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The Eee, as it presents itself to you upon boot.  (Source: DailyTech. Chris Peredun)

Taking a picture of the Eee taking a picture of the camera taking a picture of the Eee -- Now you're thinking with Portals.  (Source: DailyTech. Chris Peredun)

Quake III Arena running on the Eee PC under Windows  (Source: DailyTech. Chris Peredun)
Impressions of the ultra-light, ultra-portable laptop, from people who can't leave well enough alone

There has been no shortage of coverage on DailyTech about ASUS's Eee PC, but only recently has the super-hyped device reached general public. Over the weekend we ran our Eee through the gamut of Linux and Windows XP stress tests, with suprise and delight at almost every corner.

The Eee's 80-key keyboard is downright microscopic in scale. While it manages to squeeze in most of the important keys, we quickly found four that we badly missed: PgUp, PgDn, Home and End, which are now a Fn-combination with the arrow keys. Sacrifices do have to be made, and you can't really fault the Eee for being small -- but it's just something to consider if you're shopping for one.

In terms of connectivity, the Eee is hard to fault. The network connections both worked flawlessly, USB ports were functioning at full speed, the VGA port had no problem outputting its full 1600x1200 resolution, and the SD slot recognized an 8GB SDHC card without complaint. The only networking caveat is that the Eee needs to be completely off before connecting an external monitor, or it won't be able to auto-configure it correctly.

Unfortunately, the Eee's hardware is let down by the software included. While the underpinnings itself are solid -- not one crash since we've had the device -- the Eee is a first-run product with a few wrinkles yet to iron out.

After a quick glance at the jumbo-GUI, a reboot and F2 key sent us into the BIOS to enable the built-in webcam. Certainly not something you would expect the smiling children on the EeePC micro-site to be aware of. A quick launch back into the OS, and the camera was up and running.

Next up was another visit to the F2 key, this time combined with the Fn (function) key to get the wireless activated. To be fair, this was covered inthe quick-start guide -- but what wasn't covered is the fact that the Eee doesn't automatically reconnect to a wireless profile after a reboot. Changing this requires a visit to the wireless tray icon, and changing the connection start mode to "On boot" from "Manual."

Multiple attempts to find the advertised "Advanced Mode" proved futile, and we could only surmise that it has been somehow removed from the shipping software.

The Linux version of SuperPi churned out a rather mediocre result of 108 seconds to calculate Pi to 1 million decimal places, and hdparm gave a buffered read rate of 16.94MB/sec from the SSD. The Linux demo of Quake 3 Arena flat-out refused to install due to various dependency failures in KDE.

MP3 playback was flawless, as could be expected, and video worked excellently. However, when playing video over the wireless network connection, certain video streams seemed to hitch and stutter a bit, almost as if the Eee wasn't buffering enough. This didn't happen when playing from the wired connection, or from any local source. If you plan on using the Eee as a portable video player, invest in a large SD card or stick to lower bitrates.

While the Eee ships with Linux, it also ships with a support DVD containing Windows XP drivers. Be forewarned: If you don’t have a USB-connected DVD or CD drive, you’re in for a fight.

The Eee’s manual gives many helpful tips on the basic installation of Windows XP and post-install tweaks, the best piece of advice we can give is this: use nLite. After stripping out unwanted components and installing all the necessary drivers, DailyTech’s nLite-tweaked OS consumed only 750MB of space on the Eee’s 4GB drive. All of the devices worked properly, from the function keys to the webcam.

Running SuperPi on the Eee under XP resulted in a result of 128 seconds -– a good bit worse than the Linux results, but the SSD fared much better, turning in a read rate of 33.4MB/sec. The problem experienced with video over the wireless didn’t present itself under Windows XP, and 3DMark2001SE turned in a result of 1536 at the Eee’s native resolution of 800x480.

With the synthetic benchmarks out of the way, it was time to take a shot at the games again. Quake III Arena installed flawlessly from the DVD drive. With the resolution and aspect ratio adjusted to 800x480 and the details cranked as high as they would go, we plugged in a USB mouse, connected to a public server, and were pleasantly surprised by very playable framerates. Running the standard demo001 test (an eight-player recorded deathmatch) yielded an average of 41.5fps.

While the Eee will be perfectly capable at handling older games, we found that anything newer tended to fall flat on its face for several reasons. First and foremost is the Intel GMA900 graphics chip -– second is the fact that the Eee’s processor is actually running at 630MHz instead of the alleged 900MHz that has been such a popular number until this point.

