Why shouldn't I buy the Asus EPC?
September 6, 2008 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Why shouldn't I buy the Asus EEEPC?

I think i want to buy one and I've read rave reviews about it online. But I am kind of wondering what the downsides are. I most recently owned an iBook that now refuses to turn on. Anyone know why buying the Asus EEEPC would be a mistake?
posted by onepapertiger to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The keyboard is very small. I tried one out and couldn't type on it without tons and tons of typos. I would try one out before you pick it up.
posted by eisenkr at 4:01 PM on September 6, 2008

I bought one because I was excited about the idea of mini-netbooks but when I got it, I instantly realized it's too small to type on for my clumsy fingers. I'd say only get one if you get a chance to type on it for a while.

Many claim the MSI Wind as an improvement in the keyboard area, so I'd look at that one too if you're set on a netbook. If you're set on an eeePC, here's a chart on the various models: chart.
posted by sharkfu at 4:06 PM on September 6, 2008

The small screen is a bit of a bitch if, like me, you have visual impairments.

(I got an iPhone instead, which is oddly more readable for me. This is probably not an option for you if you want to do Real Computing on your tiny laptop.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:06 PM on September 6, 2008

Have you considered other comparable devices in the sub-notebook bracket? Its competitors in the MSI Wind, the HP Mininote and the recently released Dell Inspiron Mini 9 are arguably better value, better looking and with more comfortable keyboards.

If you're going the Linux route, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is also definitely worth a look as it comes with Ubuntu rather than a generic Linux out of the box which is a nice bonus. The downside is most Eee competitors have 4-cell batteries rather than the 6-cell offered as standard on the 901 in the US (the Eee comes with a 4-cell battery in the other countries, however).
posted by HaloMan at 4:09 PM on September 6, 2008

Regarding the keyboard problems, this would likely be problematic with any mini notebook. The eee has 2 USb ports, so you could always just get a USB keyboard and plug it in.

A friend of mine who got one said that the OS was a bit of a pain--he had trouble figuring out how to get thunderbird to work on it (something that would be an easy task with, say, Ubuntu as your OS).

I still think they're pretty drool worthy, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:28 PM on September 6, 2008

As an ex-Eee owner, here are some points you might want to think about before purchasing one:
  1. The keyboard is small. This isn't a problem if you've got small, nimble fingers, but if you've got normal-sized or larger fingers then you might find it too small for comfort. Even if you can type comfortably on it, you won't be able to type as quickly as on a full-size keyboard.
  2. The trackpad is tiny. This didn't bother me much as 80% of what I wanted to do with it was SSH -- but I can definitely see it becoming a major pain in the butt if you're GUI-oriented.
  3. The default distro sucks. Hard. This isn't a big problem, as you can easily install some other flavor of *nix on it (there's a very good version of Ubuntu for it), but if you're not comfortably blowing away the default distro and installing something else then you're gonna have a sub-par *nix experience. You could (alternatively) install Windows 2K3 or some such on it -- but I should warn you: the Windows interface really is not made for use on small screens.
  4. The battery life isn't too great. It's not bad, but given that the main selling point of a subnotebook (for me) is the constant availability of a "real" computing device, it sucks having to recharge/swap in a fresh battery every couple hours. There are high-cap batteries for it, but it's still less than-ideal.
I ended up selling my Eee, as the above issues kinda crippled it for me. I'm not saying it's a bad machine (on the contrary, I think it's a pretty cool piece of hardware), but it wasn't for me.
posted by -1 at 4:42 PM on September 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've had an Eee PC 901 for a couple of months. I'm happy with it all in all. Tiny, rock-solid machine easy to always have with me and surprising usable.

At first the biggest pain was the tiny keyboard, but after a couple of weeks of use, not so many typos. (Worse, I think, than the small keys are some odd placements of key caps. I'm always hitting the up arrow when I reach for the right shift key, for instance.)

The tiny screen is surprisingly usable. The resolution is high enough so that there is enough screen real estate.

Now my main complaint is the operating system. The Xandros flavor of Linux feels both dated and incomplete. If you are happy with the applications that are provided out of the box, this might not be so much of a problem. But installing ANY new software can be extremely difficult if not impossible. Even most of Asus automatic system updates don't work ("download failed"). Asus just set up a new download site to make software installing easier, but that simply doesn't work at all. As mentioned above, the new version of Firefox won't install at all ("missing system resources"). I was finally able to get Google Earth installed after much trial and error, but it runs too slowly to use. There are workarounds for much of these issues, but these would take me (as a first-time Linux user) many hours to figure out and incur the constant risk of breaking my OS.

