The Eee PC 901 is here. Its mission: to re-establish the Eee brand as the number one in the netbook space. It's based largely on the hugely successful Eee PC 900, but has several improvements, including a more stylish chassis, a better mouse, better battery life and more powerful components.
Asus says it'll go on sale on 1 July. Windows XP and Linux versions will be available for the same price -- £319 -- although the specs will vary slightly.
The 901 is approximately the same size as the 900. It's 100g heavier, thanks to some new additions like a 6600mAh battery, but the 1.1Kg chassis is still barely noticeable in your bag.
Overall, it has a very contemporary aesthetic -- all its edges are now noticeably more curved, making the 900 look toy-like in comparison. Black and white versions are available, both of which have a glossy, pearlescent lid and wrist rest, which is a nice alternative to the matte white plastic used on its predecessor. On our white review sample, however, the keyboard, underside, battery and screen bezel are all slightly off-white -- and that clashes with the glossy bits.
Asus has removed all 'Asus' branding on the Eee PC 901. Instead, the branding reads simply 'Eee' at the top left of the lid and on the lowermost part of the screen bezel. We're presume this is because Asus wants to completely separate its high-end laptop portolio from its super-cheap netbook line-up.
The Eee PC 901 also sports a new hinge. This one seems fatter than before and has large silver-edged rings at each end. The lower section of the laptop has also changed slightly -- as you'll see from our pictures, it now has a larger vent designed to expel more hot air generated from its internal components. The more eagle-eyed among you will also notice twin microphones, or array mics, which helps the 901 better understand voice commands.
The 901's keyboard is exactly the same model as used on the 900. This isn't great news since the keys are small and fiddly, but it's possible to get used to them over time. Just above the keyboard, the 901 has a range of shortcut keys that weren't seen on its predecessor.
One lets you deactivate the screen backlight instantly -- perhaps to help you improve battery life when you've stepped away from the machine. Another changes the on-screen resolution -- like a makeshift zoom function -- and another cycles through pre-set performance modes -- super performance, high performance, auto high performance and power saving.
While the two use the same 8.9-inch, 1,024x600-pixel display, there are many notable differences between the features on the Eee PC 900 and 901. The most important change is the move to an Intel N270 Atom CPU, clocked at 1.6GHz -- an improvement over the 900MHz Intel Pentium M on the 900.
Atom chips promise improved performance as well as better energy efficiency and longer battery life, but you can find out exactly how it compares later in this review. Both versions of the machine use 1GB of RAM, but since there's one DIMM slot, this can only be upgraded by switching to a 2GB DIMM.