The Eee’s shipping BIOS –- and the recently updated version -– both lock the front-side bus to only 70MHz, bringing the processor and memory clocks down with it. There is a “leaked” BIOS floating around from ASUS's international site, but it caused the Eee to become unstable to the point where tests would not reliably complete.

The Eee PC has potential, but it success will be hindered by unpolished software and firmware. Thankfully, this can be fixed in future units, and in all honesty, it's likely that the entire first shipment has gone to those who won't be miffed in the slightest by the fact that they'll need to get their hands a little dirty to get what they want from the hardware.

If you're an early adopter who loves technology and likes a challenge -- buy it. But hold off on giving it as a gift until some of the bugs are worked out. Thankfully, with the full source to the Xandros OS freely downloadable from the ASUS website, and the force of the open-source community behind it, that shouldn't take too long.


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Battery Life
By mrteddyears on 11/6/2007 8:38:30 AM , Rating: 2
what was the battery life like ?




RE: Battery Life
By Chris Peredun on 11/6/2007 8:47:54 AM , Rating: 3
Looping 3DMark2001SE gave us about two hours - normal usage and surfing over WiFi brings that up to 2:45 or 3h, depending on how much surfing you're doing.

The battery gauge seems to have a big "reserve tank" - it will drop fairly quickly, but it seems like the 30% mark stretches on for a good time. The battery gauge also only measures in 10% increments under XP, so if you're planning on setting an alarm at 5%, you might want to reconsider.


RE: Battery Life
By mrteddyears on 11/6/2007 8:59:41 AM , Rating: 2
Top man thanks for that I think I have found my new toy :-)


By hannibal the mechanical bull on 11/6/2007 10:11:07 AM , Rating: 2
I always wonder about that, as diff devices behave differently... I wonder if this is the way all Asus eee's are or would it depend on the particular battery?


RE: Battery Life
By afkrotch on 11/6/2007 11:27:24 AM , Rating: 2
Have you tried getting Win2k running on it? Win2k is a bit lighter weight than WinXP. I'm sure the XP drivers would work under Win2k.


RE: Battery Life
By Bluestealth on 11/6/2007 12:13:54 PM , Rating: 2
Just use nLite to strip out XP's fluff. XP actually boots faster as well as having a "few" *cough extra features, such as better HID support.


RE: Battery Life
By Chris Peredun on 11/6/2007 12:22:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Just use nLite to strip out XP's fluff.


That's precisely what we did, and ended up with a final install size of only 750MB. Even after turning on a small swap file and hibernation, that still left us with 2.5GB of available space for applications, data, and of course - games.


RE: Battery Life
By afkrotch on 11/6/2007 1:12:52 PM , Rating: 2
Ya, but how small can you make Win2k by using nLite?


RE: Battery Life
By therealnickdanger on 11/6/2007 1:16:56 PM , Rating: 1
Didn't someone fit Win2K on a single floppy? Or was that Win98? Either way, even a full install of XP on a 8GB or 16GB version of the EEEPC along with SD expansion storage would alleviate most storage issues.


RE: Battery Life
By Bluestealth on 11/6/2007 6:44:29 PM , Rating: 2
The only way you are going to fit 2k on a floppy is to strip it down to NTDOS and only the drivers for your critical hardware.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think you will get anything 2000 like, just NT.


RE: Battery Life
By Ringold on 11/6/2007 2:29:53 PM , Rating: 2
I don't care if it OC's much, being a laptop, but what about undervolting?

I've been able to squeeze a nice extra bit of battery life out of a Turion64-powered laptop by locking it at its lowest clock (800mhz) @ .8v rather than its stock, uh, 1 or 1.125, somewhere thereabouts (it's been a while). Is there any such flexibility with the Eee, or is Vcore not tweakable in the BIOS?


RE: Battery Life
By Chris Peredun on 11/6/2007 2:35:02 PM , Rating: 2
It's already "factory underclocked" to 630MHz CPU speed (70MHz FSB) and likely has a similar locked-in voltage adjustment. The Eee's BIOS is pretty spartan as far as advanced configurations.

I have yet to try attacking it with NHC (Notebook Hardware Control) but since it does use a Celeron-M and the Intel 910GML chipset, I'm hoping that I'll be able to at least adjust downward if not in both directions.


RE: Battery Life
By Ringold on 11/6/2007 3:35:29 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that sounds like most laptop BIOS's.

I used RMClock on the laptop with success, but with the Eee BIOS seemingly still being in beta testing I dont hold out much hope. Having been all AMD for so long I've never had a intel-based laptop (C2D wasn't out when I got my last laptop), so not familiar with this NHC software.

