ASUS Eee PC 901 Mini-Review

After unboxing the Eee PC 901, I finally sat down with it and put it through the paces. Granted the Windows XP OS is in Chinese, but I was still able to get a good feel for the performance of the Intel Atom powered netbook. Check out the video hands-on and read through my mini-review to find out what I think of the system and if I think it can rival the MSI Wind. Updated: Read our full review of the Eee PC 901. Impressive Hardware Redesign I never had any complaints about the original design of the ASUS Eee PC, but I gladly welcome the redesign. The matte coating on the lid has been replaced with one that has a glossy shine to it. It actually doesn’t seem to be getting too smeared in finger prints, but it has already gotten a small scratch. I am pretty pissed about that since I have been keeping it in the included felt case at most times. (The case isn’t that swim suit lycra anymore). I am impressed with the new circular, silver hinge. The system has also been rebranded; you won’t find any ASUS logos just the Eee script logo on the right hand corner of the lid and under the screen. Same Cramped Keyboard, Improved Trackpad Under the lid lives the same size keyboard as found on the Eee PC 900. It is still a bit cramped for my tastes and I much prefer that of the HP Mini-Note or the MSI Wind. The trackpad is a whole different story. It has been expanded and is now a few centimeters wider than the Eee PC 900. It also feels much smoother than before and has a grainy coating. As with the 900, the pad is responsive to multi-touch finger swipes. I can zoom in on pictures by pinching my fingers, but cannot move back to a previous Web site by swiping my finger. Perhaps taking a tip from me (and other reviewers), ASUS has added two dedicated right and left click buttons; no more single bar with a divot! It doesn’t hurt my right thumb anymore to use the left click button for continuous scrolling or what not. Bluetooth Included The Eee PC 901 is the first of the Eee family to include Bluetooth. I didn’t have a Bluetooth mouse handy, but I did have the Lenovo X300 with internal Bluetooth. I was quickly able to transfer a few pictures and a word document from the X300 to the Eee PC 901 and visa versa. Dolby Sound I have always been impressed with the speakers on past Eee PCs; the sound is always loud and clear. ASUS decided to up the ante and include Dolby Sound Room speakers on the small system. I loaded on a bunch of my MP3s. Aerosmith’s “Dream On” sounded extremely full and with volume pumped all the way up I could hear it from another room (over 25 feet away). I must say the improved speakers are a sweet addition. Atomic Performance?! Of course, the most important addition to the 901 is the 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor. We haven’t run any benchmarks yet, but so far I have not observed an actual every day performance difference between the 900 (which includes a 900Mhz Celeron M) and the 901. Applications still launch very quickly and it handles multi-tasking flawlessly. Running Windows Media Player, Firefox, Skype, and Microsoft Works simultaneously had no hiccups. As previously mentioned, you can also put the system into a high performance, overclocking mode. ASUS’ Super Hybrid Engine overclocks the processor to 1.8 GHz. In battery saving mode, the processor down clocks to 1.4 GHz. Battery Life In terms of battery performance (with its included 6-cell battery) this is the best Eee PC to date. Running with Wi-Fi off I have gotten about 4.5-5 hours. Now that is not the 7.5 promised by ASUS, but it is still pretty damn good. I haven’t been in a Wi-Fi connected environment for long enough to test the endurance in that setting. OS Extras The 901 comes in a Xandros Linux flavor or with Windows XP. Both sport some new software additions from ASUS. The YoStore allots each Eee PC customer with 20GB of online storage space. A desktop icon on the XP version allowed me to login with my provided account and password. Early Verdict There is no doubt in my mind that Intel Atom and mini-notebooks are a match made in heaven. Longer battery life and reliable performance are certainly the outcome of the new 45-nanometer chip. So is the new Eee PC better than its latest rival, the MSI Wind? I can’t say until ASUS announces a U.S. price. The MSI Wind sports a 10-inch screen with a hard drive for $499. If ASUS can keep the price under $550 I think the system goes head to head with it, though the Wind has a larger screen and a larger keyboard. On the other hand, the 10-inch, hard drive option Eee PC 1000 is headed our way soon. Overall, the 901 packs more punch and computing power than the 900. Which begs the question, why was there ever a 900 model in the first place? [flv:/flvs/eeepc901-handson.flv 480 360]

Note: I appreciate everyone’s concern for my obsession with mini-notebooks. James is far from a fiend, and I believe he is genuinely concerned. I admit my problem: small laptops give me a high. But, “if it feels good it can’t be that bad,” right? Especially if it’s your job.

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  1. rain Says:

    Awesome! Thanks heaps for the info. I hear the Wind has a similar overclocking system too, except it can overclock to 1.9GHZ. I know what I’ll be getting..An Eee 901!

  2. Matias Korhonen Says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been waiting to see how the Linux version fared.

