Disclaimer: I was approached by a representative of Test Freaks looking to advertise on this site. As I’m trying to keep this blog ad-free, I declined. However, exploring the site I found it to be genuinely useful, collating reviews, pictures and videos – and therefore one I’d recommend to readers of dougbelshaw.com 😀
Earlier this week I took delivery of six Asus Eee 1000 netbooks at school. I used part (OK, most) of my E-Learning Staff Tutor budget to buy them and opted for the Linux-powered black 40GB SSD version for robustness. I own, and use at in my teaching, an Advent 4211 which is essentially a clone of the MSI Wind. I’ve ‘pimped’ this somewhat, upgrading the RAM, purchasing a ‘high-capacity’ battery, adding a 802.11n wireless card, and installing Mac OS X (guide here).
Despite running different operating systems, the two devices are similar. Both are dark-coloured with 10-inch screens and are physically similar in size. Both have Bluetooth. With the extended battery, the Advent weighs about the same as the Asus. Looking at the Test Freaks website, both devices (at the time of writing) have an average score of 9.8 out of 10:
Although the Advent is £280 to the Asus’ £320 (including VAT), I’ve spent more than the differential on the upgrades I’ve made. The Asus Eee 1000 comes with 802.11n wireless networking and up to a 7-hour battery as standard, whereas I’ve had to add to the Advent to get it up to this standard.
So far, neck and neck. I’ve got the option of using either in my everyday role. Which would I choose and recommend? It’s difficult, but I’d go with the Asus Eee 1000. Why? Because it’s high-spec (for a netbook) out-of-the-box, it’s sleek and glossy, has a wonderful battery life and comes with a case.
Wait until after Christmas so they’re widely available under the £300 mark and get yourself one! :-p
Although I act and talk at times seemingly to the contrary, I know deep down there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ on this world we inhabit. My Macbook’s pretty great though, so I have high expectations when it comes to finding something suitable in the recently defined ‘Netbook‘ category. :-p
First of all, like many, I was enchanted by the Asus Eee 701/4G. It’s extremely small form factor and amazing portability blew me away. After a few weeks, however, the 7-inch screen started to feel a little small; I was having to constantly scroll sideways on most websites. So I sold it, in anticipation of Intel Atom-powered devices on the horizon. Originally, I was holding out for the Asus Eee 901, but that looks like it won’t be here for a while and will cost too much. Then I saw the MSI Wind. Perfect! I thought. But again, slightly too expensive (£330) and not out yet.
Enter the Advent 4211. Available NOW in the UK from PC World. It’s basically a re-branded MSI Wind with the 3-cell rather than the 6-cell battery. The deal clincher for me was the price: £279.99 – only £30 more than my Eee (once I’d added extra storage, RAM, etc.)
It’s not white and sexy, but it’s not unattractive in black and silver. It comes with a 1.6Ghz Atom processor, 1GB RAM, Bluetooth, 802.11g wi-fi and a rather nice 10-inch screen. Much as the Macbook’s glossy screen looks amazing, it’s not much use when sitting outside. The Advent 4211’s screen doesn’t suffer from that problem, thankfully – seeing as I shall be using it in the garden quite a lot in the summer!
My next issue was Windows XP. Whilst it’s (marginally) better than Vista, I don’t like it at all. Using an external DVD-writer, I tried installing Ubuntu Linux on it – but no dice. I couldn’t even get to the installation screen! Then, after reading some articles on the Internet, I tried installing Mac OSX on it. Eventually, I succeeded! However, it kept going on an endless configuration loop and I then read that the wi-fi card in the Advent 4211 isn’t supported. 🙁
As OpenSUSE shall be an option on the MSI Wind, I thought I’d try that next. However, I had issues downloading the .iso file from the website via my school’s connection. Somewhat in desperation, therefore, (and still on mobile broadband, remember) I bought PC Plus magazine as they had the latest version of Fedora Core (v9) on the cover DVD-ROM.
Although there were a few error messages whilst installing, and a rather scary-looking kernel error upon first boot, everything’s running fine now. It’s really a rather wonderful operating system – mobile broadband was trivial to set up, and it actually recognises a Netbook 10-inch screen as one of the options within the display settings! Once I’d done a system update the kernel error message went away and the suspend and hibernate functionality started working properly. I still haven’t got wi-fi working yet, but I should imagine that’s just a matter of time.
