Eee PC?
January 21, 2008 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Do I want an Asus Eee PC?

I'd love to have an ultra portable (fits in my coat pocket?), ultra cheap computer for writing and internetting. Is the Eee the machine for me, or is the keyboard too small to type on for extended periods of time? (My hands aren't ginormous or anything, but they're not exactly dainty, either.) Anyone have any experience trying to write on one? Any alternate suggestions at a similar price point?
posted by dersins to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I type on mine just the same as I type on a larger keyboard. I do have tiny hands though, maybe the hands of a 17-year-old girl, but I know people with manly beefy hands who have adapted, but it just took them longer. I've used it for writing essays and taking notes (at loooooong conferences) without a problem. Touchpad is the evil part.

Unless you have a big coat, it probably won't fit in your pocket.

In terms of alternatives, Everex has something called the Cloudbook that is coming out soon and other Asian companies seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. The eee forum has a section dedicated to similar devices here. Asus will probably come out with a larger model this year, but the talk has been that it will have lots of bells and whistles, like a touchscreen, and it will probably cost more.
posted by melissam at 9:26 AM on January 21, 2008

The Asus Eee PC is such a nifty idea, with such an effective but imperfect execution, that one might be wise to wait until the copycats and model revisions come out.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:37 AM on January 21, 2008

I'm a big girl so I have big for-a-girl hands and don't have too much trouble typeing on it. The thing that I don't like is not being able to see the whole web page at one time. Very few are formatted correctly and it is annoying to have to scroll left and right, up and down to see stuff. This might change as these things become more popular but I don't know if I can deal till then. If you aren't surfing too much, it would probably be fine but I agree, it won't fit in your pocket. YMMV
posted by pearlybob at 9:39 AM on January 21, 2008

I have one (black 4g, with an 8GB SD card), and I use it for exactly the purpose you've outlined... and I love it. Yes, the batttery life is only 3 hours, and it seems to consume a bit more power than necessary in standby/sleep mode, but it starts up so quickly that it really isn't a problem to shut down if you'd need to be "sleeping" for longer than a couple of hours. Also, the charger is nicely designed and resembles a large phone-charger--easily pocketable. Wifi reception is strong and reliable, but start-up times (especially when changing networks or after sleeping) can be a little slow and require restarting. The small screen is absolutely no problem for OpenOffice or PDF-reading. The keyboard is a little small, but within about a day, I was touch-typing at near-normal speeds (the only major adjustment for me was the right shift key, which is tiny). My hands do feel a little cramped at times, but I haven't experienced any detrimental effects thus far.

One nice thing about the Eee that makes me glad that I have it is that it breaks through barriers that I would otherwise have to using a computer in public--I don't feel that weird pulling it out for a bit while sitting at a quiet bar when I would otherwise be writing longhand, and it's not inconvenient to open and check a document or email that I had stored on the drive (finding an open wifi network on the spur of the moment has never quite been as smooth as a "normal" laptop). It fits in my jacket pocket, and it looks like a hardback book when I carry it in my hand. Also, it is probably the most userfriendly configuration out of the box (and should you muck it up with the growing library of EeeHacks, restoration to its original state takes about 5 minutes). Though the advanced mode is familiar to any KDE or XP user, the simple mode works so quickly that I have often just used that.

If you can afford it, go for it, as it's a great machine for right now. If you need more space, you might check one of the Everex machines that will soon be at WalMart, and if you don't need it right now, 2008 will undoubtedly bring several other machines in this class.
posted by zachxman at 9:39 AM on January 21, 2008

Response by poster: The Asus Eee PC is such a nifty idea, with such an effective but imperfect execution,

Can you elaborate on what makes the execution imperfect? I'd very much appreciate it. Thanks!
posted by dersins at 9:44 AM on January 21, 2008

Can you elaborate on what makes the execution imperfect? I'd very much appreciate it. Thanks!

For some people, it appears to be too small to be comfortable as a laptop, without being small enough to fit in a pocket the way some people might like, and without the battery life one might hope for such a small device. If you're willing to wait, I'm sure future permutations of the idea will improve upon this situation.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2008

I got one for my daughter who loves it to bits. You should try and have a play with one if possible - not sure I would want to type huge amounts on it.

