Asus EEE PC
I’ve finally been spending some quality time with the Asus EEE PC, or the “E3″ as some call it. And the EEE has been winning me over. There’s a reason this should be under “travel” as well as “tech,” because I can’t think of a better use for this computerita than as a tool while on the road.
Business or pleasure travelers wanting to stay connected usually have two options: Lug along their notebook PCs, which for minimalist travelers like myself hog valuable real estate plus require precautions against theft and damage, (hello TSA,) OR - use public internet terminals, and conduct personal business while maintaining a healthy paranoia and a vigilant eye against malware.
I’ve gone both routes depending on my needs: I don’t mind flying with my clunky older Sony Vaio if I’ll be staying in one place for a long period. And during a road trip or ski weekend, (where most motels have WiFi,) it’s easy to just throw my Vaio in the trunk. Much of the U.S., from rural Wyoming to Orange County suburbia lack internet cafes where you can quickly pop in for session. Hence it’s often worth the short term hassle of toting your laptop. But still, I often travel for a few days with just a messenger bag, and cramming in my laptop and power cord adds bulk, weight, and inconvenience, (hello again TSA.)
I don’t take my laptop to big cities or international destinations. Most large cities have ample internet cafes, (like Quetzal in San Francisco,) and so long as you’re careful about how you submit personal information cafes suffice just fine for checking mail, city research, activity planning, and quick tasks like printing maps. While internet cafes abound in cities abroad, some on every block, there are enough in large U.S. cities too.
Now the bridge-gapper: It’s the Asus EEE (Tiny) PC. Released last fall this small computer measures 9 by 6.5 inches, with a 7 inch 800 x 480 screen. The Asus includes its own OS with Firefox and open office. Caleb begrudgingly modified this version to accommodate windows, all while questioning why anyone, (me,) would want to scar such a beautiful machine with Windows. There is no hard drive in the EEE, rather it uses USB memory sticks, and also has a slot to expand the internal memory via a 1 or 2 gig card.
It’s simple, clean, and functional. Little surprises are found about the machine, such as the far right side of the touch pad which acts as a scroll function. Also included is a webcam and microphone, which when tested by us worked great with Skype. There are three USB ports, which are more than some expensive full notebooks have.
The light and little ASUS can fit with ease into briefcases, messenger bags, backpacks among rumpled up clothing, and (I’d guess,) even large purses. For travel purposes it’s perfect. Once you get used to the small keyboard you can whip out e-mails, surf the net, upload your photos, post to your blog, and accomplish everything you’d want while traveling without the heavy physical burden of a full notebook.
Potential drawbacks? Obviously keyboard size, but for me it only took a small learning curve to become accustomed to the smaller keys. If my fat fingers can learn to type rapidly on this board anyone else can too. Also if you’re planning to use the Asus as a “remote PC” for work then you’ll want to make sure that your company’s VPN software can run on Linux. (Or install Windows.) The screen could utilize more of the frame; however the next generation will most likely feature a 10 inch option.
Internal storage is nominal, but I’ve never cared about this. My one computer mantra is “treat all of your computers as dummy terminals,“ meaning all of your content such as photos, music, documents, and writings should NEVER be stored on a PC hard drive, but rather an external and separate hard drive, or backed up to CDs and flash drives, or an FTP site. (Preferably two or more.) Your PC crashes? Yeah you have to spend an evening reinstalling the OS and programs, but your most important “files of life” are untouched.
Overall I love it. This is my new friend at home and abroad. And I think the EEE will have a great time in Amsterdam come this March.
Here are some photos of the black model from Digital-Daily. More photos (better than mine below,) from Gizmodo. Check out some of the reviews and see if the Asus might be your new travel companion, or further info at the Official EEE site: eeepc.asus.com
By James Van Dellen and Caleb Cross