Saturday, October 18, 2008

ASUS EEE 901 Review and Unboxing

My ASUS 901 arrived yesterday. I've had a little while to play with it, and though I'd share my thoughts about it with you. To start with, although I had ordered a black one, I was afraid I'd gotten a white one when I saw the box. ;-)

The EEE promised to be Easy, Excellent, and Exciting. It promises this in several languages, just to make sure you believe it.
Before I get much deeper into this review, you need to know I didn't buy the EEE 901 to be a work machine. Although it may be possible to get some work done on one, I bought mine to use as a media player and portable web browser. For both these tasks, this little PC seems exceptionally well suited. Unlike lesser EEEs, the 901 has 802.11 b/g/and n for fast wifi network connectivity, and Bluetooth wireless for connecting with almost every Bluetooth device out there including wireless headphones and Bluetooth speakers/stereo transceivers. Those just scratch the surface, as the EEE's Bluetooth features include:

EASY? The EEE is certainly Easy. With no hard drive, the little 901 boots up quickly. My 901 came with Windows XP. I suspect the Linux versions may be "simpler" to use from an interface point of view. The 8.9" widescreen with 1024 x 600 pixel resolution is easy to read, sufficiently bright (indoors at least), and evenly lit. The keyboard is small, yet my average sized man-hands seem to handle hunt & peck typing with few errors. You touch typists will find it a challenge. For those of you with a "need" to type a novel on your EEE I suggest getting a larger and Bluetooth wireless keyboard. The Bluetooth keyboard from my iMac works well with the 901. If Bluetooth is too pricey for you, there are three USB ports on the 901, any of which could handle a USB keyboard. The 901's touchpad is reasonably sensitive, although it's right/left buttons are a little stiff. This touchpad supports the use of two fingers for scrolling up and down on web pages or within any long list. There may be more functionality in there. It would be nice if this multi-touchpad could be used for resizing photos and web pages.
Excellent? More specifically the claim is that the 901 is an Excellent mobile internet device. I have to agree! At 2.8lbs (with battery) and only 9" x 7", the little 901 is VERY mobile. As an internet device it works wonderfully. I've got seven other wifi devices in my house (2 iPod Touch, 2 Zune, one iMac, one TIVO, and one Kodak Picture Frame) and none was as easy to connect to my wireless router as this little 901 was. With 802.11n support, the 901 took less time to find and download 1400 songs from my network server than my iMac. Using VLC media player I can play DVDs off that server with no stutter or delay. Wide screen movies look GREAT on the 901's wide format LCD.
Exciting? The more I play with my 901 the more excited I get. It took me awhile to figure out how to turn on Bluetooth, but once that was accomplished my smile has crept upward each hour. The EEE came with Windows Media Player 9, which I quickly upgraded to Version 11. Skype is included as well, and I'm looking forward to getting it set up. The EEE is well configured for use with VoIP applications. It includes a 1.3mp web cam, two microphones (with noise cancelling) as well as an external microphone jack. It supports Bluetooth headsets, and pairing with a cell phone. With no hard drive the EEE is absolutely quiet. No machine noises to distract from music enjoyment or your VoIP phone call.
The 901 came well-packaged. Inside the box I found:
- The EEE 901.
- A soft slip-case for the 901.
- A cleaning cloth.
- The AC adapter.
- User Guide
- XP Support DVD
- A Microsoft Product Identification card for Microsoft Works.
- Warranty Card
- Quick Use Guide (for Windows XP)
The right side of the 901 includes an SD/MMC slot, Two USB ports, a VGA Video Port, and the AC adapter port.
The left side of the 901 includes earphone and microphone jacks, another USB port, and Ethernet jack, and the lock socket.
The underside view reveals many vents for passive heat control, two tabs allow releasing the battery, and there is a removeable panel behind which I presume memory socket(s) might be found.
I fully charged the 901 last night. It includes a 6-cell battery, and having had it on for more than 3 hours already with wifi and Bluetooth active, it reports that I've got 3:08 hours remaining. It looks like battery life will be amazing on this little PC. The 901 features ASUS' Super Hybrid Engine, a power management utility. It allows you to select between Super Performance, High Performance, Power Saving, and Auto Modes.
At this point, I'm extremely impressed with the 901. It feels solid, looks great. The keys have a nice travel. The touchpad needs some refinement, but that may be something I can accomplish with settings I haven't found yet. The bottom of the 901 can get pretty warm, but no more than any laptop I've had experience with. I don't recommend setting it on your bed or anywhere else it may be "insulated" and as such not cool itself easily. Vents on the bottom should not be blocked. There is no active fan.
My advice? If you're interested in a VERY mobile, small and lightweight netbook the ASUS EEE 901 may fill the bill. With limited internal storage (12gb in the XP version) you won't want to keep your entire media collection on it. Adding an external DVD/CD burner and an external hard drive should be easy. Personally I use the 901's great wifi to access my media off my home server, and will rely on that same server for future program and data storage.
Grade? B+. ASUS is working on a touchscreen model. I've grown to love the touchscreen interface of my iPod Touch, and believe a touchscreen version of the 901 with a screen that could fold back over the keyboard would be the ideal netbook. B+ is above average and certainly passing though. Well done, ASUS.


  1. Great review. Your recommendation of VLC is even more important on the Linux version, as the default player won't handle some video formats.

    The touchpad is definitely capable of more than scrolling. It can handle Macbook/iPod Touch style zoom and pinch gestures. I can't be more specific, as I have the Linux version, but I have seen them work on a 901 with Vista installed. It might be control panel settings, or you might have to download an updated driver from Elantech.

    I generally do video by transferring the files to a 16GB USB flash drive - works great and you don't have to clutter up your hard disk or carry anything large and heavy.

  2. Thanks, Bob. After Playing with the 901 some more I discovered the touchpad will allow two-finger pinch and squeeze in windows photo viewer. I also discovered that the WiFi has trouble with my router using 802.11n, but works great using b or g. I also discovered that a few apps don't scale down to 1024x600, but fortunately the 901 has two 1024x768 options to choose from, a pan and scan mode or a compressed mode.

    Still happy with it.

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