A few years ago, I was enamored with the idea of sitting in a coffee shop, casually tapping out prose and sipping house blend. I was also running my own web design business out of my home, and many of my clients had sketchy internet access themselves.
So I bought a second-hand laptop, which was all I could afford for <$400. It was old. It was used. It weighed roughly as much as my preschooler. The battery never worked, so I had to find a seat close to an outlet and deal with the hostile stares of barristas outraged by my theft of their workplaces’ electrical power.
So anyway, back in February of this year, a friend from the IT department gave me the heads up on a new, smaller laptop: the Asus Eee PC subnotebook. I got on their corporate website. It was ~$300 from Amazon. It came in pink. It weighed two pounds. Can we say “love at first site?”
So now that I’ve been toting around my pink Asus (which I have named “Rosita”) for a few months, I feel like it’s a good time to write a review.
If I had to boil down the value of the Eee to one bullet point, it’s “note taking nirvana.” Be honest. How many legal pads, steno books, marbled composition books and various other note-taking receptacles do you have sitting on your desk at this very minute, covered with notes you’re going to type up “someday”? Be honest. Someday is never going to get here.
How many times have you told yourself that you will start taking your full-size laptop to meetings? Has it happened yet? No, and I’ll tell you why. Because first, it’s probably a pain in the hiney to dock/undock it because you’ve probably got about 40 peripherals hooked up to it at any given time. It has effectively become your desktop without the tower, and the likelihood of you taking it to a meeting just for notetaking, is about the same as the likelihood that you would drag your desktop to a conference room.
The Asus is roughly the same size opened up as a legal pad (and not much heavier) and folded up, about the same size as a steno pad. With a little practice, unless you have big giant man hands, it’s as easy to type on as any full-sized computer. Even though you could hook it up to some peripherals, it clearly wasn’t designed to replace your desktop (or your full-size lappy). I bring it to meetings, and invariably, I have neatly typed, complete meeting notes saved (and often emailed to everyone else in the meeting) before the other participants have made it back to their desks.
The wi-fi is solid. I’ve found hotspots in places in rural Indiana where I would have previously sworn there were no computers. It’s also perfect for that coffee shop scribbling that I wanted to do way back in the day–it fits even on a tiny cafe table, and is exceptionally decent even when I’ve got it resting on my lap. As a writer, if I had to choose between writing at home on my desktop (with hubby/kids/television/etc. to distract me) or at a coffee shop with Rosita, no question–Rosita at the coffee shop is the more productive writing environment.
I would like it better if the ABC.com video player worked on it, but that’s really on ABC for refusing to support Linux, rather than being Rosita’s fault. Hulu works just fine, as do most Flash-based video sites like YouTube.
Yes, the screen is small at 7″ but most sites scale well to it and don’t require horizontal scrolling. Scriptaculous/Lightbox effects can sometimes be problematic, if they are bigger than the screen height and scroll with the window.
If you pick one up, expect to spend a certain amount of time letting other people test drive it. I also get asked if it’s a “real” computer a lot (“No, I’m sitting here typing on my daughter’s Barbie laptop, just to see if anyone would notice.”)
Actually, that brings up another thing. I did actually have to buy my four year old daughter a pink toy laptop, but that’s because she thinks anything pink that comes into the house belongs to her by default.
If pink’s not your thing, the 2G also comes in black, white, blue and green. I think the 4G, 8G and up are only available in black and white, but come with a webcam.
On the whole, I’ve been really pleased with my Asus Eee. I would say that it probably is more a competitor for the iPod touch than a standard laptop, and I feel like it would come out pretty well in that particular competition. I couldn’t imagine doing image manipulation or spending long hours writing code on it, but that’s not what I bought it for. For mobile, portable surfing, blogging and word processing, it kicks butt. A great tool for any internet bard.