If I didn't already have the Eee PC, I would take a serious look at the Dell and HP mentioned above. The problem, of course, is that since the sub-notebook sector is so hot, there will ALWAYS be much better machines right around the corner.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 4:50 PM on September 6, 2008

Also, you should have a look at what people are saying at the eeeuser.com forum.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 4:52 PM on September 6, 2008

I've owned the 901 since the day the 901linux was released in the US.

The keyboard is small, as people have said, but after about a week or two of use for taking notes in class, I've gotten a pretty good feel for it, and even my big hands can type fairly fast (my gf loves if for her tiny hands though).

The default distro does suck, but if you're up for the task of playing with linux, there has recently been great strides made in eee specific kernel/modules for ubuntu and almost off the the built in devices can be up and working within an hour after the install finishes.

I haven't gotten the battery life that was claimed pre-launch, but with regular use (typing/internet/wifi) I have yet to get less then 4 hours out of it, perhaps over 5 once or twice with the screen dimmed and wifi/bt off.

In my opinion and for my uses, it really is just about the perfect device I was looking for. I have a really nice desktop at home, and I really only need it for homework/note taking in class, and web browsing between classes.
posted by meowN at 5:11 PM on September 6, 2008

Some webpages don't really display properly on the small screen. I'm thinking specifically of adding applications to MySpace, which pops up another window but the buttons to press to do it are unreachable and for some reason you can't scroll. Obviously one most likely wouldn't choose to not buy an eeePC because it sucks at adding myspace apps, but it's just one example of the kind of problem I find myself encountering from time to time which can be very frustrating.

The keyboard is small, so I would try one out before buying if you can. I didn't personally have any trouble but some people find it very difficult to adjust. Speaking of adjusting - if you frequently use other computers with a full-size keyboard (work, maybe?) you may find that you'll have difficulty switching back and forth between keyboards. If you're just using the eeePC and you don't have especially large fingers you'll probably find you get used to it pretty quickly.

The other thing I would be wary of is to be very careful about the available memory levels. They get used up quickly and you can run into all kinds of problems if they get too low, which you won't be warned about.

(I use an eeePC as my primary computer)
posted by narrativium at 5:37 PM on September 6, 2008

Worst keyboard of all the ultraportables. Spend some time with an MSI Wind, the new little hp, or the new little dell before deciding.

This wont replace an ibook, the keys and screen are too small. Theyre like giant PDAs.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:49 PM on September 6, 2008

I bought the eee 1000H a few weeks ago, and am quite pleased with it. The keyboard is larger than on previous models, as is the screen - which means you can view web pages in a fairly normal fashion. Battery life is also great; I'm getting around 4.5 hours on the Windows battery meter.

In short, many of the above complaints are well addressed by the 1000H model, which retails around $550 online.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 6:19 PM on September 6, 2008

I have one, (the original 701 with the 7" screen) and while I think it's rather good at what it does, I am looking to trade up to an Acer AspireOne instead. More stuff for the same money, basically. The SSD drives are not significantly faster or better on battery than a small hard drive, so the AspireOne model I'm looking at is the one with the 120GB drive. That'll make it sweet.

In general, from my experiences with the Eee, I'd have to list the following observations:

- Ultra-portable. Really ultraportable. I can throw it in a pocket of my jacket (big pocket, YMMV), it's light and you don't notice the weight. I can walk around with it in one hand, it's great for taking onsite for diagnosis of little issues, etc.
- Good to have in a backpack on the train for getting work done, or watching TV shows/movies.
- Lightweight (Linux) OS is fine for basic tasks, general work.
- Battery life isn't bad for its size

Cons (note, a lot of these criticisms may be limited to the 7" 701 model I have)
- a 7" 800x480 screen is just a little too small. That's reason 1 for upgrading for me.
- 4GB SSD drive gets real old after a while, especially with the OS eating half. Get at least an 8GB SSD drive or a regular hard drive in one of these instead.
- Keyboard is small and the layout's odd. It takes a while to adapt.
- On my model, the wireless doesn't always connect. Sometimes I have to reboot to successfully connect.

Overall, I would say that if you're buying one as a primary computer, that might be stretching things a bit unless you have a monitor and keyboard/mouse at home you'll dock it with. But if you're buying it as a secondary computer for traveling around, troubleshooting, or something to use while commuting or sitting in the living room watching TV, a netbook is an awesome little performer. I'm just not sure I'd buy an Asus one, as it seems that while they pioneered the small, cool, low cost form factor (and deserve HUGE kudos for doing so), they've been caught flat footed on the next generation of netbooks, and their offerings that match competitors' specs are frequently $100 or $200 more than others. As I said, my next one will be the Acer AspireOne, but the one Dell just released is worth a look as well.
posted by barc0001 at 6:50 PM on September 6, 2008

Just to expand on the previous posting, re: Aspire One vs Asus, price wise, here is the exact model I'm looking at getting:

Acer AspireOne 1GB RAM, 120GB Hard drive, 6 cell battery, XP, which is about $420. Not that I care for the XP, but that's what it comes with...

