Late last year, Asus broke open the mini-notebook category with the slight, light, and affordable Eee PC 4G. Who wouldn't want a machine that weighs 2 pounds and measures about 8.9 by 6.5 by 1.4 inches (width by depth by height)? At $399, the Linux-based portable became a viable laptop for cost-conscious business travelers and students alike. Since that time, we've seen a refreshed model that offers Windows XP (the Eee PC 4G XP), and now we have the Eee PC 900.
So what's the big difference between the models that have come before and this flavor of the month? The Eee PC 900 provides a larger screen without adding much to the overall size of the device--and it sports a multitouch touchpad, too. What kind of bizarro world do we live in where the only machines you can find such a feature are premium Apple computers or value-priced Windows systems?
While the latest Eee remains saddled with the same microscopic keyboard that's nigh impossible for an adult male to type upon, the small touchpad offers some big improvements.The multitouch pad is simple and small, but certainly effective. You move two fingers downward to scroll a window. You spread two fingers apart to zoom in, or scrunch them together to zoom out. Sound familiar? Yeah, it's what you've seen crop up on a number of Apple products, and you get that very same functionality with this budget PC.
Inside, you'll find most of the same Eee guts that folks have come to know and love, including a 900-MHz Intel CPU and a 4GB internal hard drive (it also ships with an 8GB SD Card). That meager amount of hard-drive space was insufficient real estate for our lab to drop in our WorldBench 6 tests to see how the Eee PC 900 performs under pressure. In my informal tests, I was able to gauge a couple of basic things, such as boot time and program startup. In those cases the Eee PC 900 was a hair faster than the 4G model running XP--but that's largely due to the fact that this new model has 1GB of DDR2 RAM, in contrast to the 512MB in last year's version.
Though I dig the new touchpad and the larger, crisp 8.9-inch 1024-by-600-pixel display, the Eee PC 900 isn't a "must-buy" laptop--at least not yet, considering its $549 asking price. If this new model cost $50 to $100 less, maybe, but the market is continuing to fill up with competing mini-machines, and several are hovering around $600. Don't get me wrong, the Eee PC 900 is still a good deal, but suddenly the HP 2133 (with models selling between $500 and $750) isn't looking too bad, either.