One of my coworkers goes to India every other year for her Yoga certification. This december she’s heading over there, and when the topic of laptops came up, one woman mentioned she’d bought ___ laptop for her daughter for college, and the other coworker said she was looking for a good laptop to take with her to India that was small cheap and could get the job done. My eyebrows raise and catch her attention. “Eee PC“, I say. “Eee PC?” “Yes, it’s $400 and is this small (gesturing with my hands). I shoot her an email later that Tuesday . Wednesday she tells me she’s ordered the linux version of the 701 and it will be arriving Friday.
So today I got to look at my first ever Eee PC close up and play around with it. It’d arrived while I was at lunch, and by the time I’d gotten back, she’d already set it up (keep in mind she doesn’t even know how to use the keyboard commands to copy and paste), plugged in her thumb drive and was watching a slideshow of the pictures on her thumbdrive. The menu system is pretty easy to navigate – tab key switches between the various tabs, arrow keys switch between the various applications inside the tabs. There’s even an icon to open/manage the pictures taken with the Eee’s webcam in the file manager. Classy.
Build quality was impressive. She got the black plastic model, which to say redundantly, is impressive. Very sturdy plastic, looks like a tiny thinkpad. The plastic in the Amazon.com product pictures is decieving. In the pictures it looks almost glossy – not so – they must have had it under a spotlight to get that kind of reflection. The case is a flat black which looks utterly stunning. The case is fairly thick plastic and there’s no give to it like my Dell Inspiron 1100 or Ti Powerbook G4. My main concern has always been the quality of the case. The hinge is very, very sturdy feeling; in previous years the hinge has been a problem but it looks like they nailed it here. The keys. The keys are really fucking tiny. I have full size adult man hands and I’ve read elsewhere that the keys were “Too small to do extended typing on” and I think I understand now. The key surfaces are sort of convex (domed) instead of concave, so that when you’re typing, the edge of your finger can catch other keys on the keypress down; also makes it hard to center your finger on the keys. Before my argument was always “well I don’t ever write anything longer than a short email”…. well two short sentences proved as frustrating as typing on an iPhone. More comfortable than my blackberry, but only in that typing on an Eee doesn’t destroy the cartilage in your thumb joints.
Screen was also impressive. For the tiny resolution, that tiny screen is perfect. Super, super bright, and everything is set up great for that resolution. The fact that there’s an official ubuntu distro coming out for the 701 makes it that much more hot to buy.
You’re definitely not buying a primary machine here, unless you only go online to check your email a couple times a week. Where you could get buy with a full resolution laptop as a primary machine, I don’t think this is a good idea for any student except those in close proximity to the library’s computer lab. But if you’re planning on traveling to another country and need a disposable laptop, this is a winner.