The Asus Eee PC conveyor belt shows no sign of slowing down. Like contestants on a particularly geeky version of the Generation Game, we’ve sat confused as model after model has whizzed past. Now there’s a new one to test our memory – the Eee PC 904.
Not that we’re prejudiced against this newcomer. After all, the MSI Wind comes in a lot of flavours and the Acer One has almost as many variations on a theme. Plus, the more models there are, there more likely you are to find one that suits you.
Comfortable and long lasting
We are prejudiced, however, against the fact the 904 is a bit of a mish mash. Concerned by the rising cost of 10in models and complaints about keyboard size on the 8.9in ones, Asus has grafted together the most budget friendly parts of the two to create… something else.
Like most inbreds, the result is thoroughly nice, but a bit chinless. First off, the good news. It’s the cheapest Eee for a while, and for the simple reason that it ships with a six cell battery and Xandros Linux – the most polished of the netbook operating systems – a sure fire winner if the £250 mark is your absolute price cap.
Adding to its charm are the Eee staples: the large multi-touch mousepad, fast boot times and bright screen. Then there are highlights cherry picked from other models: an 80GB hard drive, a near full size keyboard and lid mounted speakers for music that sounds almost natural, as opposed to the ethereal whine of most netbooks.
To anyone with even a vague sense of the aesthetic, though, it’s a bit hideous. Practicality has been placed first, and the result isn’t pleasant to the eye. The speakers take us back to the Fisher Price days of the first 701s, rather than the sophisticated style of the 901.
Then you need to factor in the weight of the larger chassis: it has all the drawbacks of the 10in Eees, with the added problem of a slightly slower, cheaper Celeron processor that’s noticeably tardy in video playback. That also makes it marginally heavier on the batteries, taking longevity down to four or five hours, rather than the five to six we achieved with the 901.
There’s nothing essentially wrong with the 904: it’s a functional, working computer for not a lot of money, which is exactly what the ethos of the brand is. But our choice would be to stick with the smaller, svelter Eee 901, or, if you absolutely have to have a larger keyboard, the better looking, larger screened MSI Wind.