Good luck! I'll be watching with interest as I just may pick one up before Christmas, just as soon as I figure out a decent justification for it.


RE: Battery Life
By ajfink on 11/7/2007 12:30:48 AM , Rating: 2
What does CPU-Z have to say about it?


Youtube
By therealnickdanger on 11/6/2007 9:06:25 AM , Rating: 3
The first thing I did last week when this toy hit the market was check Youtube for footage of this device playing games and running Windows. I'm pretty impressed, really, that this device can do so much! Still, it's hard to justify its price given the extremely low cost of 15.4" conventional notebooks. ASUS has to work on getting that price even lower.

I ended up grabbing one of those $350 Acers from Wal-Mart and it is quite potent. A single-core Merom 1.73GHz with 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD, DVD-burner, X3100 IGP, Wi-Fi, ExpressCard, glossy screen, Vista Basic. Solid build, attractive design, great performance, great features, cheap-ass price. I can even get 10fps in UT3! LOL! Seriously though, it does very well with older games like HL2, Halo, FEAR, UT2K4, etc.




RE: Youtube
By drq on 11/6/2007 9:55:22 AM , Rating: 2
But there they do not have newegg's policy - Buy one, get 4 free !

;)


RE: Youtube
By othercents on 11/6/2007 10:33:37 AM , Rating: 2
15.4" is a much larger machine than the Eee. I already have a laptop and desktop for games, but I don't always feel like lugging around my 15.4" laptop when all I need is web access to run my business. This is why the Eee is such a nice machine.

Other


RE: Youtube
By therealnickdanger on 11/6/2007 1:23:20 PM , Rating: 1
I guess my point wasn't that the 15.4" isn't convenient or that the EEEPC was less capable, but that the EEEPC should be a LOT cheaper. For $50 less and having a lot more capability, the Acer proves itself to be a much better purchase than the EEEPC.


RE: Youtube
By Oregonian2 on 11/6/2007 1:33:52 PM , Rating: 2
I suspect it'll get a lot cheaper than list-price that it'd going for now once the early adopters have finished off the early production and eee's start sitting on shelves.


RE: Youtube
By pixelslave on 11/6/2007 1:41:53 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I guess my point wasn't that the 15.4" isn't convenient or that the EEEPC was less capable, but that the EEEPC should be a LOT cheaper. For $50 less and having a lot more capability, the Acer proves itself to be a much better purchase than the EEEPC.


You really should look around and see how much a laptop with comparable size costs. You are not going to find a $350 laptop in similar form factor. Most of the time, the smaller the laptop, the more expensive it is!


RE: Youtube
By timmiser on 11/6/2007 7:08:49 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, this should be compared with the super small sized laptops with the sub 12" screens.


RE: Youtube
By therealnickdanger on 11/7/2007 9:04:39 AM , Rating: 2
Correct. I concede that it should be compared to small laptops, but the hardware is also decidedly better in those other 10-13" laptops. After the newness wears off and prices stabilize, we'll see where the EEEPC sits. If they can get XP on it, fill all that bezel with a bigger screen, and give it 8GB+ storage for $399 or less, then it would be a killer deal. I remain hopeful...


RE: Youtube
By Oscarine on 11/7/2007 1:40:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think the cost scales well, consider for a moment that most 4-500$ notebooks can smoke 2000$ ultraportables at virtually any benchmark besides battery life, and the Eee PC being an even smaller formfactor than most ultraportables, and still fitting functional XP capable hardware is a good deal.


RE: Youtube
By JeffDM on 11/7/2007 7:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
I think you should recognize there is value in a light and compact form factor. There is definitely a cost in making things smaller and lighter. Smaller components need tighter tolerances than large ones. If compact size and low weight is not that important to you, then something else will probably suit you better.

It's also important for people to realize that just because it doesn't suit them, doesn't mean that there isn't a market for it. That's why most computer makers have a large variety of computers, not something that pretends to fit everyone.


Durability?
By mkrech on 11/6/2007 12:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
How about durability?
I am planning to purchase one of these to test as a field computer for construction inspectors. Full size laptops have more power than I need and are to large to carry around a construction site easily. PDA's are to small to be usable for basic word processing, spreadsheet editing and pdf viewing. This device seems like the best compromise of portability and function. Since it is completely solid state I assume it would be more durable than a laptop. What I am hoping is that it'll be comparable to a typical PDA.

Any thoughts?




