Following IT Week's full review of the Eee PC 900 and HP Mini-Note a couple of weeks back, I grabbed the chance to have a quick look at two new mini laptops that are currently being evaluated by colleagues on other publications at our offices.The Asus Eee PC 901 is, as you might expect, very similar to its predecessor, but has a more polished feel and slightly more rounded styling. It actually costs less, at about £272 + VAT, but has the same 8.9in screen and is pretty much the same size and shape.
In fact, the most significant differences are that the 901 is based on a 1.6GHz version of Intel's new Atom processor and has a larger 6-cell battery. The older model had a 900MHz ULV Celeron and a 3-cell battery.
Sadly, the larger battery bumps up the weight from just under 1kg to 1.15kg - nearly a 20 percent increase. However, one of my colleagues reports that the battery life is much improved because of this, going from just over an hour and a half to several hours.The same Intel Atom processor powers Acer's Aspire One. This is very similar in size to the Eee PC and also has an 8.9in screen, but is just a couple of centimetres wider. This extra width allows for a keyboard with slightly bigger keys that I found much easier to type on.
Like the Eee PC, the Aspire One ships in Linux or Windows versions. The Linux model has 512MB memory, a 3-cell battery and an 8GB Flash SSD for storage and costs £199 +VAT, while the Windows version has 1GB, a 6-cell battery and an 80GB hard drive and costs £299 + VAT.
The Linux-based Aspire One is lighter at just under a kilogram, while the Windows-based unit weighs about 1.26kg. With Linux, the Aspire has a battery life of just over two hours, according to another colleague who has used it at length.
Both of the models I looked at here were Linux models, and the two had quite similar user interfaces that separated the built-in functions and applications into categories such as 'work' and 'play'. Both have a built-in office suite - StarOffice 8 on the Eee PC and OpenOffice.org 2.3 on the Aspire One.
For users who just need a light, low-cost device for word processing or surfing the Web, both of these machines would seem to fit the bill, although I found the larger keyboard of the Aspire One preferable. Both are also capable of running Windows, but are only available with Windows XP Home edition.
One of my colleagues hopes to have a Windows version of the Eee PC soon, so that we can compare benchmark scores between the 901 and the 900. However, we will not be able to do the same for the Aspire, as Acer has said it wants to push the Linux version and so will not be making any Windows models available for testing.
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