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Reviewing the Asus Eee PC 4G - page 4

Giddy for the Eee

  • November 26, 2007
  • By Eric Grevstad

The MMC/SD card slot is on the Eee's right side, next to two USB 2.0 ports and a VGA port -- connect an analog monitor, and you can see a presentation on either or both screens, with external resolution up to an impressive 1,600 by 1,200. A third USB port is on the left, as are microphone, headphone, and Ethernet jacks (and a dial-up modem port left empty in the 4G configuration).

It's a snap to join a wireless network using the system's Atheros 802.11b/g adapter, but two other wireless pathways are absent -- it would be great if the Eee had Bluetooth, and even greater if it had 3G wireless broadband for surfing when there's no hotspot in sight. Asus says it'll address the issue with add-on cards, scheduled to ship along with accessories such as spare battery packs early next year.

The Eee's Intel Celeron M 353 processor -- a 900MHz single-core CPU with a 400MHz bus and 512K of Level 2 cache -- was obviously chosen for its frugal 5-watt thermal design power instead of its screaming speed. But the solid-state disk helps the Asus feel peppy enough when loading and switching among programs; the bulky OpenOffice.org loads in 15 seconds. Nobody's going to edit high-resolution video on the Eee, but everyday applications feel perfectly fine and responsive.

Also adequately responsive is the Asus' keyboard. It's small, but it's bigger than it looks -- the Q through T keys span 3.1 inches, closer than many subnotebooks and all UMPCs to the 3.5 inches of a desktop keyboard. We admit that it's crowded around the edges; the Tab key is teeny weeny, and during our first few hours we found ourselves occasionally overshooting targets (hitting 4 instead of R, say) and consciously taking care to type more precisely than usual.

But the keyboard layout has no unpleasant surprises, and its typing feel is close to first-class -- maybe the tiniest bit rattly but, like the rest of the Eee, firm and not flimsy. Within a day, we were percolating along at fairly close to our desktop speed.

We were less content with the Eee's tiny touchpad, which sometimes balked at registering taps and double-taps; we got better results using the chrome bar below the touchpad, which works like a rocker switch for left and right mouse clicks. The pad's right edge offers rapid but handy vertical scrolling.

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