The first ASUS Eee PC took the world by storm because of its low price, ultra-light weight, fast performance, and easy-to-use, tabbed menu system. But while the Linux edition of this machine was fairly intuitive, consumers are simply more comfortable with Windows, which can run many more popular applications.
We got our hands on the much-anticipated Windows version, available for $399, and are happy to announce that the new Eee PC 4G XP delivers a good Windows XP experience without compromising on price or portability. We wish it had more storage space, and we have few other minor complaints, but we still recommend this mini-notebook as a take-anywhere secondary computer.
Same Eee PC Size and Weight
The Eee PC 4G XP uses the same exact chassis as the Linux/Xandros version and is offered in five color schemes (Galaxy Black, Pure White, Blush Pink, Sky Blue, and Lush Green). Our review system was done up in Pure White, which features a pearly, low-luster finish that is impervious to fingerprint smudges. Measuring 8.9 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches, the system easily fits in an oversized handbag or slim briefcase, and at 2 pounds you'll hardly know its there.
The white keyboard keys are tiny, but the action is firm, and the touchpad is conveniently located in the center of the undersized palm rest. Cursor control was smooth, but the silver mouse buttons were not as responsive as we'd like.
Display and Audio Quality
The 7-inch display has a native resolution of 800 x 480 and is easy on the eyes. Although it delivered great colors and a bright image, the size couldn't accommodate certain program windows that extended beyond the range of the screen. To help remedy the problem, ASUS provides a system tray utility that lets you switch up to an 800 x 600 viewing mode. You'll have to scroll to view the entire desktop, but at least you can access vital command buttons. The integrated 0.3-megapixel webcam worked well with Windows Live Messenger, but as was the case with the Linux model, image quality was on the grainy side. To the left and right of the display is a pair of small stereo speakers that are quite loud despite their size, but they could use a bass boost.
Needs More Storage
The Eee PC 4G XP uses the same 900-MHz Intel Celeron processor as its Linux-based cousin, and it, too, comes with 512MB of RAM and a 4GB solid state hard drive. While we appreciate the speed and durability of the solid state drive, its 4GB capacity is just too small for an XP system, especially considering that the OS chews up almost half of the available storage.
This means that even though you have XP, you can't install large programs--such as Microsoft Office--unliess you install it to a high-capacity memory card. (Microsoft Works is included, however.) We were able to install Apple iTunes and Yahoo Messenger to an 8GB card and run them with no difficulty. If you want to transfer pictures to the Eee PC's SD Card slot, you'll probably want to use a USB memory card reader or your camera's USB cable; otherwise, you'll temporarily lose access to certain programs.
Having 8GB of flash on board would have gone a long way toward avoiding this type of inconvenience, even if it meant paying a slight premium. ASUS will offer the Eee PC 4G XP with a 4GB SD Card bundle for $470, but you're better off buying your own 8GB card, since it costs less than $50.
Connectivity ports include headphone and microphone jacks, an Ethernet connection, an SD/MMC card reader, and three USB ports. There's also a VGA output for connecting to an external display.
Eee PC 4G XP Performance
The system required only 40 seconds to complete the Windows boot sequence. That may seem like a long time when compared with the Linux model (26 seconds), but it's still shorter than the 60 seconds or more many Vista systems require. The Eee PC had no trouble running multiple applications, and programs loaded quickly even when we had several programs running in the background. We were able to listen to music, have a video conference with a friend, and surf the Web with no real hang-ups. Surprisingly, the 802.11b/g wireless adapter turned in relatively low throughput scores of 10.9 Mbps (15 feet) and 9.5 Mbps (50 feet).
We managed to get 2 hours and 40 minutes of juice out of the battery before needing a charge. It's important to note that we tested battery life with the power options set for maximum performance, so you can expect to see a significant increase in battery life using XP's power-saving options. The Eee PC 4G XP comes with a two-year warranty covering parts and labor and six months for the battery.
The Linux-powered ASUS Eee PC 4G starts faster and offers a friendlier interface, but it's still a Linux machine, which means you're limited in terms of which programs you can run. The Eee PC 4G XP offers the familiarity of Windows at an unbeatable price with only a few trade-offs. If you've been holding out for an affordable Windows-based mini-notebook, and you're willing to put up with a small keyboard and run apps off of an SD Card, the 4G XP is a very good choice.