ASUS Eee PC 701

I don’t know about you but I like laptops. I remember being completely astonished one day, many years ago, when I was in a Dick Smith store and I saw that they had a laptop for under $3k, it was an ASUS. It made me drool.

Then I realised that I hardly even used my normal computer, and didn’t need one. So I had my money for other less practical things. Like never wearing the same sock twice. (Ok, so this is an exageration, but I did build up an awful lot of socks. These days I’ve cut my collection back – I now have only around 30 pairs of black socks.)

As I was writing this article it ocurred to me that I couldn’t remember what I used to do with my time after I burned out and stopped geeking at home – but now I do remember, I trained at Karate like a freak. 1 – 3 hours per day, 5 or 6 days a week. For instance every Monday I’d leave work at noon, go to the dojo and spar for an hour and a half, then head back to work until 6 when I’d leave for the dojo again and train for another hour or so. (This is why, even years later, it’s no problem for me to kick your arse. Seriously, I’d completely humiliate you. You have no idea.)

Anyway, fast forward a couple of years, and instead of having a hot nurse girlfriend that liked to fuck a lot and go out for curries, I then had a hot internet geek girlfriend that liked to sit on the couch and read all of the webs – all of them, especially if they were about girl things like sewing and psychologically torturing your boyfriend – and go out for curries.

So I revisited my decision and went and picked up an IBM Thinkpad.

Here’s the thing about Thinkpads – they’re built incredibly well so they never ever ever die. But that also means that even when they’re well past their use by date they still work. So of course my laptop still runs, but it kind of sucks. It can’t decode TV/movies smoothly, doesn’t have built in wifi, and gets about 20 minutes of battery life (or 2 if the wifi is on).

I loved that laptop for a long time, but now I was thinking “maybe I’ll get a new laptop* then, huh?” but then it ocurred to me “I’d far rather go and train Muay Thai for a couple of weeks in Thailand than get a laptop”, so I didn’t get a laptop.

(* I was initially thinking about one of the high spec and super nice Dell XPS 1210s, now that the even nicer and far sexier Dell XPS 1330 is out it would be that. Though I confess that the robustness of the business focused Dell Latitude d630 is pretty damn nice as well.)

And then I thought… “But Morgan, you’ve never trained in Muay Thai in your damn life.” So I didn’t do that either (yet).

I say this without a hint of conceit, but it is increasingly apparent that ASUS base all of their product decisions around what I do, so they’ve decided to reward my incredible lack of action by releasing something very special into the ultralight/subnote category of laptops.

The ASUS Eee PC 701. A terrible name for a teeny tiny little laptop with a wee little 7″ screen – a 10″ version slated for release in early 2008 – 7″ is roughly half the size of most normal laptop screens, but it weighs well under a kilogram. Uses flash memory instead of a hard drive, so is nearly silent. Has built in webcam, Wireless 802.11b/g, 4 USB ports (take note Apple), and comes preinstalled with Xandros linux. (Windows XP compatible if you’d prefer to install that.) It has an energy efficient Intel Dothan 900MHz CPU and 512MB of RAM, and even with a tiny little lightweight battery has a claimed 3 hours of life.

The kicker? Well now, that would have to be the price.

Early reports were that the entry level model – with the smallest amount of flash memory – would be US$199. more recently this has creeped up (ASUS doubled the amount of flash in the lowest spec model) to around the US$250 mark. This is an astonishingly good price considering that similar devices (with varying features, from less impressive to vastly superior) in this niche go for between US$600 – US$2000.

(It’s important to note that ASUS have announced different price points in different territories, the Europeans get a much worse price, closer to US$400, the original US$199 price was announced as applying in North America and Asia, so I hope we’re counted as Asia and don’t get the European price.)

Release is expected within about 4 – 6 weeks.

My excitement is somewhat tempered by a fear that the size of the device will mean it’s not suitable for anything but very brief email, and web browsing – all hands on reviews I’ve read so far have said it’s a pretty nifty little thing, with a 15 second startup time, which is bloody good – the slightly smaller than standard keyboard and much smaller than normal screen might turn out to suck, or they might be completely worth the trade-off in size & weight. Yet another in the long list of things that can only be decided once a person has had the opportunity actually use one.

If we get the US/Asia price I’ll be bagging one as soon as it’s released here, if we get the European price I’ll wait until more people have them in hand before I make my decision.

I’m doubly excited about the weight because in addition to being much more portable than a normal laptop, it just might save my life… I’m ashamed to admit (I will deny this if you ever tell anyone) that I have, more than once, fallen asleep with my Thinkpad on my chest while reading – only to wake up gasping for breath. So there you go.