in Education

RM Asus Minibook

RM Asus Minibook

I was very impressed with the RM Asus Minibook at the BETT Show last weekend. Also known as the Asus eee PC, this is a very small form-factor notebook PC with education in mind. In fact, it’s in direct competition with the OLPC Children’s Machine XO.

The Minibook is available in either Linux (from £169 ex VAT) or Windows (£more) flavours. I had a play with the Linux version and it was easy-to-use, responsive and intuitive. There’s icons to Google Apps in the shortcuts menu, for instance and the keyboard, whilst (obviously) smaller than usual, is just about big enough to touch type.

I think this could be an answer for Western education. The OLPC laptop is built with Africa in mind. That’s great; we shouldn’t try to hijack that project. Have a closer look at the RM Asus Minibook – it’s certainly worth it.

Oh, and anyone reading this from RM/Asus, feel free to send a review sample :-)

  • http://Url Greg

    I’m typing this comment from an eee PC. I purchased one during the first week they were available. I have been using the machine as my secondary computer for any time I am away from the office. I plan on taking it to use as my only computer during an upcoming accreditation visit.

    Like you, I see real potential for the machine or something like this as a student tool.

    1. The size and weight are wonderful. One drawback I see to most student laptop programs is having them carry around all that bulk and weight on top of their normal textbooks. This machine is smaller and lighter than a small textbook (not much bigger than a graphing calculator!). I have no difficulty with the size of the keyboard or the screen (though I hate the touchpad…much better with a mouse). I also like the limited memory (only 8GB on the flash memory, 4 used by the OS). With the increased storage on USB and SD drives (the eee has slots for both; in fact it has 3 USB ports) it appears that the new paradigm for data will be either available from anywhere or carried with you.
    2. The Open Office software, coupled with wireless Internet access (and a built-in web cam!) address the vast majority of student computing needs in a classroom. They can take notes, write, research, and connect. The Open Office interfaces well with most MS Office files (I share stuff back and forth all the time).
    3. The price of $400 for a complete machine is something that I could sell to parents, especially if we were to move to some on-line materials taking the place of purchased textbooks (I don’t like reading huge chunks of text from a screen, but I think math books could be easily accessed electronically). I’d like to see the price closer to $300, but with a school-wide deal I hope that the price can come down.

    This being said, I have a few concerns about the eee
    1. The battery life is poor. It advertises 4 hours. I get about 3 (or less if I’m streaming video). I’ve heard that future releases will come with multiple batteries, but that means more weight, more cost, and more things for students to remember.
    2. The screen is heavier than the keyboard, so when I rest the machine on my lap, it tends to fall backward, often causing typos. I correct this by putting it on a book. This is also necessary because the little machine generates a LOT of heat, both on the bottom and through the keyboard. It’s not enough to be uncomfortable on my fingers, but I do feel it.
    2. The video card (I assume) makes streaming video pretty slow. I set up two wireless machines side by side, and while the regular Toshiba laptop played video without a pause, the eee had to pause several times to catch up. I don ‘t know how important this would be for student use, but I notice it for myself.
    3. The Linux operating system is a two-edged sword. The simple system runs well on the machine’s limited resources. However, I wonder if we will have difficulty with non-compatible software. You can run XP on the eee, but that will be much slower and will again up the cost.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks for your considered and insightful comment, Greg. :-)

      I think, having played with one for a bit, that they could be perfect for primary schools, and a pretty good fit for some areas of most secondary schools.

      If anyone needs edte.ch to come in to their school and twist some arms, feel free to get in touch!

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  • http://www.batteryfast.co.uk/asus/ asus

    I tested this camera for a client. I didn’t have the light running for more than 15 minutes. The battery lasted approximately 6 hours before recharging. The LCD, however, had a few dead pixels – never saw this before. Tried returning for exchange and had to put up quite a fight. Anyone else seen this? http://www.batteryfast.co.uk