Blair Mathis, the editor from LaptopLogic.com, has prepared this review for DV Hardware. Visit LaptopLogic.com to read the latest laptop reviews and to check out Asus laptop computers.
Netbooks have taken the digital world by storm, with the leader of the pack being none other than Asus. The first netbook to enter the foray was the Asus Eee PC 701, followed by a barrage of other models and makers. Acer, HP, Dell, and MSI are just a few of the dozens of computer manufacturers to release a netbook. Sales of these systems are booming as people are looking for a smaller alternative to traditional laptops.
The Eee PC 900A is the cheapest model sporting an 8.9" display, I picked it up at Best Buy last month for only $199. It comes with an Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 4GB SSD, and is preloaded with Asus's special Xandros Linux operating system. There are other models available though, with more storage capacity and Windows XP.
Upon first appearance, this netbook is light, sleek, and inviting. It is white with faint striations in the lid, and the screen takes up most of the lid. The keyboard has a distinct click and is small yet still large enough to type on.
The right side of the body features the VGA port, two USB ports, and the SD/MMC slot. The left side has an Ethernet, one USB port, and the headphone/microphone ports. The back is large enough only for the battery, which weights nearly as much as the actual netbook, and the front is devoid of any ports or slots.
The trackpad on the 900A is responsive and easy to use. Clicking is done by either the button directly under the trackpad, which has a good response, or by double-tapping the trackpad. The lid can only open approx. 175-degrees because the battery is in the way.
The default preinstalled Easy Mode Xandros operating system is indeed easy for anyone to use, including those who've never used Linux. However, it becomes tiring very quickly, as nothing can be installed. There are instructions for switching the desktop to Advanced Mode, which gives you an actual taskbar and desktop. However, what it does not tell you is that there are no universal repositories for this version of Xandros, so you can't install anything.
Disappointed in the default OS, I downloaded Eeebuntu
and installed it on the system. Eeebuntu is a version of Ubuntu designed to work out of the box with the Atom processor and Eee wifi/webcam. It was simple to install using an SD card in the SD slot.
With Eeebuntu installed, the system is completely usable. I proceeding to install Abiword, VLC, gFTP, Pidgin, Thunderbird, ZSNES, and Urban Terror. Each application is snappy and starts quickly. The Super Nintendo Emulator works perfectly and at full speed. Urban Terror works just as well and without any hiccups--I lowered the resolution to 640x480 at fullscreen, dropped the texture and other settings to their lowest point, and restarted the game. Surprisingly, it runs without lag and is quite enjoyable.
I've experienced no overheating on this system, even after playing Urban Terror
for a few hours. The fan did kick on a little louder, but could hardly be heard over the sound of the game play. The bottom was warm to the touch, but not hot.
If you want to get your hands on a small notebook for the cheapest price possible and are comfortable installing a different OS onto the system, then you can't do better than the Asus Eee PC 900A.
In terms of price the Eee PC 900A deserves a score of 9/10, but in terms of productivity I can only give it a 5/10. Overall I give this netbook a rating of 6/10.