ASUS Eee Note EA800 Note-Taking Tablet In-Depth Hands-On

Note Taking App

By far, the most important application and raison d’etre for the Eee Note is Notes. When you first launch the Notes app, you are presented with a menu of saved notes or the option to create a new one.

Once in a note, you’ll see the main note area, which looks like a piece of paper (usually with lines on it) and a context menu at the top.

The main area that looks like paper is where you write or draw and, as stated above, the experience is pretty smooth. Someone with good handwriting or drawing skill will get even better results than we did. Notes can consist of as many pages as you want, and you have the ability to add / delete or navigate between pages.

Let’s go through the menu from left to right. First, you have the title and date of the note file. The page navigation button (three bullets on the icon) lets you either see a thumbnail menu of different pages in your document or see a slider to slide back and forth between pages.  The Export button (up arrow) saves your document to the SD card, though there’s a save button on the bottom menu for making sure it is saved to internal memory. The tag button allows you to attach keyword tags to your document, which will let it show up on the internal search (the search bar on the home screen).

The insert button allows you to paste pictures into your notes. You can either select an existing picture from your library or select camera and shoot one that you can insert. Once you’ve selected a photo or shot one, a menu appears that lets you resize the image and then drag it around the page to decide where you want to insert it. Once inserted, an image becomes part of the document, and you can write on top of it.

The left and right arrows are for undo and redo. The pallete button allows you to choose between three shades of gray. The erase button gives you a small, medium, or large eraser to wipe text away. The pen button allows you to choose from five styles of pen stroke: pencil, ballpen, marker, fountain pen, or highlighter. Highlighter is tinted so you can actually see through it.

The final three menu buttons allow you to delete a page, add a page, or change the background. When you hit the change the background button (the one with two arrows that looks like a refresh button), you’ll see a menu that displays a whole bunch of possible paper backgrounds with different line patterns that have everything from single rules to columns to room for a pie chart. When you export your pages, you’ll notice that the backgrounds are not saved with the file. That means even if you wrote on a lined page, the lines won’t be there when you look at the GIF it spits out (yes, they are output as GIFs).

Overall, we like the note app, but wish it did more to help you organize your notes. Among the things the Eee Note doesn’t do but should are:

  • OCR: There’s no way for the tablet to convert your handwriting from a graphic into text. We suppose you could take the GIFs this thing exports and run them through OCR software on your PC, but the Eee Note itself doesn’t offer this feature.
  • Audio syncing with notes: You can record audio while you are taking notes, but the audio recording and the notes file have no relationship to each other. We were expecting that, like the LiveScribe pen, the Eee Note would allow users to play back audio by tapping on a word in your document and hearing what was said at the moment you scribbled something down. No such luck.
  • Wireless sync: The device has Wi-Fi and in the settings panel there’s a place for you to enter an Evernote account ID, but the only way to get our notes off of the device was to attach it to the desktop and run the sync software (more on that later).

Audio Recording

The audio recording app is called voice memo and perhaps the reason for that is the microphone’s very limited range. When we sat in a small office and tried to record a loud speaker phone conversation that was taking place about 10 feet away, we could hear the conversation on the recording but it sounded distant. Meanwhile, the scraping noise made by our stylus touching the screen practically drowned out the conversation.

It’s hard to excuse this kind of poor recording quality when our Droid phone, which is not designed as a note-taking device, does a much better job of picking up and prioritizing sounds. We have to wonder whether the recessed position of the mike or the actual hardware is to blame, but either way, the weak audio might be the biggest disappointment because it doesn’t seem like something a software update could improve.

Even worse, the device exports the audio as .arm files. We couldn’t find a single application that could play them on our PC.

Camera

The 2-megapixel camera took lackluster, blurry pictures. And other than a digital zoom feature, it doesn’t offer any settings to help you improve your shots. However, the pictures are in color, even though they don’t appear to be when  you view them on screen.

After launching the camera app, you get a preview window and a menu with a zoom and capture button. After you hit capture, you are given the option to cancel or save an image. There are no editing features on the Eee Note itself.

Other Apps

Aside from Notes, Camera, and Voice Memos, there are a few other apps that weren’t impressive. Reader  lets you read ePub or PDF books, which we haven’t tried yet. There’s no bookstore for this device that we could find, but you can import eBooks when you sync the device with your PC.

Text Memo allows you to type (with the virtual keyboard) post-it notes, which don’t seem to have much use. You can’t hand write on the memos, and we’re not sure what to do with them when exported.

Photo album allows you to view whatever pictures (or screen shots) you’ve taken with the device. Music player allows you to play MP3s you imported, but we didn’t try it out yet. Calculator gives you a giant, on-screen calculator.

Dictionary provides an English-language dictionary, which seems decent. However, we wish there were translation dictionaries for language-learners.

Trash Bin allows you to view and restore files you deleted. Bubble Breaker and Sudoku are two casual games. We really don’t see the point of having them, but if you’re desperate for a game to play, you can try them.

Finally the web browser, which is prominently labeled as experimental, allows you to surf the web over Wi-Fi. Most web pages looked only so-so and barely fit on the 1024 x 768 screen. The browser also doesn’t have tabs or windows, nor does it allow you to switch back and forth with other programs; you must close the browser entirely to return to the rest of the OS.

ASUS Eee Note EA800 Hands-On

AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Jesse B Andersen Says:

    I have looked for the EA800 on a ton of different websites. I wanted to buy this ereader this year (2010), but no luck so I’m not buying. It has a lot of potential because most ereaders out there don’t allow note taking with a stylus.

    You could use Google Books with this and it’s web browser, as long as you have a wifi connection you can have a lot of books.

  2. K. T. Bradford Says:

    We’re going to see the PocketEdge from Entourage at CES. I have high hopes that it will be good in the note taking department.

  3. Joshua Lamorie Says:

    You should get this device into the hands of someone who is a heavy Evernote user. That service provides ‘cloud-based’ OCR and synchronization of notes from multiple platforms (desktop, web, mobile), and I think would address some of the concerns you are mentioning.

    Where did you buy it in Taipei? I have contacts in the south of Taiwan that were unable to find it in Tainan, nor Pingtung (not sure if they looked in Kaoshiung).

    Thank you for the review.

  4. Amr Says:

    For the reviewers information regarding the capacitive buttons, apparently these can be disabled from a menu in the top right hand corner to prevent accidental presses while writing.

    I am attracted to the idea of a compact and lightweight dedicated note-taking device. However, as a heavy OneNote user on a tablet PC, I think I would find it very difficult to replace my tablet PC with this comparatively very limited device. The ability to search through your actual handwriting (not just with simple tags) and to highlight and move around ink, pictures and text will be sorely missed.

  5. Edward Says:

    We won an ee note at new year raffle and live in Taiwan however we are not able to get the english software.. does anyone have an idea where to get it or how to update? Thks

  6. cosastmo Says:

    Actually the sync to evernote works with wifi connection. Go to the main page of “Note” then click on the small icon on the right of each note file (an icon with a pen and a piece of paper), one of the options is download to Evernote.

  7. Kevin Seth Says:

    Hy, I have a unit too. Where did u get the US-ROM from? I cant read anything LOL.

  8. Daniel Says:

    Hi, I have just bought a brand new EA800 from a retailer in Taiwan and I am having some issues with the responsiveness of the four upper touch-sensitive buttons. While the responsiveness of the three lower ones is perfect, the one from the four upper ones is not so good… sometimes they react quite well but others they do not react so well… Have you also noticed this? Thanks

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