The only negative I have to say about it is that the keys are a bit flimsy.
posted by zemblamatic at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2008

Another negative would be the tiny screen with terrible resolution. I suppose if you're writing, it doesnt make much of a difference, but browsing the web will require a lot of horizontal scrolling.

There are rumors of a 10" version coming out, which is what I would wait for.
posted by mphuie at 9:58 AM on January 21, 2008

My 170lb male hands types fine on my EEEPC. The one thing I am still getting used to is that the placement of the right-shift key is different than my regular laptop.

One (slightly shady) idea would be to purchase the EEEPC from Costco. They have a 90 day no-questions-asked returned policy. That gives you three months to figure out if it is useful to you.
posted by chrisalbon at 10:01 AM on January 21, 2008

I bought one for my daughter so I've had some time playing with it. I find as a grown man that I can type on it just fine. It just takes a little adjustment if you also regularly type on things with bigger keyboards, but it wears off after a couple of minutes.

Despite what mphuie said, I rarely if ever needed to scroll horizontally while using the web.

If you had a greatcoat with big pockets it might fit, but otherwise it will be too big.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:20 AM on January 21, 2008

I use my EEE as a travel and cafe laptop. It is perfect for web browsing and chatting. The wi-fi is better than any other laptop I've had. It can fit in the pocket of a large coat. But I like to throw it in a bag I'm carrying. With its small form factor and its lightness (2 lbs) it is sort of a pack it and forget about until you need it accessory. It feels rugged too.

After having had it for over a month, the two changes I'd make to it are:
1) Slightly bigger screen. The current screen is workable but even an extra inch would be fantastic.
2) Longer battery life. I get about 4 hrs out of it right now which is ok but for a machine this size you naturally expect better.

Regarding the keyboard, I think you're going to have to get your hands on one and try it out. It works fine for me, even for long periods but I know that others find it a bit cramped. Its impossible to know ahead of time which camp you will fall into.
posted by vacapinta at 10:23 AM on January 21, 2008

I'm 6'2" male, and have slightly larger than average hands. I have no problems typing on mine (It took me a few hours of solid usage to do that though). Try searchin ask mefi, and you'll find more answers regarding typing on an eee and alternatives.

I have no problems using my eee exclusively on the weekends and then coming back to a standard keyboard at work on the weekdays. But this weekend, I wanted to use a mouse for a task, and the only extra mouse I could find was PS/2, so I turned on my old laptop. It's keyboard has standard size buttons, and it seemed *huge*. I couldn't type anything because it felt like my hands had to jump around. I know from previously when I use it on the weekends, that it felt the same then as my work keyboard. Apparently I've internalized my different eee-sized typing strictly for all laptops, rather than just to the eee.

writing 6k journal entries in one sitting isn't a problem, and since I picked up some cheap usb flash drives during boxing week sales, I don't mourn the lack of dvd drive.

The only "problem" I have with mine is since they look so sleek, cool and kid-sized, despite having a desktop setup just for the kids (games, and http through a squid proxy with a whitelist for each kid), there's repeated requests to play games on our eee's. The eee that I told them I don't have any games installed on and that it's important to not touch because I need it for work. I think it's a combination that they've seen me preview movies/tv shows on the eee, and they've seen ms. nobeagle playing scrabulous/bejeweled on hers.
posted by nobeagle at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2008

I really like mine as well--typing on it now in a cafe! you definitely need a mouse with it, though, the trackpad is unusable for anyone with arm/wrist issues. but it's perfect for traveling, really light and adding a tiny mouse doesn't really add to weight.
posted by Maias at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2008

I used to think I wanted something like this, but then I realised that unless it was Palm-sized I wouldn't ever be carrying it in a pocket: it will always have a bag. And when you're in bag territory, an extra couple of inches doesn't matter terribly.

