After using the Asus Eee 900 netbook for a while there are a few things that stand out. As most are aware of, the keyboard is very small, that in itself is not a big problem, but if there is any part of the computer that feels under-engineered it is the keyboard. Sometimes the keys are unresponsive and there is little feel between the keys, which can cause you to hit the wrong key, or after you hit the key nothing happens. If you are selling a computer that has a very small keyboard, the company should make sure that it is the best keyboard it can be.
Except for the keyboard the feel of the machine is very solid. It is designed with a lot of thought, the placement of the usb ports (3), SD slot and the speakers are all well done. The Eee 900 does not come with a CD/DVD, PCMCIA slot or a Modem and the simple design removes anything that is not necessary.
Our version came with Linux and a 16 Gig Solid State Hard Drive. The Linux version the computer comes with is excellent. Even a beginner would find no problem using this Linux version. The great thing is that everything works with Linux, so you don't have to worry that the built-in video camera or wireless will have any problems being recognized by Linux. If you have ever installed Linux on a laptop you will understand how annoying it can be to get everything to work with Linux.
Even though the Basic Desktop that comes standard with the system is fine for normal users we decided that we wanted the Advanced Desktop mode. This was a very easy upgrade.
Enabling Advanced Desktop Mode
If you hit Ctl-Alt-T in the normal "Easy Mode" you can call up the Terminal Window. To enable the Advanced Desktop Mode do the following at the terminal prompt.
# pico /etc/apt/sources.list
add the following lines:
deb http://update.eeepc.asus.com/p701 p701 main
deb http://update.eeepc.asus.com/p701/en p701 main
To save the file press ctrl O and to exit press ctrl x
# apt-get update
# apt-get install kicker
# apt-get install ksmserver
Once the files are added you can exit out of the terminal and left-click the red icon located on the bottom right of the screen. You should see the new desktop option.
If you are looking for a real full computer then you should enable the Advanced Desktop mode to make it easier to install software and customize the computer for your needs. We installed PHP, Apache, MySql and a few other programs to see how this netbook would perform as a server. Even though the processor is not the latest or the fastest it performed very well. We also installed GIMP, but there are some image editing software programs that come pre-installed. GIMP works well but don't count on doing any difficult processing.
Keep in mind this computer comes with a relatively small hard drive so the Linux installation is pretty small. Open Office and a few other business programs are included but not very much is preloaded, such as if you were performing an install from scratch using Debian or Ubuntu. The drive size is fine for most applications. If you need 100 gigs or the ability to process images for detailed renderings then you might want to pass on the computer.
Screen Size & Quality
The screen on the computer is very bright and the 1024 width is perfect for most applications. Keep in mind the screen is quite small, text comes up tiny in many situations. But you can always increase text size with ctrl-+ when you are viewing web pages. Overall the screen is very nice. But at 8.9 inches you really might not want to play games or read long documents.
I prefer to use external mice so I never got a chance to try out the touch pad too much. I hate them so it is easier to use a real mouse.
Asus added a nice feature in case you need to bring your system back to its factory settings. You will lose any programs or documents you created but you can fully restore your system by hitting F9 at boot up, this gives you the option of completely restoring your system to the way it was out of the box. This is a great feature considering there is no CD/DVD drive and as long as you back up the files you created you can't really screw up your system.
We picked up our system for $350 from Amazon. I can't imagine a better deal, the Kindle is $400 and so is the iphone, and they are not even real computers. The Eee 901 is also out on the market and considering the changes seem processor related it sounds like that would also be a great deal. The Eee 1000 (SD an Hard Drive versions) come with 10 inch screens and I assume slightly larger keyboards, but the Eee 900 has been a great computer to use. Many people could probably use this as their primary computer. Even though battery life is not as long as you would hope (~ 2 hours with screen bright and wireless on) it is a very well made, very portable computer. It might take a while to get used to but you can take this computer along with you anywhere and it can do anything a desktop could do (within reason).