Ten months old is young to write an autobiography, but if the Asus Eee PC were to pen its memoirs it’d consist of three chapters. The first would be all about introducing a revolutionary new product (the Eee PC 701), the second about rapidly refining it (the Eee PC 900) and the last would detail how, in the face of several me-too look-alikes, it was reinvented again in the guise of the Eee PC 901.
The 901 is, in many ways, so much better than its peers it’s laughable, but if you have an Eee PC 900 don’t worry about upgrading. The basic body shape and size is identical, save for a few millimetres here and there in the 900’s favour. The screen, too, is the bright 1024x600 panel that we know and love.
The same but different
Both notebooks also use the same Linux Xandros operating system and have a 20GB solid-state hard drive (an XP model will have 12GB storage). And while the Intel Atom processor that pulses away under the diminutive keyboard of the 901 is superior to that of the 900, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference.
There was some confusion about the 900’s battery: at the time of launch, Asus UK believed that it would ship with a 5800mAh battery. Many arrived with a 4400mAh affair, which fizzled out after just two hours.
Such was the outcry that Asus is planning to offer Eee 900 owners a bigger battery for just £10. The lesson has been learnt. The 901 comes with an enormous 6600mAh battery – even with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth switched on it lasts for well over five hours.
Be careful what you wish for, though. That cell adds an extra tenth to the weight of the Eee, and gives it the kind of rounded rear end Queen sang of. You do get Bluetooth built in, although the Linux stack did struggle to recognise our Windows Mobile phone as a modem.
Some may complain that the tiny Eee keyboard hasn’t been stretched. We disagree. Most of the time when you’re browsing, you aren’t using the keyboard. Leaving extra space for the large multi-touch mouse pad is a wise decision.
Speaking of the net, you get 20GB of secure online storage that you can drag and drop to within the standard file explorer, essentially doubling your available disk space. That’s the kind of detail that you don’t see from other UMPCs.
And yet, while the differences between the Eee 901 and the Acer Aspire One are often laughable, £120 is not a trivial amount of money. Bearing in mind that with the latter you’ll also need a spare battery, Bluetooth dongle, storage card and possibly even a carry bag, things are a bit closer. But hang on for a couple of weeks and you should be able to find the 901 for about £40 less, at which point your mini laptop conundrum will be a no brainer.