ONE OF THE SMALLEST laptops I have ever used is the Asus Eee PC701 ultra-portable notebook computer owned by colleague Pat Donohue. It boots in front of me in less than five seconds, runs a seven-inch screen that looks like Windows but is actually Debian, and sells for less than €400. Asustek Computers sells the little beauty through Expansys in Ireland and it is a better piece of kit than the one laptop per child project, in my humble opinion. Irish educators need to look seriously at this scrappy, two-pound jewel because it does all the things a school student needs in today's classrooms. Give it a free path to the internet with wide open wifi and watch what happens. This Eee PC rocks and is definitely the best piece of on-board luggage anyone could carry aboard an aircraft. It weighs less than a Duty Free bag containing a bottle of Jameson whiskey. It's less expensive than an iPhone in Europe, more expansive than a low-end iPod Nano, and more durable than a standard laptop computer. During the past two months, I've listened to colleagues who have used the Eee PC to watch movies on Irish Rail, to read newsfeeds along the River Suir, and to check the stars with the astronomy package bundled aboard the sweet little notebook. I'm buying one coloured pink and plan to introduce it to my three-month old daughter, teaching her how to point and click icons on a screen that she will think is her personal eBook reader.
I have to keep my Dell laptop--actually I have to upgrade to a Vaio--because I need to edit photos, compress audio and render video. You cannot do those things with the Eee PC's tiny, 7-inch screen and power-friendly Celeron processor. But if your world is largely work you do on the cloud (i.e., your focus is material gleaned from the internet) and your documents are the standard sort (i.e., documents, spreadsheets, PDFs and Flash files), this little number will suit your mission requirements for less money than any other product on the market.
A few disclosures are in order.
Keyboard. I use a Nokia E90 and its keys are smaller than the Eee's keys so the ultraportable keyboard is fine by my standards but some people think the Eee PC keyboard is dinky. Ditto for the screenscape. I am used to scrolling left, right, up and down on a mobile phone. Some people who work on 32" screens will go demented with the Asus Eee.
Local warming. The Eee PC produces a heatprint from its bottom and through its keyboard. It heats up less than my Dell D620 but it's warm to the touch and that might bother some people who are used to cool operating surfaces all the time.
Storage. I have not encountered problems with the on-board 8GB storage because I have several 4GB SD cards to store videos and playlists. But you can burn through the on-board storage quickly and that means you're in the queue for plenty of 4GB SD cards to keep yourself set up with content.
GUI. We have hacked a Windows GUI instead of the bog-standard interface. It takes around 35 minutes from start to finished GUI. I am posting a how-to next month.
All things considered, the Asus Eee PC 701delivers the best value for money of any technology I have seen in the past 24 months. It needs to be in every home where a school uniform hangs in the closet.
From Expansys the Eee PC 710 sells for €316 and it comes in pink.