RE: Durability?
By Chris Peredun on 11/6/2007 12:17:57 PM , Rating: 2
While I'm not about to drop it on the floor to test the durability of the solid-state hard drive, I can give you an impression of overall build quality - that being "Very good."

There's no hinge flex, and I'm quite comfortable holding it by a corner. This could also be a byproduct of the light weight. The keyboard does feel a little "cheap" but that could be due to the diminutive size. Since it's not a sealed unit, it would not do well in a dusty or damp environment.

Compared to a PDA, you can't easily operate the Eee with one limb, and it's too large to slip into a pocket. Mind you, as you mentioned, it does have the advantage of a much large screen for document/spreadsheet editing. As long as there will be a flat working surface the size of a piece of letter paper around, it would do quite well.

The best thing to do would be to get the test unit and put it through a real-world test to determine the comfort level, especially with the small keys. The touch-screen interface of a PDA or even a UMPC might be preferable.


RE: Durability?
By mkrech on 11/6/2007 1:09:19 PM , Rating: 2
Good enough for me. It sounds like the $399 is worth the risk. I will be ordering it and testing over the winter in an indoor/outdoor construction environment. If it holds up we will likely buy one for each inspector.

In addition to being more user friendly for our inspectors, using this device instead of a cheap laptop will save us ongoing licensing and IS support fees since it will not need either. Simple solution to a simple need. Thanks for the reply Chris.


RE: Durability?
By masher2 (blog) on 11/6/2007 4:37:49 PM , Rating: 2
> "I am planning to purchase one of these to test as a field computer for construction inspectors."

I think you're going to be disappointed. If your budget allows, there are quite a few ruggedized PCs on the market that are as small or smaller than the Eee, and yet substantially more powerful than a PDA. They are, though, more expensive as well...prices usually start around $1000 and go up from there.


RE: Durability?
By mkrech on 11/6/2007 5:20:02 PM , Rating: 2
If you don't mind, please post a link. I'd love to compare. The best possible alternatives will help me justify this idea to my supervisors if in fact it is my best option.

I am considering this model to be disposable after one season at this price. Any additional use is bonus. Also, I will not need to buy any software licenses or upgrades. A $1000 model will need to endure a rugged environment over 2 times as long.

My thought is to simply buy a new one if one breaks. Since I am not intending to install any applications beyond what are already on this device I can simply pull out the SD card and put it in a new device.

This was my thought with our most recent attempt to get computers in the inspectors hands. The plan was to re-issue old laptops retired from less rugged lives. Unfortunately, these were to bulky and problematic for this type of field use. Also, licensing fees for security and office software and other costs like batteries made us look for alternatives.

One other thing I need to mention is that budgets have limits. If this device will not meet our needs, there is no option to spend more. Possibly give a few inspectors ruggedized laptops but I would prefer to keep out field process consistent among the inspectors.


RE: Durability?
By jak3676 on 11/6/2007 7:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
I'll bet someone comes up with some sort of rubber/plastic case for these things. If they don't I may have to try myself. If they become popular enough for elementary school kids, they'll probably need a little more protection. Being as low power as they are, you can probably seal the thing to be water/air tight. Just find someway to pop the bottom off to access the ports and card reader.

I can speak from an Army field expierence. We used to get those cheap plastic coverings for all of our laptops, but they didn't really help - just annoyed the users, and they still jammed up with dust and water. We went to panasonic toughbooks and have been real happy.

I still have my old Panasonic CF-48 PIII 733 with 20GB drive and 256MB RAM (upgraded from 128). The thing is a tank, and that's only a "semi-rugged" model. I'll bet it weighs 10 lbs though. It's been through Iraq (twice) and a host of other 3rd world countries. It generally sits in the corner collecting dust now, but I'm happy to let my 4 year old pound on it when he wants to. I don't even have to worry about my 14 month old spilling on it, standing on it, or carrying it around and dropping it frequently. The battery doesn't hold up for more than about an hour anymore, but this thing is over 7 years old.

A well protected Eee could prove to be a good entry to the field site computing scene. The disposability factor would be nice. One problem that you may find is that LCD screens wash out pretty bad in the sunlight. Even with a high brightness, high contrast option its never 100%.

If you find that you need more computing power or something more rugged, I'd suggest looking at panasonic toughbooks (although they aren't cheap) or Dell has a new "rugged" notebook as well (sorry, I have no experience with the Dells).


RE: Durability?
By ziggo on 11/6/2007 10:20:27 PM , Rating: 2
http://catalog2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/se...

