More thoughts on the Eee PC

I posted my first impressions of the Eee PC last week. That post was written after just a few hours of getting the Eee so I thought it would be good to do a follow up of the laptop having now owned it for about 9 days.

Having used it quite a bit in the last week my opinion has not changed. I am still pleased with the purchase and overall I think its a great device however there are a lot of things that Asus could improve upon. Most of which are from a software point of view so I guess some of the gripes are with linux and not Asus.

The Asus EEE PC

  • The Keyboard – With a device as small as the Eee it is to be expected that the keyboard is equally as small. It's not too bad to type on. You find yourself touch typing quite a lot and I still make errors sometimes when typing. For example, when I try to type too quick I look back at the sentence and see that some letters are missing or I have put in some extra letters by accident. This isn't really a complaint, more of an observation. I really think Asus have done as good as they could have with the room they have to play with. I wouldn't recommend doing any serious typing on this though. If for some reason you need to write a lot on the Eee then I'd pick up a cheap portable full sized usb keyboard and hook it up.
  • Default Software Programs – I have to say that all of the software that comes installed with the Eee works great. OpenOffice is very handy, pigeon messenger integrates well with msn and yahoo and the thunderbird email client works great. OpenOffice takes up the most room on your solid state drive but it's also one of the most useful so it's probably best to keep it. Nearly everything in the learning tab is geared towards kids so many of you might consider removing it however these learning programs only take up a few meg each so there's not much point.
  • Additional Software & Advanced Settings – Asus provide semi regular updates on all of the default programs however if you want to install or remove any other programs you need to do it yourself. This is one of the things Asus really needs to improve upon. I can see the logic in Asus making everything really user friendly and providing Eee users with the applications they will use 90% of the time however they have made installing everything else a bit trickier.

    To install and remove programs you need to open a terminal and type in ‘sudo synaptic' to bring up a user friendly box where you can decide what you want on your Eee. That isn't exactly a hard command to remember however there is no reference to it in the user manual. Thankfully the EeeUser Wiki has the answer to everything you need to know but I don't think that Eee customers should have to rely on non-Asus sites to find stuff out and thats the case for most problems. I know that this method is common in linux however surely they could have modified the xandros operating system to make things easier for customers who aren't computer noobs but who are not familiar with programming ie. Joe Average! For example, the default xandros setting is easy mode. This is the operating system with all the icons etc. You can switch to a more familiar desktop background however once again you need to head to the terminal and enter some commands. If you are familiar with following basic commands etc this isn't too much of a hassle but again, it's little things like this which are making the Eee limited for some customers.

  • Backup is good – The Eee comes with a user partition on top of a system partition. If something messes up you can hit F9 on booting up and clear the Eee to the default installation within minutes. If you are saving most things to your SD card then this means that you can restore factory defaults anytime without worry about losing anything. I spent a few days changing settings and removed the user partition so that I could try and install XP and during this time something messed up and the Eee couldn't load up. Since I had removed the user partition I could not use the restore method and instead had to create a boot drive from the asus dvd but this was really easy. In that respect Asus have done a really good job.
  • The Solid State Drive – I know that SSD's have a limited lifespan compared to standard hard drives however I really can't wait til they are the norm. The eee loads up quickly and applications load really quickly too. Prices of flash drives are coming down to down so expect to see solid state drives more and more in laptops.
  • To XP or not XP – I'm considering making my Eee dual boot with both Xandros and XP. XP is apparently very to install with an external DVD drive however since I don't have one at the moment I have had to try and boot from a 2GB usb thumb drive. I nlited my XP files but it wouldn't boot so I'll need to try again. Installing XP on my SSD card would make XP run much much slower however it would mean that Xandros wouldn't have the recovery partition (Xandros is so quick I really want to keep it for general browsing the web and emailing etc).

Later on in the year I will probably get another sub notebook, once which comes with windows installed. I think that something with an 8.9″ screen would still be as portable but would be a more all round machine. I do sometimes wish that the Eee had XP installed by default, I do sometimes wish it had a higher resolution and a bigger hard drive but for £250 the Eee remains a bargain.

If you are thinking about buying the Eee and have some questions about it please let me know :)