FIRST LOOK: Eee PC 900 head to head - XP vs Linux

First Look
FIRST LOOK: Eee PC 900 head to head - XP vs Linux

We've put both mini-notebooks through their paces, and while Linux fans may disagree, the winner is clear.

Price: $599
> Pricing info
Price $599 (Windows XP) $649 (Linux)
CPU model/brand Intel Mobile CPU
Memory capacity 1GB
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What's new
The changes may be relatively subtle, but the new Eee PC 900 is clearly an improvement on the old 701 design. The major change is the larger 8.9in screen, which is not only a better fit for Windows, but has a higher 1024 x 600 resolution (one of the major annoyances with the original version).

Onboard storage has also increased, from 4GB to 12GB (for the windows version) or 20GB for the Linux model. It's a handy increase, though most enthusiasts will likely be plugging in portable hard drives making this not so big a deal. If you're using Skype for video chat then the new 1.3MP webcam will also come in handy.

We're pleased to see the overall weight is still below 1Kg, which is one of the Eee's drawcards over some sleek rivals with DVD, like Lenovo's X300 (1.3Kg) and the Asus U2E (1.25Kg). The processor is still the same basic "Intel Mobile CPU", thought you get 1GB instead of the 512MB of the 701.

Unfortunately the keyboard is still one the Eee PC's biggest drawbacks - it's tiny, the keys are fiddly to use, and you wouldn't want to do more than bang out some notes on the train or bus.

Windows XP Eee 900 - why it rules the roost
As we pointed out recently, the XP version in the 900 series is surprisingly responsive. It comes pre-bundled with a host of useful extras including Skype, Microsoft Works, a mini-DVD player software from Intervideo (for external DVD players), and IE. The machine is also a platform for pushing Microsoft's Windows Live service for email and instant messaging.

XP runs on the 900 like the way XP should – fast. We never had any grievances with XP on the 900 and that’s a relief, considering it’s not a powerful machine. In fact, we tested a wide range of multimedia extras on the XP version and found it just as responsive as laptops in the more expensive $3000 plus category.

The bundled version of Works is a nice add-on for document compatibility straight out of the box and while it’s not as powerful as Word, it does get the job done. We also tested Mp3 and Mpg4 playback without any problems. We didn’t notice any flaws in the playability from VLC player opening DivX/Xvid files, although you will need to download a separate codec pack as is standard for these types of files. Mp3 playback was just as responsive.

The improved HD audio ports make the sound through the headphones sparklingly good. The speakers which are now at the bottom of the unit do their best to pump out a reasonably loud and clear sound, although it’s quite tinny. You can’t expect audio miracles from micro speakers.

The XP unit contains 12GB of solid state flash memory. Considering the small price of USB sticks now and the dwindling cost of flash memory, it’s not a real problem having 8GB less than the Linux version.

While the extra application compatibility of XP is a clear drawcard, XP's limiting factor was always it's performance. With the extra RAM and relatively smooth performance under XP, and lower asking price, it's clear the XP machine has the edge.

Linux Eee 900 - fast bootup, but it's Linux
It pains us to say it (as we're fans of Asus' work with Linux), but we think the Linux Eee 900 is the lesser of the two machines.

For starters, it's more expensive at $649,compared to $599 for the XP version, which is just a slap in the face to anyone wanting a cheap and no frills operating system. We understand the reasoning - the Linux version comes with 20GB onboard storage, vs 12GB for the Windows version - but the advantages don't outweigh the price increase.

On the upside, the Eee 900 is the faster machine. Bootup times are on par with the windows version, taking about 25 seconds verse 29 for the Windows Eee PC. The Linux machine is a lot quicker to shutdown though, taking about 9 seconds vs 22 for the XP machine. The machine also lasted about 2.5 hours on batteries without wireless on.

The now-familiar custom Xandros interface covers all the basics, including Web browsing, email, and word processing - OpenOffice will let you edit Excel and Word files (for Office 2000/XP), but we can't help feeling as thought Linux is still the Eee 900's achilles heel. Yes, you'll find an open source equivalent for just about every Windows app under the sun, but for many people that's not the same as running Excel, Word, or their favourite photo editor (though some might say that in the age of online apps like Picasa, this argument is a moot point).

Overall - XP wins, thought there's room for improvement
The application support, the lower asking price both put the XP machine at the top in our view, but it's clear both machines are improved on the original 701 design. If you're after a tiny notebook for basic tasks like Web browsing and email, the Eee still reigns as King of the cheap mini-portables.

To give you an idea of just how the Eee has shaken up the laptop market, this year we used a Fujitsu laptop that cost more than $3,500 - and it took longer to boot up, and was slower to use than the Linux Eee PC (or the XP version for that matter).

That said, if the Eee is going to break into the wider market it's going to need a few more tweaks, not least a larger keyboard. Here's what missing from the current configuration:

- bigger keyboard (full size might be asking too much, but right now it's just too small)
- wireless broadband (3G)
- dual core for running multiple apps
- Vista and the required graphics (Vista is slower, but at some point you'll want to upgrade to the new OS)
- Storage (80GB or more flash or magnetic storage)

We'd like to see a slightly bigger Eee next, possibly a 12.1 inch version, with the Intel Atom, and/or Core 2 Duo. (Asus has confirmed an Atom Eee is on the drawing board, with 3G).

It will also be interesting to see if premium (ie. expensive) laptops can see off the rise of the tiny cheapies like Asus's Eee, and HP's MiniNote. We'll be keeping an eye out to see if Centrino 2 can produce something special this year.

