by Jerry Jackson
The Asus Eee PC quickly became an overnight success after its release last year. Consumers looking for a low-cost ultraportable laptop began buying the Linux-based Eee PC in record numbers. After months of customer feedback, Asus has decided to offer the Eee PC with Windows XP and a couple of extras … all for close to the same amazing price. Let’s take a look.
A Little History Of A Little Laptop
As the editor for a technology website and as a consumer constantly looking for cheap deals on electronics, I was genuinely impressed with the Asus Eee PC 4G. This little low-cost laptop comes dangerously close to being a "disposable notebook" at its current price of $399. Sure, if you spend your time shopping for deals you can find new laptops from other companies that rival this price … but none are as convenient to carry as the tiny Eee PC.
The editorial staff of NotebookReview.com chose to award the Eee PC 4G with the Editors Choice Award in October of 2007 and I even wrote a follow-up article proclaiming the "perfection" of the Eee PC. Despite all there is to love about these pint-sized subnotebooks, I would be lying if I said the Eee PC is without its flaws. In order to give consumers a mobile laptop at a rediculously low price Asus had to use a small, low-resolution LCD. This 7-inch display isn’t great for long-term use, but then again the Eee PC was designed for short-term use such as a short business trip or casual web browsing anywhere you go.
The Eee PC also uses a 900MHz Intel processor that’s a little slower than most consumers expect in today’s market. In fact, the processor actually runs at a slower clock speed straight out of the box and it’s up to the user to set the processor to run at a full 900MHz in the BIOS. That’s a little complicated for most consumers … but again, we’re talking about a low-cost travel laptop that’s almost disposable yet still manages to rival ultraportable notebooks costing much more.
Still, the biggest criticism from consumers was the use of Asus’ customized Xandros Linux as an operating system. The "Eee" in Eee PC stands for "Easy to Learn, easy to work, easy to play." Unfortunately, although the point-and-click Linux interface was indeed simple, most customers didn’t find it "easy." In fact, the single most common modification that customers made to their Eee PCs was the installation of Windows XP.
Well, Asus was paying attention, and the Eee PC with Windows XP is here.
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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
This review of the new Asus Eee PC with Windows XP doesn’t follow our typical review format because, to be perfectly honest, little has changed with this release of the Eee PC. Basically, the Eee PC 4G with Windows XP is the same notebook as the Eee PC 4G with Linux. The only difference is the operating system and couple of extra accessories (a 4GB SDHC card from A-DATA, and a small wired USB optical mouse).
Why is this attractive to consumers? Well, you get an extra $30-$40 worth of accessories and a $100 operating system for little or no increase over the low price of the original Eee PC 4G: retail prices range from $399 to $469 at the time of this writing.
Performance and Benchmarks
The Eee PC isn’t designed for HD video encoding or playing Crysis, but it is designed to be a mobile companion that’s perfect for web browsing, working in Microsoft Office, or some light gaming while on the road.
For our standard performance benchmarks we decided to test the Eee PC with Windows XP in both the stock configuration (with the processor running at 630MHz) and using one of the Asus BIOS to set the processor at its full clock speed of 900MHz.
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
|Asus Eee PC 4G (630MHz Intel Celeron M ULV)||968 PCMarks|
|Asus Eee PC 4G (900MHz Intel Celeron M ULV)||1,132 PCMarks|
|Everex CloudBook (1.2GHz VIA C7-M ULV)||612 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600)||2,446 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 (1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400)||1,152 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500)||1,554 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Portege R500 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600)||1,839 PCMarks|
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|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 bottom line is the Eee PC performs well with the Intel processor … but it performs better when it’s running at full speed. The other item of note in these benchmarks is the incredibly poor performance of the VIA processor despite a significantly faster clock speed. This suggests VIA processors may in fact be a poor choice for this form factor. It also means the competition needs to think seriously about alternative processors choices from Intel.
The Eee PC with Windows solves two of the key complaints about the original Eee PC 4G. Adding Windows XP and an extra 4GB SDHC card make this notebook much more attractive to most consumers who need a low-priced notebook that can go everywhere with them.
Although I understand the realities dictating retail price, the Eee PC is already dangerously close to being too expensive for what you get. The original $399 price point is great, but some retailers are selling the new Eee PC with Windows XP for $469. Once we get to $500 most consumers would be better off buying a budget 15-inch notebook and living with the inconvenience of the larger size. The Eee PC is still a great choice for people who want a low-cost travel companion, but the key element to the Eee PC’s success has been the low price. The Eee PC concept likely won’t succeed if Asus or retailers keep increasing the price.
Overall, the Eee PC 4G with Windows is a great deal for anyone who was considering the purchase of the original Eee PC and buying Windows separately. If you’re the type of person who wants a low-cost ultraportable notebook the Eee PC is still the king of the hill.
- Still a great subnotebook at a great price
- Windows XP is a better fit for this machine
- Extra 4G SDHC card and mouse are nice
- Still a tiny display
- Still a cramped keyboard
- The processor should be clocked at 900MHz by default