Internal Design, BIOS, Boot Times
The Asus Eee PC is very much a single-board computer built on standard notebook-class components based on Intel architecture. As such, we see some rather familiar sights inside the inner workings of the machine.
The very familiar Phoenix BIOS we're used to seeing on many a motherboard, has been employed here by Asus yet again. Of course there really aren't a lot of options to play with and you can forget about overclocking; not that anyone would have any practical use for overclocking a machine like this anyway. Instead you're given the ability to enabled and disable various peripherals, which is great for things like WiFi, where you might not want to give access to connectivity for the kids or if you don't want to be radiating too many signals for whatever reason.
Interestingly, the only speed-related option we observed was "boot booster" and it was actually disabled as configured by the factory. We're not sure why this option was turned off but we immediately enabled it and it did in fact hasten boot times nicely. By the way, the Eee PC boots in about 15 - 20 seconds. Let's see you do that with Vista.
As we mention earlier, the Asus Eee PC is mostly all Intel inside, at least with respect to the major system functional block. Here's a high level block diagram of the system:
Intel's 910GML Express Northbridge provides the memory controller and display interface functionality for the system, while Intel's CH6-M Southbridge provides connectivity and control of all IO functions, including Keyboard, USB, IDE, SATA, Gigabit LAN and High Definition/AC97 audio.
Of course you knew we had to dismantle the machine to get our geek on a bit and see what's inside...
The three amigos, or so to speak, are seen here; CPU, Northbridge and Southbridge. And they're all Intel born and bread.
You might be wondering about the cooling solution used for these chips, since there are no obvious heatsinks exposed here. Actually, we were very surprised to see that Asus simply uses three thermal interface pads to stick these three chips to the back of a thin piece of sheet metal that covers the entire motherboard. That sheet metal (sorry, no pictures of it here) functions as a heat spreader and diffuser for the entire circuit pack including the CPU, Northbridge and Southbridge.
Ene Semi has a rather interestingly large chip located in the bottom left hand corner of the unit. Though we researched the part number, we couldn't come up with its functionality from what we could find on Ene's site. We'd hazard a guess, relative to its proximity, that it assists with LED light management and functionality.
Finally, there is a single SODIMM socket behind the bottom side bay door, that Asus populated with a 512MB stick. Users can upgrade this to 1GB, though there is a sticker on the bay door that specifically states the system's warranty void if it is removed. In addition, there is a spare bay and socket area here that we are told is for installing an additional flash upgrade of 2 - 4Gigs beyond the 4Gig that is already built on board for this model.