Design and Ergonomics
With all of the news that circulated prior to the Eee PC 900's release regarding its larger screen, you'd think all Asus did was slap a bigger LCD onto the original Eee PC 700 and be done with it. But there are a myriad of subtle differences that set the Eee PC 900 apart from its 700 series counterpart.
As we examine the exterior of the unit, the Eee PC 900's 7mm larger casing is immediately apparent. The Eee PC 900 is slightly longer than the Eee PC 700, and the underside shows another subtle change. Due to the 900's use of a larger screen, the stereo speakers on the unit have been moved to the underside of the unit behind some perforations towards the front edge. The new location for the speakers does hinder audio performance, especially if the Eee PC 900 is sitting on your lap, but this isn't a multimedia powerhouse of a machine by any means, so we can't really hold that against Asus.
The Eee PC 900's touchpad, touchpad buttons and I/O connectivity options have changed as well. In addition to the touchpad getting larger, it now supports multi-touch gesture recognition. Using specific two-finger movements, the 900's touchpad can be used for up and down, and sideways scrolling, and for zooming into and out of photos - similar to an iPhone or MacBook Air. As for I/O, things are mostly unchanged, but the Modem is not present on the Eee PC 900 (pictured at bottom) any longer. On the right side of the Eee PC 900 you'll see a VGA output, two USB 2.0 ports, and an SD card reader that supports standard SD and SDHC cards. On the left of the unit is a 10/100 LAN Jack, a single USB 2.0 port, and headphone and microphone jacks.
When opened side by side, more differences between the Eee PC 900 and 700 are visible. First of course is the larger screen. The Eee PC 900's 8.9" LCD supports a resolution of 1024x600, which is much more useful for day to day use than the 700's 800x480 resolution, which required side-scrolling for virtually any webpage. The new screen is also marginally brighter than the original, although not by much. The touchpad is also considerably larger, the keyboard is pushed back slightly, and the wrist rest is somewhat larger. All of these subtle changes improve the ergonomics and usability of the Eee PC in our opinion. Although the changes aren't dramatic, except for the screen size, they do enough to improve upon the already popular design.
The keyboard used on the Eee PC 900 is identical to the 700's and definitely requires some "re-learning". With average to large sized hands, touch-typing is simply not an option due to the unit's diminutive form factor. With some training, however, we think you'll still be able to be productive - we were. The keyboard, however, is somewhat "mushy", for lack of a better term, because it is not firmly held in place. A few tiny metal clips are all that secure the keyboard in place, so there is some play there.
The Eee PC 900's microphone and webcam are visible at the top of the unit. The 1.3MP webcam is a marked improvement from the original and the machine has the horsepower to capture smooth video. The internal microphone, however, pics up a ton of electrical noise and can only be used for basic recording. We'd recommend picking up a better quality external microphone for any type of VoIP communications.