Eee PC Case solution

November 10, 2007

I have found an unusual solution that works extremely well as an Eee PC case- the Piel Frama Bluetooth Bundle Leather Case.

It is not cheap at 120 Euros, but as I already owned one I tested it with the Eee and it fits perfectly. You won’t fit anything else in but the Eee does everything anyway…

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Eee PC Review (part 3)

November 10, 2007

Over the past 5 days I have been using the Eee PC for all of my article writing and freelance work and can confirm that the keyboard is perfectly useable for extended periods of time, without cause undue strain to your fingers. If you have particularly fat fingers you may struggle but your fingers would need to be rather fat indeed (no offence to fat fingered people meant:))

The screen is small, as I have mentioned before a few times, but it is more than adequate for word processing and most business activities. There is a video port as well, should you wish to hook it up to a larger monitor to save your eyes a bit. Talking of ports, there are more than enough for most users with 3 USB ports, a network port, security port and an SD card reader. A quick test with my SHDC card was positive and with the price of these cards dropping quickly it should be possible to add a further 8GB quite cheaply.

The Eee feels robust and more than sturdy enough to cope with daily demands although the top now has 2 small scratches on it. It is slightly tricky to open first time and the person I stupidly showed it to dropped it onto my desk at work whilst opening it up. It fell on top of a stapler and then bounced onto my laptop- 2 small scratches is a good price to pay for that stupidity and is hopefully a sign of a tough tool for my daily work.

It does become hot after prolonged use but not unreasonably so and there is a strange whirring noise most of the time. I can’t say that this whirring is any worse than other laptops but it is noticeable. With time comes familiarity and within a couple of days I felt completely at home with the Eee and love the fact that I can do so much on such a small unit. The Psion 7 was my idea of the perfect mobile workhorse, but the lack of communication and up to date functions holds it back in 2007, which is understandable. The Eee is a worthy replacement for a Psion 7 and it has been of benefit in ensuring that I am much more productive than I have been for a long time.

The Eee itself is not the only reason I am now more productive- any device in this new genre would be advantageous to people like me and I genuinely believe that there is a BIG market out there for this kind of device, even if Palm (Foleo) and others do not agree.

The discussion of PDAs being laptop replacements has rumbled on for many years but I have never bought that idea, not for one minute. Even the latest Smartphones struggle to cut it for long periods of data creation- my TyTN II has a decent keyboard which is great for emails and the like but the small screen and keyboard are not really of use for laptop type work. The Nokia E90 is bigger but again, it is far from a laptop replacement and more of a device you use when your laptop is not available.

I think of all smartphones as being devices that are ideal for communication and organisation when out of the office or away from home.

I think of laptops as not being portable enough to use in many locations.

I think of the Eee as the ideal bridge between my desktop and smartphone, and it is what I have been waiting for since Psion stopped innovating in the consumer market.

ASUS have put the Eee together extremely well and created a unit that works with the owner. You need little knowledge to get started, it is quick to use and in my opinion is a genuine laptop replacement. Barring the physical limitations of the smaller than average screen and keyboard, it does everything I need and I am starting to feel strangely attached to it.

There are some niggles such as limited battery life but hopefully these will be overcome with extended accessories soon. For now, it is a great great device and at just over £200 is a complete bargain. There is no way on earth I am letting this one go back!

Available from www.clove.co.uk.


Eee PC Review (part 2)

November 10, 2007

I talked on Friday about my first impressions of the Eee PC and since that time I have written all of my 247 articles and freelance work on the Eee itself. I have also used it to capture and manipulate images, compress them and email them. This is a genuine laptop replacement and the amount of software included in the package is enough to cover the vast majority of people’s usage. Here is a run down of what is included and comments on each application-

INTERNET TAB

Web Mail- a simple shortcut icon to Gmail, HotMail, Yahoo and AOL.
Web- Mozilla Firefox v2.0.0.7 (very quick and versatile- perfect for this device)
Information- an icon shortcut to iGoogle
Messenger- PidGin messenger (compatibility with the most popular IM services- works well and looks great)
Skype- you all know what that is (works surprisingly well)
Network- network connection manager
eBook- a simple link to your eBook folder (pointless?)
Google Docs- another link to a specific site
World Clock- a graphical representation of the world with mouse over time and location details for many cities
Wikipedia- a simple link again
Internet Radio- a simple link to mediaU (the service worked without a hitch straight away- a nice introduction to internet radio)
Wireless Networks- access point manager

The internet tab does contain a lot of links to sites but they are carefully chosen and the full appications are gems. Firefox, Messenger and Skype all work extremely well and provide essential tools for any power user.

