Pronounced "E PC", it seems the world plus dog is going crazy for ASUS's diminutive laptop, its attractive styling and even more attractive price-point gaining a lot of deserved attention.
Our 0.92kg review sample arrived in pearlescent white, with a black option available soon. In fact the box depicts pink, green and blue models as well, so more colours may be on the way. A black neoprene pouch is included to protect against scratches while transporting.
The 7-inch, 800 x 480 resolution screen is flocked by speakers which are deceptively good for their size, while an entry level Webcam sits above. The resolution of the screen does the job with a simple but clever interface, however we did run across a few problems with programs that ran off-screen, not allowing us to hit the "OK" button — most likely expecting a minimum vertical resolution of 600 pixels.
The screen and hinge are surprisingly sturdy, and although we weren't game to try it would probably survive a drop from standing to floor. In fact ASUS seems to have managed what most others have found impossible — a sturdy, rugged laptop that also manages to be attractive.
In terms of input the keys are quite tiny, which could cause problems for adults using it for extended periods of time. The trackpad is just as comfortable as its bigger cousins, but can sometimes be hard to tap-click and the scroll region is tiny, making it quite difficult to activate, and the configuration tool doesn't allow you to change this.
The only real design SNAFU is that the built-in microphone is situated under the laptop, meaning you'll either need to pick up the notebook or lower yourself to desk level to register your voice at a decent volume, resigning users to the external microphone port for decent results.
The GUI is built on Xandros (a distribution of Linux), with the application skins appearing to be taken wholesale from Windows XP's silver "Luna" theme. Xandros signed a "broad collaboration agreement" with Microsoft in June, of which the public details are very vague — so presumably this is part of it or Microsoft's lawyers must be getting really itchy trigger fingers by now. Either way, ASUS plans to release an EeePC with Windows XP Home installed in the future.
The interface is simple yet highly usable, with large icons ordered across the screen for each application. These programs are segregated into tabs akin to a Web browser, with the topics "Internet", "Work", "Learn", "Play", "Settings" and "Favourites". A "Help" tab also launches a quite in-depth but easy to follow user guide.
A taskbar lines the bottom of the screen, with a house icon on the left that minimises applications to show the desktop, and a system tray on the right that reports battery charge, wireless/wired network access, volume, time, and clicking on these icons will either give information or configuration tools.
Updates to existing programs or drivers are provided through ASUS's Add/Remove Programs panel. Presumably extra applications will be made available here, but there seems to be no easy way to add your own applications from other sources so that they appear in the existing menus.