by Kevin O’Brien
While at Computex 2008, I had a chance to get my hands on the new Asus Eee PC 901, as they are currently for sale in Taiwan, even though the US won’t get them for quite a while longer. It took a bit of work (as well as the help of two other tech writers) to search the computer district in the Kauanghua Plaza for a store that had the Eee PC 901 in stock, but we finally managed to snag some. Read on to see how well these early release Taiwanese Asus Eee PC 901’s worked out.
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Asus Eee PC 901 12GB specifications:
- Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor
- 12GB of Flash-based storage (4GB onboard SSD and 8GB PCI-E mini card SSD)
- 1GB of DDR2 RAM (667MHz)
- Windows XP operating system
- 8.9-inch screen with 1024 x 600 resolution
- Ports: 3 USB 2.0, 1 VGA monitor out, headphone jack, microphone input, SD card reader (SDHC compatible), Kensington lock slot, Ethernet 10/100
- Webcam (1.3 MP)
- Battery: 6600 mAh 7.2V Li-Ion
- Wireless: 802.11b/g/n Atheros, Bluetooth 2.0
- Input: Keyboard and Multi-touch touchpad
- One-year warranty
Build and Design
The new Eee PC 901 looks much different, in a good way, than the older 900. The body has a much smoother design, including a very nice glossy finish that is many steps above the older pearl finish found on the 701 and 900. The Asus logo front and center on the display cover is gone, and replaced with a "Eee" branding, which in my opinion looks much nicer and more polished. The new look of the 901 does increase the size by a tiny amount around the screen bezel, which you only notice when you have it side by side with the older 900.
Build quality is better than ever, from the better paint finish to the stronger feeling screen hinge. With each revision the Asus Eee PC starts feeling or looking less like a cheap budget notebook and more like a high quality portable notebook.
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The display doesn’t appear to have changed from the older 900, and probably uses the exact same LCD panel. Colors are bright and vibrant, whites are clean, and viewing angles could even be considered above those of many higher end notebooks. The only complaint I have with the screen is a light sparkly effect that you can notice when looking at solid colors on the screen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard stayed basically the same from the older 900, with a few minor font tweaks to some of the buttons. The keys and action remained identical though, so don’t expect anything above what you might have already experienced on the 701 or 900. The keyboard on two of the Eee PC 901’s we were playing with had a bulging in the center, and a slightly tweaked spacebar and alt key. After tearing the keyboard off and bending it slightly in my hand, as well as reseating the cable, we were back in action with a much better feeling keyboard. Since these were fresh off the lot notebooks, some of this might be related to assembly quirks being worked out in the Taiwan market.
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The touchpad changed from the older 900, in some ways better and some ways not so much. Users gain two separate buttons instead of the seesaw clicker on the 701 or 900, which feels better overall when using it. The aspect that I didn’t really enjoy was the "grain" texture of the touchpad, which has a tendency to make your finger slide with the grain, instead of where you are directing it. The feeling did improve as the touchpad was used and collected oils, but still felt weird over a normal touchpad surface. Some of this is up to user preference, so as always; try to check out one of these notebooks in person before you decide to purchase one.
The Intel Atom processor is a very nice upgrade, proving to increase performance by a factor of two over the older Intel Celeron M. With the limited software on hand we stuck with wPrime, but it gave a pretty good indication of what performance you might expect in other areas as well.
At full speed (overlocked to 1.8GHz in Super Performance mode) the new Eee PC 901 managed 111 seconds using wPrime 1.58. The older Eee PC 900 with the Celeron M managed 200+ seconds running the same test.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|Asus Eee PC 901 (Intel Atom @ 1.8GHz)||111 seconds|
| Asus Eee PC 900 (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900MHz)
|HP 2133 Mini-Note (Via CV7-M ULV @ 1.6GHz)||168.697 seconds|
|Asus Eee PC 4G (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 630MHz)||289.156 seconds|
|Asus Eee PC 4G (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900MHz)||200.968 seconds|
|Everex CloudBook (VIA C7-M ULV @ 1.2GHz)||248.705 seconds|
|Fujitsu U810 Tablet PC (Intel A110 @ 800MHz)||209.980 seconds|
|Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B (Core Solo U1500 @ 1.33GHz)||124.581 seconds|
|Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.2GHz)||76.240 seconds|
|Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile @ 1.6GHz)||231.714 seconds|
The new Eee PC 901 offers a larger battery, 6600 mAh over the 5800 mAh in the older 900. While the increased capacity will always help with battery life, the newer power sipping Intel Atom processor really helps out. BatteryMon was indicating 5 hours and 56 minutes overall on one Eee PC 901, and 5 hours and 55 minutes on the other. With a cleaner system installation, you should be able to sqeeze out even more power.
Heat and Noise
While I didn’t have my IR gun handy to get temperature readings, the Intel Atom-equipped Eee 901 was just as hot as the 900. Most of this was already presumed from the start, since the subnotebooks are still very small and have quite a bit of thermal energy to shed. Most of this goes through the keyboard heatsink, and can make for a hand warming experience.
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More to Come
As of this writing I’ve only had a few brief moments to play with the new Eee PC. Overall the Asus Eee PC 901 is a very promising upgrade and offers quite a few hints of what we can expect from the newer Eee PC 1000 that should be hitting shelves in a couple of months. The polished look is wonderful, and the much improved gloss white is incredible compared to the older pearl white finish. The biggest change, though, is the new Intel Atom platform. The Atom processor really changes this subnotebook for the better. It is hard to find complaints about a platform that gives quite a large bump in speed and lowers power consumption.