All in all, as I said to @iusher when he called me for some advice yesterday, I’d recommend the Advent 4211. It’s only slightly bigger in form factor than the Asus Eee (see pic), yet has a decent size screen and packs a punch processor-wise! 😀
Please feel free to ask me any questions about the Advent 4211/MSI Wind. I always make sure that I research things thoroughly before purchase and am more than happy to help others do the same. 🙂
I’m a bit of a sucker for gadgets. I keep telling myself that I should hold out for the second generation of things, but I just get carried away again and again. That’s not to say that I don’t buy quality stuff; quite the opposite in fact. Yesterday I sold my Asus Eee 4G to @moodlehotpotato (Mary Cooch) after a brief Twitter chat, Skype chat and Paypal payment. It wasn’t because it didn’t serve a need – it was because there was so much potential there I wanted something that could fulfil that need to the max! 😀
There’s many sites and blogs that have waxed lyrical about the Asus Eee 4G. From a teacher’s point of view, this is what I liked about mine:
- The size and weight mean I can carry it one-handed from one classroom to another. As I teach History in my classroom and ICT in various other classrooms, this is great.
- Internet connectivity is great: wi-fi is painless to set up
- I could take it to meetings instead of a pen and paper.
- My use of it makes staff and students alike want one. It makes the school purchasing a set more likely.
- It runs a version of Linux customised for that particular device. Anyone who’s used OSX on an Apple computer knows the difference this makes… 🙂
So if it’s so great, why have I sold it? Well, three reasons:
- The screen, whilst useable, is a bit small. Newer models have 8.9″ screens instead of 7″ which enables them to utilise a 1024 pixel-width resolution. This makes all the difference when web browsing. Who designs sites for 800×600 in this day and age? (my web stats show that less than 2% of visitors to this site, for example)
- It hasn’t got Bluetooth built in – I purchased a micro-USB dongle, but it was a hassle to setup. I want things to be straightforward. Newer models have Bluetooth built-in.
- Battery life, whilst acceptable at a shade under 2 hours in normal use, could be better. Newer models, based on Intel’s Atom processor, promise to drastically improve on that.
So what am I going to buy? Well, a post about 4P Computing over at OLPC News (Price, Performance, Portability and Price) showed that only three met the criteria for a true Netbook:
Of those, the Elonex One only actually has a 300mhz (must have been a mistake), the OLPC XO-1 is garish and not easy to come by in the UK, and the Norhtec Gecko only has a 7″ screen. It was obvious that I was going to have to cast my net wider, which is where the Low-Cost Laptop Cheat Sheet over at Laptop Magazine proved helpful. I’ve taken off the column about US availability as well as removed any that aren’t available in the UK (at least not according to Google Product Search). Finally, I took off any that had 7″ screens, changed the price to GBP, added the Asus Eee 900 and HP Mini-Note, and reproduced what’s left of the table below:
|Asus EeePC 900
|900 MHz Intel Celeron-M ULV 353
|12GB SSD (WinXP) 20GB SSD (Linux)
|HP 2133 Mini-Note
|Via C7-M 1.2Ghz
|Asus EeePC 901
|£499.99 (pre-order price, likely to be c.£400)
|8GB SSD (WinXP) 12GB or 20GB SSD (Linux)
|Intel 945GMS Atom
I paid £219 for my Asus Eee 701, so as you can see my next purchase is going to cost me at least 50% more. But which one shall I choose? Here’s the main positive/negative points about each one as far as I can see:
Asus EeePC 900
Advantages: Available now, multi-touch trackpad, lightweight, same size as 701.
Disadvantages: No Bluetooth, 901 coming out shortly.
HP 2133 Mini-Note
Advantages: Sleek metal body, WXGA screen, huge hard disk, optional Bluetooth, available now.
Disadvantages: Some users complain of fan noise, processor quite slow.
Asus EeePC 901
Advantages: Bluetooth, Intel Atom processor (improved battery life).
Disadvantages: Potentially expensive, not available now (early June).
Pre-release specs: I4U (unconfirmed)
Advantages: Bluetooth, 4-in-1 card reader, 10″ screen, Intel Atom processor (improved battery life).
Disadvantages: Not available now (early June), likely to be significantly bigger than Asus Eee.
Pre-release specs: PC Advisor
It looks like if I’m going to buy now, it’s the HP 2133 Mini-Note or the Asus EeePC 900. If I can wait until mid-June, I’ve got the option of Netbooks with the new Intel Atom processors – namely the MSI Wind and Asus EeePC 901.
I’ll probably wait. But if I don’t, then here’s the HP and Eee 900 head-to-head:
|HP 2133 Mini-Note
|Asus EeePC 900
|25.5 x 16.5 x 3.3cm
|22.5 x 17 x 3.4cm
|Via C7-M 1.2Ghz
|Intel Celeron M ULV 900Mhz
|Linux or Windows Vista
|Linux or Windows XP
|12GB or 20GB
|No (scroll zone)
|SD card reader
I reserve the right to make a carefully-considered, well-researched impulse purchase… 😉