WORK TAB

Accessories icon (includes calculator, PIM and Screen Capture)-Calculator (a simple interface hiding a powerful range of functions- it includes Light Speed calculations,  Atomic Mass  Units and Earth Accelleration among many other functions- superb!)
PIM (an Outlook style application with Mail, Contacts, Calendar, To Do list, Journal and Notes plus a Summary view. The various windows can feel cramped on the smaller screen but this will feel familiar to all Outlook users- I love it)
Screen Capture- this is ideal for people who need to take screenshots and has some thoughtful aspects to it’s implementation. One example is that when I took my first screenshot I called it eee1.PNG. The next screenshot offered me eee2.PNG and so on- simple but clever stuff. All of the most common image formats are supported as well.
Documents (part of the OpenOffice suite and my preferred application for document creation. All of my most needed features such as selection word count and lots of formatting options. Perfectly suited to the Eee screen.)
Spreadsheets (also from the OpenOffice suite and as good as Excel in my book).
Presentations (it is not Powerpoint but some would consider that a good thing- I like to see a presentation that looks a little different and this is adequate for basic presenting work).
PDF Reader (Adobe- enough said).
Mail (Mozilla Thunderbird- excellent!)
File Manager (a simple file manager with printer folder support and Windows network and NFS Network support- good enough)
Dictionary (the Longman version with over 88,000 definitions. Very basic but very quick- a useful addition)
Notes (basic post-it note style application. Does the job and little else)

The Work Tab contains the powerful applications which will be used most of the time and it goes to show that a lot of the free applications are just as good, if not better, than their commercial equivalents.

LEARN TAB

Science: Periodic Table (graphical table with data plotting and all sorts of other functions that go straight over my head), Planetarium (a visual guide to the stars including a telescope wizard, manual focus and lots of other bits and pieces). Both are impressive and would be vital if I understood them properly:)
Language: Typing (a fun game with a penguin. Sounds silly but could be useful for two finger typists), Letter Game (very simple word scramble game which is fun for about 3 seconds), Hangman Game (needs no introduction)
Maths: Fraction Tutorial (this game took me back to my school days and is extremely testing), TuxMath (a brilliant little space invader / maths game- my son loves this and it will really benefit him), Geometry (if you need this kind of visual tool you will greatly appreciate it’s inclusion- very impressive), Function Plotter (quite specialised but once again, it impresses greatly).
Paint: Paint (a basic image application which is much more feature packed that MS Paint, TuxPaint (this is a playful painting tool for children which was highly rated by my 3 year daughter)
Web Learn (a simple link to skoool.ie)

The Learn Tab contains many useful little tools and some of these are perfect for children. My son will benefit from the maths and word games and this adds yet another unexpected use to the Eee.

PLAY TAB

Games: Solitaire (standard implementation of the classic we all know and love), Frozen Bubble (Bust-a-move with good graphics, nice anomation and really good sounds- love it!), Crack Attack! (a different version of Same Game- very simple but strangely addictive), Penguin Racer (reminds me of an old VIC20 game- quite sweet), Sudoku (standard Sudoku game. zzzzz), Potato Guy (lovely little game for children), L Tris (standard Tetris clone).
Media Player (a video and audio player with many features including subtitles and a wide range of supported file formats- the performance is excellent, especially for video playback)
Music Manager (a surprisingly feature rich tool with cover manager, stream support and a half decent equalizer)
Photo Manager (excellent tool with a variety of features to make the most of your collection. Despite the relatively low resolution, the images are very clear and display well)
Video Manager (average tool which is liitle more than a file manager)
Webcam (mine appears to be broken- it made me look fat:) A nice addition though)
Sound Recorder (rather basic with a few options- first tests of the recording capability could be better, will experiment further)

The Play Tab includes some basic tools alongside the more advanced applications. The video and music playback are highlights of the Eee and this makes it a potential portable entertainment centre.