    I linked to your review in a post on my own blog, The Proliferation of Linux:

  3. James Kendrick Says:

    Nice lookk at the 901, Joanna. Glad you made it back to the US with your new toy. :)

  4. Emy A Says:

    Great review Joanna! Many thanks! I am holding on to an unopened box of a brand new 900. Got it a week ago but I’ve been so busy, it kept me from unboxing the new toy! Boy am I glad I read your post! Now all I have to do is bring it back to my friend’s shop and pass it on to sell. There is still a supply scarcity of the 900’s that I am sure it will be snapped up within hours. Boy how I wish I went to the Taipei Computex Show this year. Was there last year and on some spare time visited the computer shopping area where you bought your 901. Lots of nice toys, you could just walk around for hours and enjoy the bargains and ogle the variety of computer goodies all over the place! Again many thanks, and now I will patiently wait for the Eee 901 or the 1000 models to hit our shores!

  5. sphynx Says:

    Thanks for this review. Was gonna jump at the 900 a few weeks back but decided I could wait. Was the 901 at its ‘normal’ clock for the battery test? I wonder if it could reach 6+ hrs underclocked, wifi off, just doing some coding and music through earphones. Battery life is a concern for me. Some sites have said the battery is different from the 900. If so, cheap 3rd party batts wont be available for a while. Could you do a test to see how well it plays 720p vids (h.264, wmp, mp4, or divx encoded)? The 1000 looks good, but unfortunately it is ~2″ wider and ~1″ deeper, wont fit in my Lowepro AW200 camera bag. Have camera, have mini-laptop, will travel. Now if only my car could go 100mpg.

  6. Greg Says:

    Hey Joanna,

    Great work with all of your UMPC reviews. Could you give a little more feedback on the keyboard of the 901. Apparently your space bar was bent (as on many of the 701 Eees), but how is it other than that? Do some of the keys still not register well (on my 4G, it’s the left-hand side — the a key, the s, sometimes the w). Your review of the Wind has me wanting one of those, but part of me would love to still have the tiny form factor of the 901. But it’s the keyboard that’s the sticking point (no pun intended) for me. How is it so far?

  7. James G. DuPuy Says:

    I liked the review, I wish you would also review a Linux ver.
    I prefer Linix for its need of less resorces, generally faster operation,
    and the fact you get more drive space. I just wanted more as far as photo editing
    and printing. The Linux ver is suppose to have more programs installed. I hope they offer
    the full desktop set up too. The easy mode is nice, but makes installing apps harder.

  8. Mike Cane Says:

    >>>Applications still launch very quickly and it handles multi-tasking flawlessly. Running Windows Media Player, Firefox, Skype, and Microsoft Works simultaneously had no hiccups.

    Well, here’s the thing: Is that while on AC with the CPU at 100% or while on battery — which cuts it down to 50% speed?

  9. Kevin O'B Says:

    @ sphynx: the only difference between the 900 and 901 batteries are capacity. they will work being swapped between models without any problem. 3rd party batteries should still work, although I dont really trust them.

    @greg: the keyboard did feel a bit twitchy, although that wasnt too far off from my experience on the 701 or 900. the panels are just as cheap, and are probably the same part number, just different revisions. when I tore apart the eee in the bar when we first started tearing into them, the bent keyboard looked to be a result of a cable not placed correctly. this added pressure underneath the keyboard kinda tweaking it. some friendly bending action fixed this on the 2 models I worked on.

    @mike cane: those applications are all fairly weak in the overall scheme of things, and processor usage would be minimal at best on the atom processor even if all were being used at the same time. some ram was probably tied up, but you wouldnt notice much different between the processor at the lowest power saving clockspeed or high/super performance.

    i still think that i will hold back for the 20gb linux version before i make a purchase. by that time i should have a rattle can of thinkpad approved black rubberized paint for the body, and a thermal barrier cutout to be placed underneath the keyboard to help prevent heat soak.

  10. ultrasur1 Says:

    nice little video review. the laptop looks like it performs pretty well for everyday browsing and mainstream application use. i’m sure there’s many more versions and manufacturers down the road, but i may very well consider purchasing one after checking this out. thanks!

  11. AK Says:

    So my question is… if we were one of those people who ran out and bought the 900 the first day it was available in the USA (and before we realized the 901 and 1000 were coming) did we screw up? Is the 901 significantly better than the 900 or at least enough better to merit trying to sell the month old 900 to get the 901? (i have the 20Gig with 2gigs of ram and XP-pro installed instead of linux)

  12. Kevin O'B Says:

    Depending on the price, the 901 well worth it over the 900 from what I saw. If you can get back most of what you put into your 900, then sell it and wait for the 901 to hit the states.

  13. Paule Says:

    How about Video Playback ?

    How much performance does it have ?
    What’s playable and what’s not playable or shows lagg ?

    MPG2, DIVX, … ?
    H.264 with 720 p ?
    H.264 with 1280 p ?

    Last I heard about it, is that h.264 would be impossible for an eeePC or any other device of its class.