If the useage enviroment is in question I second the Panasonic Toughbooks. We throw them in all sorts of equipment.


Where to buy
By jacarte8 on 11/6/2007 10:12:39 AM , Rating: 2
Where can I buy this other than Newegg? I don't have a big problem with Newegg, just curious about other retailers?




RE: Where to buy
By lagomorpha on 11/6/2007 11:57:52 AM , Rating: 2
Where to buy:

http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=1067

Zipzoomfly has free shipping and lists both colors, Allasus has the cheaper versions. On the other hand, newegg actually has them in stock at the moment.


RE: Where to buy
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 11/6/2007 2:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
nice!
By DeepBlue1975 on 11/6/2007 11:34:22 AM , Rating: 2
Very nice review!

Did Asus say something about the CPU frequency?
630mhz is the same my ipaq 2790 is churning out, while having much less to deal with in terms of hardware drivers and software.

For those asking for a lower price, I think they'll have to wait a few months and even then I guess it won't come down too far from what it is now.

We need flash prices to keep going down and then we'll be likely to see machines like this one with much higher capacity ssds for the same price or cheaper if they don't add too much capacity.

The industry needs to embrace flash drives as much as they can to make prices of those go down.
I guess about 100 usd from the EEE's price are in that little 4gb ssd drive, and no less than 50 for the screen.




RE: nice!
By JeffDM on 11/7/2007 7:53:26 AM , Rating: 2
Putting more pressure on flash drives would keep the price higher. The higher capacity chips have a lower yield than the lower capacity chips. The problem with flash is that it requires a manufacturing method that needs to predefine memory cells bit for bit, so it's understandable that it's more complex than applying a coating on a spinning disk, even if that too is a precision process.


No surprise
By Screwballl on 11/6/2007 10:11:02 AM , Rating: 2
This pretty much goes to show that older slower hardware is still usable, it just needs some tweaks. One major problem I see is people trying to enable all the eye candy for XP that they were using with their other systems.
Remove the extras that are rarely used, expect a basic system and you will be fine.




Can it run?
By Christobevii3 on 11/6/2007 10:36:16 AM , Rating: 2
What the hell am i suppose to ask if it runs linux and quake? Can it run porn?




nLite Profile?
By LazLong on 11/7/2007 12:03:43 PM , Rating: 2
It would be nice if Chris would post the nLite profile they used.




Processor speed
By Procurion on 11/7/2007 1:15:04 PM , Rating: 2
Any word on why they locked it 30-some-odd percent lower than the advertised clock speed? If they advertise a specific processor speed, is nobody upset about it not even being close to the stated speed?

I have an old Axim that I was hoping to replace with a faster portable solution. It is distressing that this is mentioned in passing-do you expect a bios revision to fix this? Thanks!




Advanced Mode
By midtoad on 11/9/2007 2:39:51 AM , Rating: 2
the advanced mode is a full KDE desktop. All of the apps are there even in Easy Mode, just not visible. To activate Advanced Mode, open a Terminal window from Easy Mode with Ctrl-Alt-T, then type:
sudo update
sudo apt-get install ksmserver kicker
and then reboot.

Now when you click on the Shutdown icon, you'll see a new option to switch into Advanced Mode. Also, in Settings > Personalization, you'll see an option to always boot in Advanced mode.

The other thing you'll want to do is go to skype.com and grab the Xandros Linux version of the new Skype 2.0 Beta, then open it with File Manager and right-click to Install. Then you can make video calls (don't forget to firstly activate the webcam with "echo 1 > /proc/acpi/asus/camera" - -- yes, that's kludgy and should be fixed).

The Eee PC for me finally fulfills the dream first promised by the Origami project. This is a real UMPC that anyone can afford, truly One Laptop Per Adult. It's not a desktop replacement but it's truly portable and not too expensive to leave at home.




USB HDD attach possible?
By nigel106 on 11/10/2007 12:06:41 AM , Rating: 2
I've read of a number of reviewers (including this one) suggesting using USB thumb drives for extra storage. What about a portable USB hard drive? They come in all sizes, from 80 GB, 300 GB, 750 GB etc. Seems to me that if a USB portable HD would work with the Eee, you could have storage aplenty.




Not Surprised
By clovell on 11/6/2007 10:54:22 AM , Rating: 1
Last board I bought from Asus had quite a few BIOS bugs, too. Eventually they got worked out, but as it became more stable, it OC'ed less and less.

I'd personally rather wait another month and see this kind of stuff work better at launch than deal with updating later on and possibly insatbility in the meantime.




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