Compare to the
Asus 900 1GB RAM, 16GB SSD drive, 3 cell battery, XP, which is about $450.

So the Asus is $30 more, but has a much smaller drive and an inferior battery. At that site, the closest matching Asus netbook is $549.

And the really wild price point there is if you want a barebones Acer AspireOne with 512MB, 8GB SSD, Linux, you can get into that for $330 or so.
posted by barc0001 at 6:59 PM on September 6, 2008

I looked at the Eee, and even toyed a bit with one an acquittance had. He liked it, but it seemed toy-like to me.

Today I saw an article about the Dell Mini 9. Ordered one within the hour. Seems perfect for me, but my needs (wants) may differ.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:08 PM on September 6, 2008

I'm typing this on a 701. They're great for watching TV & movies in bed, or a bit of general web browsing/catching up on email/what-have-you, but I wouldn't recommend it as a main machine. Whatever you end up getting make sure it has a resolution greater than 800*480, as it's just not quite enough screen space, so you end up scrolling a bit.
posted by The Monkey at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2008

There is no more free wireless anymore (or very little). I bought one with the intention of using it as an internet machine for traveling. Unless you have access around a college campus or something, it's useless for traveling and just hopping on the internet whenever. Get an iphone or blackberry.
posted by symbollocks at 7:48 PM on September 6, 2008

I own one and overall am very happy with it, for what it is and what it isn't.

What it isn't: A full-sized laptop with all the power, capabilities and comfort of a regular laptop. Although those shortcomings can be dealt with by connecting a USB keyboard, mouse, and an external LCD screen, if you want that you might as well buy a Mac Mini.

What it is: A wonderful kitchen computer, to bring up recipes, quickly check Gmail, look at MetaFilter.

Expect typos if you are going to type a lot. Saying that though...my wife uses ours a lot more than I do and she makes very few typos on it. I have bigger hands and less practice. YMMV.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:15 PM on September 6, 2008

My fingers would cramp and the original screen/resolution was way to small to be usable in Windows.

Still have it, dunno if I'm going to force my kids to use it or not.
posted by jkaczor at 8:43 PM on September 6, 2008

I bought one yesterday! It fit all my requirements, and had better battery life than the default 3-cell battery on the Acer Aspire One (although, yes, I know the Eee has a six-cell battery). It also had certain features that appealed to me.

I have teeny-tiny fingers, and adjusted quickly to the small keyboard. I found the screen very sharp and easy to read.

Why I Wouldn't Get the Eee:
I purchased it knowing its limitations. It is not my main computer; its existence is basically to spare my back when I'm on campus. It will probably do that. I wouldn't buy the Eee thinking I could use it for LIEK EVERYTHING OMG. You can't.

I'd suggest looking at laptopmag.com. It has reviews of different laptops, and helped me limit my choices to MSI Wind and the Eee. (Acer's Aspire One didn't fit a couple of requirements, including the Aspire One being too small).
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:51 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a 901. It is useful. I prefer sitting at my desktop with a 24" screen and a Model M keyboard, but the EEE is not unusable. I don't have small fingers and I can type fine on it. The screen is really good, so with small fonts and a real window manager (xmonad), it is as easy to use as anything else. I take it with me when I want to work in a coffee shop or when I am traveling, and it is very good for that. The battery lasts forever; 5 hours without "trying" (wifi on, screen at good brightness). Overall, I love this computer.

Now the bad. It took me 3 units before I got one that worked. The first unit had a faulty SSD, which took me a week to figure out and involved writing some custom software to convince myself that I wasn't imagining the problem. The average user would just have a really flaky machine and wonder why. The second unit had a bad keyboard. Dead out of the box. The third unit is solid, though. The disk and keyboard both work, as does everything else.

Hopefully this is unusual, but after the second EEE was dead I was pretty much ready to buy the Lenovo equivalent instead. A "ships in 8 weeks" pushed me back to the EEE. Now that it works, though, I'm quite happy.

I think I will probably replace my Thinkpad and EEE with a Thinkpad X300 in the future, though. But maybe not, the smallness of the EEE is quite enjoyable -- enough to make maintaining two computers worth it.
posted by jrockway at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2008

One more thing -- some posters above say that one could never use the EEE as their primary computer -- I disagree. With a keyboard, monitor, and mouse, it is a fine computer. It does everything I need (I am a programmer). It can do some "intense" things you wouldn't necessarily expect -- I can download HDTV rips and watch them on my HDTV. (Obviously, the "usual" things work. emacs, web browsing, etc.)

The EEE is not a PDA, it's a real computer. Unless your work involves editing video (for which you need a lot of disk space and a lot of CPUs), it will be fine for you.
posted by jrockway at 9:54 PM on September 6, 2008

It's not just that the keyboard is small--certain keys tend to stick.