    I fear that I have to whait till autum or even Xmas for a netbook with up-to-date multimedia features.

  14. ololorofl Says:

    wow, that’s what i call a good review. now the 901 is in my closer choice definitely. thank you very much for this!

  15. Tomster Says:

    great review, but which chipset resides in the Eee Pc 901, Intel G945GMS or G945GSE?
    And how noisy is the fan of the 901. Is it possible to run completely fanless?


  16. FooFighter007 Says:

    Very interesting!

    Does the EEE-PC 901 also use a Atheros chip for WLAN?

  17. jalian Says:

    so which is ultimately better in terms of performance and price, the eee 901 or the msi wind?

  18. kd Says:

    you didn’t mention that the 900 had a 4-cell battery and the 901 ships with 6-cell battery.

    this is significant because the extra battery llfe you are getting may not be very much related to the atom processor in theory, more testing needs to be done on that.

    also, with a six cell, you’re talking about more weight with the 901 versus the 900, surely more than 1kg.

    weight is more important in traveling than size.

    i own the 900, and am glad i didn’t wait for the 901. this thing does everything i need it to do.

    i’ll pick up an atom based eeepc (linux only, my windows days have been over for years) when they figure out that faster 4GB SSD is not enough for the OS, and start to make the primary SSD with around 8GB.

    Bluetooth I don’t need.
    GPS I don’t need.
    HSDPA I don’t need.

    I can palm a basketball but I don’t need a bigger keyboard either.

    just keep the cost down, do something about the speakers being mounted underneath instead of on the sides near the fan and SD card slot, and then I’ll stop looking up reviews of this thing because it will be perfect at that point.

    by the way, the 901 is ugly as h3ll.

  19. Mickey Blue Eyes Says:

    One of your questions was answered yesterday. The Asus Eee PC 901 w/ XP will be $600, above your $550 limit for “better than MSI” classification. I was all hot and ready to buy the 901, but with it’s high price tag and no Linux until the Fall, I’m ready to buy a MSI Wind on 16 June.

    I was ready to buy the 901 w/ Linux despite any technical inferiority due to the large Asus user base to help me get it to be productive. But with the high price tag, good reviews of the MSI Wind — and that it runs SL :-) — make me ready to just get the MSI Wind with familiar ol’ XP despite the small touchpad and wonky touchpad buttons.

  20. GTR Says:

    Use the camera tripod next time :)

  21. Maha Says:

    The 900 series was supposed to be a bridge to the 901 series which was not ready at the time. They wanted to get something out to market so that’s what happened.

  22. Paul Says:

    I’m really interested in these small machines for teaching and also for running GPS software such as the Garmin PC Navigator. For this purpose I need a machine with Bluetooth because my GPS is Bluetooth. This means my choices are a little tight:

    1. Eee PC 901 with the tiny 12GB split Flash drive
    2. Eee PC 1000 with the nice 160 GB HD

    I really like the idea of the 9 inch screen on the 901 because I will be using it in a car, but like the idea of the 160 GB because of the storage space.

    I’d appreciate and comments or thoughts from people who have worked with both. My current laptop is a 13 inch Macbook so I feel I should look for something a lot smaller.



  23. Joel Abella Says:

    Just purchased this mini-laptop this past Tuesday Nov.4, 08 from Received it on Thursday 2 days later and i’ll tell yah….it’s the best $374.68 i’ve ever spent my money on! Asus nailed it & did everything right (in my opinion) on this laptop.Everything what a lot of people who bought this laptop was completely true. From browsing the net, bill paying on-line, to watching youtube to writing this blog to you, it’s one fantastic machine! Yeah; provided it doesn’t have a CD or a DVD optical drive, or this keyboard is a little cramped (i have small fingers so it was never an issue for me) or you can’t do major website designing on it BUT who does that anyway!? Majority of the folks that i know including me just browse & just surf the net.Plus; for $350.00 + tax & Free Shipping how could you go wrong!? Oh I forgot to mention the following: it comes w/ your choice of either Windows XP Home edition OR Linux/Ubuntu O S, it has 3 USB ports standard (1.0 /2.0 backward compatible), Screen Display is 8.9″ screen resolution is 1024 X 600, Battery is a 3 cell and it lasts 2.5 hrs. fully charged, it has a mike and speaker plug-ins, DVI plug-in & did i mention that it weighs only 2.25 lbs.!? I definitely recommend this mini-laptop to anyone who wants an inexpensive laptop for just for the very basics. I have been using it since thursday till now while i’m typing this & i’m in the commode….so buy one before they’re all gone!

  24. How to Get Six Pack Fast Says:

    Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is more than I expected for when I stumpled upon a link on SU telling that the info is quite decent. Thanks.

  25. Ben Says:

    I have heard some talk about the different memory types. 16GB is about right for me, but Ive heard that the type of memory it uses is particularly slow, and the 12GB is better. Does anyone know if this is true and if the 20GB suffers that same problem as the 16GB?

    Many thanks

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