Monday, April 21, 2008

The Asus Eee PC -- I think I jumped too soon

I wanted one of these little mini notebooks, or netbooks as I've heard some call them. I would find myself, several times a week, staring at a picture of one of these cute little laptops on some website or other. I decided I had to have one. I got it for my birthday at little over a month ago.

I had 2 reservations, 2 things that worried me about this computer I'd never seen in person till the box arrived from Amazon. The size of the screen was the biggest drawback, as far as I could see. We have a portable DVD player with a 7-inch screen. It's fine for watching DVDs on it, if you have it up close. My husband and I have used it to watch DVDs on together, snuggled up in bed close to each other. You don't want the screen to be too far away from you, even for watching a DVD. But when you have to read text on a screen that size -- well, I was worried about it.

My second reservation was the size of the keyboard. I have small hands, but would this keyboard be too small? I compared the published dimensions with my old NEC MobilPro. I find it easy to type on that, but that is fully half an inch wider. How much difference would that half an inch make?

My short answer to these drawbacks is that they are not as bad as they could be. I will elaborate more on the plusses and minuses in another post. The topic of today's post is why I think I should have waited before purchasing this little machine.

Two reasons, or maybe 11, depending on how you count.

The first is, Asus is now planning to make one with a 9 inch screen. And I hear one with a 10-inch screen isn't far behind. A 9-inch screen would eliminate my biggest criticism of this little dream computer. It wouldn't make the overall size any bigger, since the 7-inch screen is surrounded by a wide buffer that includes the unit's speakers. Though it also makes the price go up, so maybe I am happy with the one I've got.

The second reason I think I jumped too soon is that something has finally happened that I've been waiting years for: computer manufacturers are finally starting to realize there is a market for devices like this. Ever since I learned about the NEC MobilPro, I wondered why there weren't more little devices like that. The problems with the MobilPro were that it was priced too high and it needed to sync to a regular computer.

With the success of the Asus Eee PC, Intel has said that 10 different computer manufacturers are committed to design little competitors for the Asus. One is already out, or nearly so -- the HP Mini Note will be for sale in May.

This new class of mini notebooks (I reject the term "netbook") are all about portability and simplicity. They have enough computing power to run the types of applications you want to have with you on the go. They have components that are designed to use less electric power. They boot quickly (at least the Asus unit does -- that's one of it's great selling points, in my opinion). They don't do everything and are not meant to replace your other computer, but to offer another choice so you don't have to drag that heavy laptop with you everywhere you go.

I figure, if 10 different companies make computers like these, one of them is bound to make one I'll like better than my birthday present. And my only consolation will be that I've been able to use mine all of these months when I could have been waiting for its competitors to come out.

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