And that takes you into Thinkpad X-series territory. You can get a X30 on ebay for the price of an eee, and it weighs about 3lbs, has a five-hour battery life, a nice big screen and possibly the best keyboard I've ever used. If you want to spend more the X60s gets nine hours of battery life, and is smaller and weighs less.
posted by bonaldi at 10:53 AM on January 21, 2008

8, 9 and 10" screens are rumoured, plus a touchscreen version. I imagine they'll want to clear the old stock first, so not too soon. In a year there will be similar machines from everyone, though maybe not as Asus' price
posted by A189Nut at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2008


I haven't tried an Eee, but I got a Nokia N800, which easily fits in my pocket, a few months ago. They're $229 at amazon or The screen is a bit too small for my middle-aged eyes. Unless putting the laptop in your pocket is essential, I'd think you'd be better off going for a 4-pound laptop with a 12" screen like a refurbished Inspiron 700m, which cost $400-$500 on eBay, or waiting for the upcoming Eees from Asus.
posted by lukemeister at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2008

I have big hands and the Eee keyboard is fine. I've been using palmtop/pocket-sized PCs and PDAs since the late 80s and the Eee keyboard is my second-favourite, after the truly awesome, heavily patented and much-missed Psion 5, on which I wrote two novels.
posted by Hogshead at 12:22 PM on January 21, 2008

Another 'keyboard is easy to use' comment.

I've got huge hands, and after a day or so I can type pretty fast. Like others have said, the shift key is kind of small and I sometimes hit ' instead of enter, but the keyboard does otherwise work well.

I installed Windows on mine (because my school's VPN software doesn't support linux) and it's very speedy. I can boot into Windows in under 30 seconds.

I bought it for casual surfing/e-mail/RSS between classes, and it works well.
posted by pete0r at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2008

I like my eee as well, with the screen resolution being the only disappointment (but hey, $350 bucks). It will probably be a year before we see higher resolutions at this form factor and lowish price point (you can alwaysget those wacky high-res sony tablets for $2k). There wasn't much of note at CES as far as I could tell. Asus hit a grand slam with this thing - copy cat products coming out this year aren't going to beat it decisively unless you are looking for an internal hard drive.
posted by MillMan at 9:32 PM on January 21, 2008

I just got my Eee PC and love it - I got the 2GSSD/512RAM version with an 8GB SD that I haven't even made use of yet - I can write for extended periods on it no problem now I'm used to the right shift key's location, and a couple of other minor layout oddities. Nothing more then with any other laptop keyboard though.

Yes, the touch pad isn't great but in a way that's been useful as I've spent time learning all the keyboard shortcuts for the web apps I use a lot, which has made things easier then using a mouse.

Main thing is as many other people have said, it is ultra portable, I can carry it in my bag and don't even notice the extra weight, plus it runs silent, even with the fan it's very quiet (Might be more noticeable in summer when ambient air temp is a bit higher though) and because it's pretty cheap I don't worry about carrying it around with me.

On battery life, you can buy a better battery if desired, but for my the 4 hours you get out of it is fine for pottering about in a cafe while I'm on my lunch. The sleep option seems a bit lousy though, so I turn it off when I'm not using it, which given it only takes 15-20 seconds to boot is a perfectly workable solution.

It won't fit in your pocket though, but then I have the HTC Tynt II as well which I use as a GPS device mainly, and it's no way near as usable as an all round system, you certainly couldn't use a device like that for anything other then occasional use, where as the Eee PC has a nice balance of cheap, tiny, functional and useable.
posted by paulfreeman at 2:40 AM on January 22, 2008

Since this is a post about writing and the Asus EEE, I should add that the eee comes with a basic text editor but its not accessible from the default display. Its called kwrite. You can access it using the linux command line:

1. Do a Ctrl-Alt-T to bring up a Linux window.
2. Type 'kwrite'
posted by vacapinta at 2:56 AM on January 22, 2008

Compared to my XO-1, the EEE seemed like they keyboard was flimsy, the trackpad was tiny, and the case didn't inspire confidence in its ruggedness. I only played with the EEE for about 10 minutes at a store, so I might be biased!

Of course the EEE beats the pants off the XO in the computing department.
posted by anthill at 9:16 AM on January 22, 2008

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