SETTINGS TAB (selected items mentioned)

Anti-Virus (KDE Anti-Virus tool which is difficult to judge at this time)
Printers (configurationa and installation tool for a wide range of models)
Personalization (change name, password, desktop theme and keyboard layout)
Diagnostic Tool (includes System Infoand System test)

FAVOURITES TAB

This is a simple tab on which you can add and remove your most used applications and games.

Listing the bundled software took a lot longer than I originally expected because there is just so much pre-installed, Most of it is GPL and thus available for free but the selection is intelligently put together and covers many common and not so common needs. I particularly like the educational applications, which my sone is already benefitting from and this has opened my eyes to the Linux operating system. I have a lot to learn with regard to tweaking it but out of the box, ASUS has created an environment that Windows users will be able to understand immediately– Linux lovers will hate me for this but at times I struggled to tell the difference between the two.

I found that the Eee had no problem coping with the resources needed for each application and that general speed was acceptable at all times. Considering the fairly low specification, the Eee coped well in general use and I would consider it to be faster than any other laptop I have owned, including my MacBook.

Tomorrow I will look at the practicality of the Eee and assessing how well it copes with daily use and how complete a unit it really is.

Available on pre-order from www.clove.co.uk.


Eee PC review (part one)

November 10, 2007

The ASUS Eee PC has been greeted with much anticipation in the smartphone and gadget world and with good reason. On the face of it, we have a well specified device at a very low price point and a design which looks more than acceptable in the publicity photos. Mine arrived yesterday and for the first part of this in-depth look into the Eee I will concentrate purely on the hardware and the bits and pieces that come with the device itself.

In the box

In the box you get a couple of small manuals, a DVD, power charger and a slip case plus of course the EeePC. Nothing really jumps out as being of startlingly good quality but the EeePC itself feels well built and strangely, heavier than the specs suggest. The slip case is just a bit of material which covers the Eee and as such, offers very little protection. Having said that, it is good to have a case included because many manufacturers still fail to do so. There is a feeling of good build quality married with an almost toy like appearance, at least in the white version. This may sound silly but I couldn’t help but liken it to a kid’s laptop in appearance.

Dimensions

The size of the Eee is striking and will be perfect for those of you who want to be able to work and play when away from home, yet not have to carry a full sized laptop around with you. The depth of the unit is fairly good but the battery does add a little to the overall dimensions and handily adds a nice slant to the Eee when typing on a flat surface. There is a strange side effect to the size in that when you are typing on your lap, your knees have to bend inward and the resulting stance is a little strange:)

Keyboard

The keyboard is an area that warrants some criticism. Despite the small size of the Eee, I expected the keyboard to be more useable that it is. When compared to the keyboard on the aged Psion 7, it feels cramped and difficult to type on. This is a first impression though and time will tell as to how accurately and quickly I can knock out future articles on it. The mouse board is pretty standard and the vertical navigation strip is very useful, but the select key below the board has proved to be quite stiff and difficult to activate at times. It could just be my model, and it may loosen up, but initially this whole section of the Eee has proved to be a touch disappointing.

Screen

I really like the screen- it is small at 7” but the resolution is just about right to produce clear images and enough real estate when working on Office documents and spreadsheets. Outdoors it appears to be quite clear but sadly we have had a few days with little sunlight so I will update on it’s practicality in a future part of this review.

Extras

Having Wi-Fi included is a major bonus and the main reason this will present a tempting purchase to some but Bluetooth could have topped the package off nicely. Allowing communication with a mobile or smartphone out of the box would have increased the potential of this device. It is likely that this is still possible and I will experiment to see what works best. The 3 USB ports are quite generous in such a small unit and the external sound was a real shock when playing music. It was genuinely comparable to my iPod music dock, if not quite so loud.

The Web-Cam is fairly standard at only 0.3MP but again, this is an extra that should not be expected at this price point.

I have deliberately not gone into too much detail yet and will present a much longer follow up on Monday. As usual, I will concentrate on how the device works in the real world and how practical it really is. The Eee has created a very positive first impression though and hopefully, the little niggles I have can be overcome in the first few days of proper usage.

Available from www.clove.co.uk on pre-order.