June 16, 2008

ASUS Eee Perfect for Poor, Lonely Backpackers, Full-Time Travelers, Your Mom
Miami Beach, United States

I'm not a phone guy. I don't like hearing them ring, I don't like talking on them, and I certainly don't enjoy listening to people scream obliviously into their cells. When I did have a phone, I constantly let calls roll over to voicemail (much to the aggravation of some). I've never been a slave to the phone, and won't jump just to answer it.

It absolutely amazes me how long some people can talk on the phone. It was only two or three days after we arrived in Miami and Tatiana already had a multi-hour (Skype) call with her family back in Lima under her belt. I stared at her in disbelief—"Didn't we just get done spending several months with these people? What could you possibly have to talk about for so long?"

Tatiana is a strong, independent woman, but she's very close with her family. Traveling in SE Asia with her, I don't think I realized just how much she was—and wasn't—corresponding with them.

She likes to chat with friends and family over phone, e-mail, and instant messenger, but since her laptop died a few months ago hasn't been corresponding much. Spending the $300 to buy the replacement part needed just isn't worth the money since her massive laptop (with its 15" screen) is just too big and heavy to travel with.

She doesn't really like to use my laptop for whatever reason—perhaps afraid to screw up the software, use it when I needed it, or spill something on it—and it slowly became obvious to me that her not having such a device to keep in contact with people was starting to depress her (…and would surely only get worse when we left Miami for the road and she didn't have a cell phone).

I knew her price point was in the "as cheap as possible" range, and that she'd only use it for taking photos off her camera, e-mail, a handful of Web sites, Skype calls, and instant messenger conversations.

This got me to thinking about some of the micro-laptops—"netbooks" is the term coined earlier this year—starting to pop up out there. After some research and review reading, I asked Tatiana what she'd think about spending about $400 on a tiny new laptop that ran Windows XP.

She was sold.

I purchased it off of Newegg.com for $399.99 (free shipping), but not before checking it out at a local Israeli electronics store on South Beach.

Lord, Israeli men are hilarious. These guys were selling the unit for $100 over retail, and tried everything in their book to get us to walk out the door with one—claming that the "white and pink models get very dirty very fast" when she said she didn't want it in black.

We were almost in tears (of laughter) as exited we the store with the straight-faced line of "OK, OK, OK—We'll paint it pink for you if that's the color you want!" still echoing in our ears.

Classic. Gotta love these guys.

Impressions of the ASUS Eee PC (model 4G, 701)

ASUS Eee compared against my compact 12" Twinhead H12Y, pack of gum. Speakers flank the display in this particular model

Small. This thing is bloody small, and light too (only two pounds, with the battery). A perfect size for the traveler with limited space, system demands.

The wireless reception is every bit as amazing as I'd read it was—I'm getting double the Wi-Fi signal reception as my laptop's (already decent) range, plus a dozen networks here in my hotel room that my machine doesn't even pick up.

Three built-in USB ports, a SD(HC) memory card reader, Ethernet port, external monitor port, and web cam are some of the features, as well as the first laptop I've seen that sports a solid-state hard drive instead of a conventional one with spinning platters (this means faster access speeds and no moving parts to break during transport).

Sadly, the puny 4GB solid-state drive that's in there is nearly consumed with Windows XP Home (Service Pack 3) installed onto it—meaning you'll need an external hard drive or an high-capacity SD card to install additional applications on. I ordered an 8GB Transcend SDHC card for a mere $35 at the same time as the laptop, but the card fried only after some light use. Hopefully it was the card that's defective, and not the laptop.

I like the fact that the power supply cable doesn't have one of those conventional power bricks attached to it (or even a grounded three-prong plug). I'm sure it'd be easy enough to get a replacement, should it burn out/up.

The keyboard is quite small, but should pose no problem for most women. Brawny construction worker hands could have some problems.

The tiny 7" screen is crisp and bright, but seriously lacks in resolution (800×480). The vertically challenged display is most annoying in Windows XP when system settings dialogue boxes extend beyond the capabilities of the screen—making it impossible to click the 'OK' or 'Cancel' buttons without some fancy mouse work or adjusting the screen resolution to 800×600 (which triggers an ugly vertical scrolling effect).

Other than a general lack of screen real estate, the resolution of the display is really only annoying when visiting some Web sites. There's a growing trend among Web designers to make pages that are wider than the increasingly antiquated 800px standard, resulting in an unwanted horizontal scrollbar across the bottom of the browser. There's certainly no shortage of scrolling when you own this model of Eee PC.

I'm a power user that certainly could never use this as my primary laptop (except perhaps one of those new 901s that are coming out), but for someone like Tatiana who wants to use Wi-Fi hotspots to casually IM family or make Skype calls with a webcam, it's perfect. Ditto goes for business travelers who only need a machine to hook up to an external display to run a Power Point presentation. This thing is light, zippy, and takes up absolutely no space at all.

I'm looking forward to a new wave of inexpensive netbooks hitting the market—a traveler's dream.

Check out the specs on the different models of ASUS Eee PCs, or browse the large Eee community forum.

Comments:

The United States

Wade Vagabondjourney.com

November 19th, 2008

Howdy Craig,

Good post about the Asus Eee PC. I have been traveling with the 4g Windows model and found it great as a web appliance, but not up to the challenge of continuously using to make websites or anything more serious than Skype, email, or internet browsing. I found myself in a constant battle for space, and had to continuously delete files and clear out all of the junk the built up in it. In the end, it became too much of a fight and I now use an Eee PC 12 gig model. It is going good. The space on the drives are still confuigured a little oddly, as the C drive that holds Windows and is the default for uploaded programs is still only 4 gigs, but I found that if I dilligently keep everything on the 8 gig D drive, it works as well as a larger laptop. In all, I love these little computers, and they are totally built tough and travel well.

Good posts.

I put up these links below which show my experience traveling with Asus Eee PCs:

Original Eee PC Not Good for Traveling Webmasters

Eee PC Broken

Asus Eee PC popular with Travelers

Asus Eee PC Initial Impressions

Romania

Craig | travelvice.com

November 20th, 2008

Howdy Wade,

Disk space is an issue w/ the model that Tatiana's carrying around. It certainly doesn't help that the SD card slot often used to expand the storage capabilities of the machine is apparently defective — two 8GB cards have burned out in the thing with very little usage.

She's also just started complaining about the screen space when using some new visual MSN mail overhaul — lots and lots of horizontal scrolling. Hopefully a motivator to stop using Hotmail.

But aside from that, the Wi-Fi range is the best I've ever seen, it's light, packs small, and is perfect for casual e-mail, surfing, instant messaging, and Skype (video) calls.

Backpacking with an Asus Eee PC

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