The next-generation Asus Eee PC 900 was always going to have a hard act to follow, given the level of interest in the defining Eee 701.
The original version was a breakthrough in affordability and portability, weighing 920 grams. It can now be bought locally for as little as $450 to $500, depending on the configuration.
With increased competition in the mini notebook space, Asus had to lift its game with the Eee 900. The enhancements made with this new release are a definite improvement on the original’s screen size, memory and storage, and the addition of the multi-touch trackpad is a nice feature. These additions to the 900 will cost you about $250 more now than the 701.
Potential buyers have to weigh up whether to wait for subsequent versions of the Eee, which are very close to being locally released. Asus is aiming for mid August here for the Eee 1000H, which is expected to retail for $899. The 901 and 1000 use Intel’s Atom microprocessors and have added speedier N wireless (the 701 and 900 only support b and g standards). The 1000 series model also has an even bigger, 10-inch screen and a minimum of 40GB of storage.
However, the 900’s 1024-pixel, 8.9-inch wide screen makes it a lot easier to use than that of the 701, where the screen was 800 pixels and seven inches. The text is more easily read when viewing web pages and you don’t have to scroll through most home pages.
The speakers are now located at the bottom of the unit rather than on each side of the screen, though this results in a diminished sound output when it’s placed on your desk.
The look and design remain unchanged, with pearl-white plastic and the distinctive large, rounded hinge. The Eee 900 weighs an additional 70 grams over the 701.
The retention of the same keyboard size is unfortunate for those who found the small keys difficult to type on when using the first model.
Our review unit, running Windows XP with service pack 2, had 12GB of solid state storage. The 1GB of DDR2 RAM is twice that of the 701. There’s also a Linux version with 20GB flash memory.
The 1.3MP webcam is better than the original’s 0.3MP camera – useful if you’re working with the bundled Skype software. The lack of an optical drive remains a downside.
Other software bundled with the 900 includes Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft Works, Intervideo Xpack DVD player, the Windows Live suite, VLC Media Player and Adobe Reader 8.
Battery life from the supplied four cell ran down in just over three hours.
Connectivity wise, there are three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA monitor port, headphone and microphone jacks, an SD card reader, Kensington lock and 10/100 Ethernet.
With touch-screen devices becoming more common, the multi-touch pad is a sensible addition. It allows pinching movements with the thumb and forefinger to zoom in on a document, along with scrolling by using two fingers. You can even scroll on any part of the touchpad, rather than just on the right as is common with other notebooks.
The Intel 900MHz processor is unchanged from the 701 – providing adequate performance given the machine’s intended use as a budget, secondary notebook, the bulking up of the RAM to support the running of the operating system and the access speed of the solid state storage.
Overall, the Eee PC 900 offers value for money, though some may want to wait and pay the $150 or so more for the 1000H.