Product Design and Ergonomics
The Eee PC is a UMPC that is designed with three basic product positioning statements in mind - Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play. We'll step through the design, hardware and software of the product next to let you know if we feel Asus hit the mark on their branding.
The casing of the Eee PC is built of a fairly rugged plastic composite. We tested a unit built with a pearl white finish that looks great and gives the unit a very "clean presentation and feel". This unit's finish is also sturdy and resistant to scratches, within reason.
Side ports on the unit offer three USB 2.0 connections, a d-sub VGA port, 10/100 Ethernet and a 56K modem jack.
The unit's small Lithium-Ion battery stays secured with one keyed switch and a slide switch. Unlike some smaller notebooks in this class, the battery actually stays put and doesn't rattle at all once installed. The battery we tested is 5200mAh rated pack and is specified to provide 3.5 hours of continuous operation.
The sitxy-four thousand dollar question we're sure you're all wondering about is, "How does the user interface, screen and keyboard hold up to every day use?" While this definitely is a very subjective area, we'd say that most folks interested in a machine like this will be happy with the Eee PC's operation, look and feel.
For starters, the keyboard - it is what it is. Alright, we'll give you a bit more technical detail than that. As you can see in the shot above, my delicate hand is placed neatly across the touch pad and space bar. Actually, my hand isn't all that delicate but rather an average-sized to large-sized paw for a guy. In all honestly, it took a bit of ramp up time to get used to the proximity of the keys and things felt pretty cramped in general, especially while using the touch pad and then going back to the keyboard to type. We'd recommend a USB mouse if you have one nearby as they're automatically detected and installed very easily by the OS. Regardless, after a few hours of learning curve, things started to feel a bit more natural using the Eee PC for every day tasks. However, don't expect the machine to feel like a full-sized notebook. It's an ultra-mobile PC, hence trade-offs in available keyboard real estate have to be made. That said, for this type of product the Eee PC actually excels comparatively, offering a near standard sized keyboard in a not-so standard available space.
The 7" LCD screen on the Eee PC generates good contrast and color but is a bit short on brightness with minimal backlighting. This again is an obvious trade-off due to power budget constraints. However, for normal indoor use, the display does its job nicely. It's only in bright outdoor environments, that challenge even most standard notebook panels, that you'll see some washout. The Eee PC's display does have a decent viewing angle as well.