, sadly, is quite far ahead when it comes to this now. Quite usable on a laptop. Of course my 5 year-old PowerBook still beats it in terms of these things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:20AM (#23091036)
    I'm not the original poster and I'm not 6'6", but I have pretty fat fingers and my only problem is that dang uparrow key.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:35AM (#23091304) Journal

    Hooking it up to a keyboard, mouse & monitor makes it a nice little workstation.
    The monitor is the bit that really bugs me about this machine. It's 2008, and it comes with a VGA connector. Monitors without analogue inputs are becoming increasingly common, and even those that support them typically now are digital devices with an analogue to digital convertor for legacy support. Looking at the pictures, there's enough space on the case for a DVI port, so why isn't it there?
  • by Choad Namath (907723) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:14PM (#23091954)

    (Ditching their thumbstick for a IBM-style keyboard stick would probably be enough to send me reaching for my wallet.)
    I really don't understand why more companies don't offer a TrackPoint clone on their laptops. They're much better than touchpads, both from a convenience standpoint (you don't have to move your hands from the typing position) and accuracy-wise. They would be even more useful on these subnotebooks that don't have room for a full touchpad, especially the HP 2133. An HP 2133 refresh with a VIA Isaiah CPU and a nipple pointer would be too good to pass up.
  • by backpackcomputing (1249130) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:18PM (#23091998)
    The Asus Eee PC is obviously much improved, particularly in the areas of screen size and storage capacity. However, this is a very competitive space. The HP 2133 was recently introduced. It also has a 8.9 inch screen, but has the advantage of a 120 GB HDD option (although it uses a VIA CPU). Intel is begining to rollout it's Atom class CPUs for the UMPC market. Based on a 45 NM process, the Atom based devices should offer much improved battery life and better performance. Also, Dell announced that it is throwing it's hat in the ring, and will probably introduce a device in June, maybe with an Atom CPU. Bottom line: if you can sit tight for two more months you'll probably have many more options. [] []
  • by twalk (551836) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @12:57PM (#23092622)
    Adding a DVI port would probably raise the cost by $5-$10, a real no-no on a extremely low cost product. Also many projectors only have VGA. (Which BTW is about the only reason you see an external monitor connector on a laptop anymore.)
  • by caseih (160668) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @02:01PM (#23093488)
    I figured some fanboy would scream foul and try to call me on my credentials.

    Of course all evidence is anecdotal, even your acer story. I know what I'm talking about as much as you do.

    So, umm, yes. I really do use Linux. I am a Linux system administrator and developer. I last touched windows on anything I owned over 10 years ago. I don't consider myself an evangelist, but I do promote linux as much as possible and our organization runs its server room 100% on linux and has for years. In short, Linux kicks butt.

    Here's the deal. I've wanted to replace my PowerBook 12" for a couple of years now, so I've looked at the options. I'd prefer a Linux laptop. Every laptop I've looked at (Thinkpad X61, Dell Latitude D420, etc) all look really good in terms of specifications and do generally run Linux pretty well. But everyone that owns them and runs linux on them puts up with things like suspend to disk instead of suspend to RAM, and abysmal battery life, like 4 hours on the biggest batteries (like 8 or 9 cells). Right now I have a Windows user (XP) with a D420 and the standard battery. He gets 5 hours when aggressive management is turned on. Another user running Linux, on the other hand, hits 3 hours at most. *Every* linux laptop user I know has to fudge with ACPI scripts and things to get the various suspend and hibernate modes to work. This is partly the fault of linux distributions and partly fault of hardware manufacturers.

    Running powertop on a laptop is also very revealing. Typical desktop software on linux is not very friendly to power management. Rarely does the CPU enter the lowest power mode on linux (forget the designation).