So if you enjoy using the letter 'r', think hard before you buy.

**Disclaimer: Not written on my EeePC
posted by yellowcandy at 10:57 PM on September 6, 2008

I have a Linux 7" at home and just bought a Windows 9" for our on-call computer for work. The 7" is primarily for surfing - with opera and a 24mb internet connection it's very fast, but the keyboard really is tiny. You have to be extra careful proofreading, and it can be awkward initially switching between the wee eeepc and a regular keyboard. The bf is going to put Ubuntu on it later today, so it should be even quicker.

Other pros: quick and easy to set up - we received the 9" on Tuesday and it was ready to go in 5 minutes. I use them with a USB mini mouse so the trackpad isn't an issue. They're ultra lightweight and easy to carry around.

Other cons: yes the original Linux distro sucks. I find myself having to kill tasks pretty frequently because the whole thing is lagging and losing wireless (heh, technical!). Ubuntu should be better though.
posted by goo at 4:12 AM on September 7, 2008

Funny, I have one and many of the problems noted - sticking keys, poor battery life - I don't find
posted by A189Nut at 6:15 AM on September 7, 2008

I loved mine, but the keyboard broke after 16 days of ownership - and I'd thrown out the box and the receipt, so I couldn't try and return it to Best Buy. The 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 0, Backspace, and Delete keys stopped working suddenly when I was in the middle of using the thing. Booted into a different OS, problem persisted. Tried reseating the keyboard connection (involving taking the keyboard off, but not unscrewing anything or voiding a warranty), problem persisted. I called their customer service, they didn't attempt to troubleshoot the issue (known problem maybe?) and they emailed me the RMA information... I have to take it to the post office and pay for postage to have them fix it. And school just started this week.

Other than that, all of the hype is true and I love the bejeezus out of the thing, so I'm shipping it back Tuesday.
posted by lizzicide at 8:08 AM on September 7, 2008

I also had a 7". I liked it for a little while, but I quickly found that I was trying to treat it like a full size laptop. I wanted to do the same things on it as I did on my desktop PC, and that was hard. The screen is too small for anything except casual web surfing (and even then, it's a little cramped) and the keyboard is definitely too small.

If you're going to treat it like a netbook, it's a neat machine. But if you think that you *might* start treating it like a real laptop, don't buy it.
posted by pete0r at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2008

I recently got a windows 901 for my 'site visit' laptop at the office (I would have got the linux one and installed windows or ubuntu myself, but that's on backorder for like 2 months). I have desktops at work and home for my main use, so portability and battery life were my main concerns. I also use a 12.1" laptop on occasion, but I'm not much of a laptop person.

I have big hands, and I did adjust to limited typing on the teeny-weeny keyboard ok - but I wouldn't want to type up a thesis on it. I find the touchpad quite useable, if a little 'sticky' and the dual finger drag for scrolling is useful. I've had no hardware problems yet.
Note, the SSD of the 901 is split; 4GB for the OS, plus an 8GB or 16GB SSD for programs and user data (depending on windows or linux). You can add an SDHC card for extra space; I chucked a cheap 16GB one in for documents etc.

The 10" laptops like the msi wind and the 1000h were out, as a 12.1" laptop is not much bigger and much more powerful, plus the msi wind only comes with a 3 cell in my country. The whole point of a netbook is small and ultra-portable.
The eee 901 has the new intel atom, which while not much more powerful than the celeron it replaces in most of the older netbooks (like the eee 900), it absolutely spanks it on battery life. The HP mininote is slow, and expensive.

The acer aspire one has a reputation for crappy SSDs and with a 3 cell battery as standard, the battery life is crap compared to the 6 cell 901, though it is cheaper in the US. If you could pick up a 6 cell one, with the larger keyboard while still in a small form factor, it may be more suitable. If you do want a 10" form factor, with a decent keyboard, the MSI Wind is the one to go for, again assuming you can get a 6 cell one.

The netbooks are exactly what you'd expect though, as a whole. Small, light, cheap, not very powerful with flimsy keyboards. If you're using it to browse the net, do some light work, and carry it with you a lot, then they make sense.
If you want something you sit on your desk most of the time, and only lug about occasionally, and/or you want to do a fair bit of typing on it; get a normal laptop.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:27 AM on September 7, 2008

I have an older 701 and I love it... but I'd go crazy if it were my main computer. It's like a great, portable net / media device with a long battery life, but if you wanna do anything, like, "serious" with it, it'd probably be a bad choice. It's awesome for watching movies on the plane and traveling with, though...
posted by ph00dz at 7:40 PM on September 7, 2008

« Older Help me get rid of this stuff and make a couple...   |   No, that isn't "the shocker". Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.