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See more about:  asus  |  eee  |  pc  |  900
Comments: 14
SA Penguin
12 May 2008
One of the things stopping me from buying one is the small keyboard. Whenever I see it, I think of IBM's solution: the "butterfly" keyboard of the Thinkpad back in the 90's.

Comment made about the PC Authority article:
FIRST LOOK: Eee PC 900 head to head - XP vs Linux?
We've put both mini-notebooks through their paces, and while Linux fans may disagree, we think there's one clear winner.

What do you think? Join the discussion.
12 May 2008
How easy is it to replace Xandros with Ubuntu? I suspect that would make Linux much more attractive. And OpenOffice kicks seven kinds of crap out of MS Works, by the way... not everyone can afford to almost double the cost of the machine by buying Office.
Alex Kidman
12 May 2008
It's also worth noting that Australia is odd -- elsewhere the Linux and XP versions of the Eee 900 sell at the same price.
12 May 2008
Also, why on earth do people need to upgrade to Vista? In reality, does it offer you anything at all? I've been forced to use it all week for work and I have found it significantly slower and more difficult to use. Many others I know have found it the same.

As for dual core and more space, what on earth for? Editing photos? Movies? Wouldn't you want a bigger screen for this as well? And all of a sudden we're looking at definite Macbook-level specs... definitely not the market the Eee is looking at.
12 May 2008
I agree, Vista is totally, totally unnecessary. Maybe the editor secretly loves the 'big V'...
Anyway, heres a way for Asus to sell 1 trillion Weee pc's:
1) expand unit size to 10 - 12 inches...while keeping unit light (see sony vaio for proof)
2) expand battery life to a full working day
3) make keyboard bigger
4) repeat steps 1 - 3
5) hire army of accountants to count your trillion dollars!
12 May 2008
Oh and keep the price the same and you have a market winner! :)
William Maher
12 May 2008
Noone needs to upgrade to Vista - but in years to come it's more likely than not that there'll be reasons you'll need Vista (or another version of Windows). Applications are one reason.

Yes, you're right, we're talking about Macbook type specs. The Eees's a great machine, but it's not a desktop replacement, mid-size student/business machine. An 8.9inch machine with limited hard drive space and tiny keyboard is unlikely to takeover the entire notebook market. Perhaps something larger with a few more specs might have wider appeal.
12 May 2008
A CPU with a higher clock speed would be nice, but a dual core cpu would be to much to ask for a machine like this.
13 May 2008
I don't think they aim to take over the entire notebook market, and if they are, well, ASUS already have machines that fill pretty much the specs mentioned. They do, however, provide an amazingly functional machine at a tiny price, and I think that's the beauty of it. I keep wishing I was still in University and could have one of these fitting comfortably in my bag for taking notes on instead of those cumbersome pen and paper combinations...

As for applications, well, every application I use on a day-to-day basis runs just fine on Windows 2000. I'd struggle to find something (aside from IE7) that doesn't. And I don't think I'll still be using the same model Eee PC in 6 years when I find a few apps that require Vista -- I don't ahve much of a concern replacing something that costs $600.
16 May 2008
Gee I hope you haven't missed the point of the eee...
It's supposed to be basic and small, otherwise go buy a laptop. For around $650 you can buy a laptop after rebate. But if you want something small and light then the Asus eee is the one to go for- a clayton's Vaio.
16 May 2008
I agree with htcs, the ASUS EeePC os supposed to be a SUB NOTEBOOK. It is no replacement for another notebook. It was designed to have Linux run on it as a companion to a main Windows XP system. I own a 701 model, and thats all I own it for, a sub system. Also, in regards to 3G broadband, although it isn't built in, I have had Telstra NextG Modems work on the Eee.
16 May 2008
I can't help but get frustrated at reviews such as this, "we think there's one clear winner." Alright XP probably does run really well on the Eee at present BUT, and it is a but, you as USERS haven't utilised this small platform for any reasonable length of time. The reason I say this is this, like ANY Windows PC it will require software to be installed to keep Malware at bay. That WILL make it far less responsive than it is without the same and as we all know, the requirement to have stacks of software running in the background continuously just to keep malware in check in a proper pain. So before we get all excited about how wonderful the Eee is with XP lets see how those same users feel in a couple of months time after many may have switched from the initial Xandros installation to XP. It will be interesting to see how many swap to Linux OR put the Eee to one side as being too hard.

I use both XP and Linux on my PC and guess which one gets used most these days for exactly the reasons above, Linux.

Keep the reviews coming guys, but lets not get carried away with something just because it is new. Take a look at the picture in total.

SA Penguin
18 May 2008
Pitstop makes an interesting about the need to update XP. With connectivity comes firewalls, antivirus- and they all impact operability. Even under Linux.

But the thing that nobody has mentioned is the decision by M$ to customise and extend the life of XP Home (XP Lite ?), in order to "capture" this market. If you look at what they say will be supported, it becomes easy to speciffy an "XP killer" machine.

XP: max of 1GB RAM? Put in 2GB
XP: 10" screen, not touch? Use an 11" touch screen
XP: 100GB Hard drive? Throw in 250GB
Presto! A Linux machine That puts M$ back behind again.

I'd like to see something using "C" cell rechargeables, and have an RS-232 port- but that's just me I suppose...
24 May 2008
You didn't happen to mention how much of the 12GB solid state storage would be taken up by AntiVirus and Firewall software (and malware as previously mentioned) and you state that the Linux version has bigger storage and boots / shutsdown faster. Are you sure you know the winner? I know which one I'd buy if I was in the market for a sub-notebook, but then I've been using Linux for quite a while, so it is not "strange" to me. How about getting a Linux fan to review Linux products in future, and someone who prefers Windows to review that model? All it needs is a standard scale to "peg" features and problems to.
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