We couldn’t get enough of the original EeePC 701. It’s a miniature marvel, and the perfect tool for blogging on-the-move. But the launch of the more expensive 9in EeePC 900 raises an interesting question – was it the innovative design and non-Microsoft OS that everyone loved, or just the price?

With a better spec than the original model and similarly diminutive dimensions, the updated version should have a clear run to the five star finish line. But the modifications cost an extra £130, and for the total price you could get a dual-core notebook with a full-size screen and keyboard, and a much bigger hard-drive. So is it still the prince of portables?

Bigger, better, faster, stronger

Let’s look at the big changes. Out goes the biggest (nay, only) problem with the 701: the 7in, 800x480 resolution screen. It’s replaced with a far more comfortable, and usable, 9in, 1024x600 panel.

This move alone absolutely transforms the machine: not only is there more desktop space and room to view websites, the display now fits the lid area much more comfortably. Instead of feeling like a Fisher Price toy, the EeePC 900 now looks like a true style icon.

The second big change is the switch to 20GB of solid-state storage, compared to just 8GB on the original model. Again, this absolutely changes the Eee, giving it enough drive space to be a serious workhorse, and not just a bloggers’ scratchpad.

Stay with Linux

You can trade 8GB of space for a Windows XP installation, although quite why you would is a mystery. The Xandros Linux OS from the original Eee 701 not only has everything you need, but looks better and boots faster than Windows, which will suffer from massive performance degradation as time goes by.

Other new features include a really useful iMac-style multi-touch mouse pad, and the ability to edit the BIOS and speed up the processor, at the expense of battery life.

The pricing issue

Of course, for the same money you could buy a ‘proper’ budget notebook. But it would be badly designed, heavy and have a battery life that makes a mayfly look venerable.

By contrast, the EeePC 900 is innovative, beautifully designed and every bit as practical, although we do worry that its name is derived from the most common typo when surfing the web with its tiny keyboard.

Its battery life was shorter than the original on our early review model – by about an hour at 165 minutes – but Asus has assured us this will up the original’s 3 hour mark when it hits the shops.

There’s competition on the way later this year in the form of MSI’s Wind, HP’s Mini-Note and a 10in Eee with Intel’s new Atom processor, but right now the EeePC 900 is the one to beat.


Stuff says... 

Asus Eee PC 900 review

The bigger price tag means this Eee’s not a miniature bargain, but it’s still exceptional value and cooler than ever