    So do a bit of research and you'll see that what I'm talking about is generally true. Thinks are improving dramatically, but there's a long, long ways to go. Until then, it's really hard to leave my 5 year old PowerBook with OS X.
  • Re:the photos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bestinshow (985111) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @09:46AM (#23103542)
    I'd rather not lug an 8lb 17" laptop around with me on the tube everyday. Luckily I have a computer at work, so I don't need to do this. Maybe if you are a salesman, or a consultant that works on client premises, a large screen laptop is good.

    But for other uses, casual uses especially, a small, light, chuck-it-in-the-bag device is far more appealing. Oh, it's cheap as well, so it won't be too precious.

    Different people have different needs. You clearly need that 17" laptop on the train (if you get a seat, or have the space to open the lid because the seat in front is too close). My 12" iBook is a good size for my mobile needs, but most of what I use a 7" or 9" device would suffice.
  • by Cato (8296) on Friday April 18, 2008 @06:47AM (#23115452)
    I've been reading up a lot on flash drive technology recently, and it's seems that Xandros on the eee has been tuned somewhat to run well on flash (unionfs, run mostly in RAM, etc) to ensure that not to many writes are made to the flash drive. Generally most flash today is NAND based and has 100K write/erase cycles - some embedded-quality industrial flash drives have better ECC, wear levelling and bad block management to go somewhat higher (but you then pay more for the CF or SD card) - so it's important to do this to extend flash drive's lifetime. However the trend is for low-end flash to use MLCs (>1 bit per cell, vs SLCs which have 1 bit per cell) - drives using MLCs typically have even lower flash lifetime (10K write cycles), and the flash drive manufacturers are usually vague on this, particularly the cheaper ones.

    The write cycles are across each individual erase block (something like 32 to 128 Kbyte), not per sector/page. Bad block management is critical to 'wear levelling' - as one erase block gets worn out (flagged by ECC) the data is moved across to a new erase block. As long as there are enough good erase blocks and you aren't doing a lot of writes to every part of the drive, there should be enough good blocks around to substitute for bad blocks. There's also work to ensure that if power is lost while multiple pages are written to an erase block, the drive can detect which were written OK - it then reads these and writes them to a new erase block, marking the old erase block as bad. The flash drive has a software Flash Translation Layer (FTL) that hides all this complexity, and the better vendors put more effort into good FTLs.

    So... Some care is needed to install another Linux distro, or standard XP, onto the eee - not to get it installed, but to avoid wearing out the eee's flash drives too quickly. There are various flash-optimised Linux distros including Damn Small Linux (DSL, [] Puppy, SLAX, Debian Live (, etc, which manage to write infrequently to flash by running from a RAM disk (with no swap on flash, or at least reduced 'swappiness' parameter) and using unionfs or aufs to map a RAM drive 'over' the flash drive, allowing writes to be delayed until much later, and thereby minimising number of flash writes. DSL writes only when you shut down, or on demand, and Puppy writes every 30 minutes or so. Generally, Live CD distros are quite easily adapted to run well with flash, whereas hard disk distros do not run well on flash.

    Ubuntu for eee looks very nice if you like Ubuntu, but doesn't do any flash optimisation that I could see from its wiki (apart from recommending use of noatime in fstab which is quite basic) - perhaps someone has done this as an add-on though. XP embedded apparently has some tweaks to do the same thing as Linux, but you need to be quite a techie to find and apply the flash optimisations, compared to simply installing Damn Small Linux which is already flash optimised.

    There seems to be a lot of confusion on this - a good summary of this from eee perspective is []. However, some people actually advocate removing unionfs from the eee Xandros setup in order to gain some flexibility, without even mentioning the issue of increased flash wear - see [] which also suggests use of ext3 which will further increase flash writes (default is to write to log every 5 seconds typically). This is a really bad idea... I would really suggest reading up on this before changing the default setup, which uses unionfs in a similar way to DSL and Puppy Linux to minimise flash writes.

    Does anyone know a major distro that runs on the eee and is already flash optimised to minimise writes?

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