Asus Eee PC Long-Term Review (Verdict: Honeymoon Officially Over)

Click to viewWe've had the Asus Eee PC $399 4GB model in my house since launch. And while you can't argue with the system's unbeatable size/performance/price ratio, users should know that once the honeymoon euphoria of the cheap ultraportable wears off, they're going to deal with some persistent issues that very well may be deal breakers.

Screen

You know the 7-inch screen size will be small—but really, it's too small for extended use. Seeing my wife working on the laptop, I watch as the screen gradually moves closer and closer to her face, until she's basically wearing the computer like video goggles. A 10-inch screen model sounds like the sweet spot, and more what you've envisioned as ideal.

Bugs

The system is, quite simply, not stable to work on. It freezes up frequently when just going through the system's dashboard—even without multitasking in progress. And launching OpenOffice apps can be a hit or miss process, too. Sure, the system is easy enough to reboot (and speedy in this regard as well), but the OS just never feels stable.

My guess is that bugs and performance issues stem from a hardware problem (maybe that stick 512MB isn't enough after all) and an unpolished OS (Asus' custom Linux system could use a few patches for sure). But, most certainly, the 512MB of RAM isn't enough given the inefficiency of the OS's memory management. Asus, where are our updates? We're still running software version 1.0. This must be the least-patched OS in history.



Wi-Fi


The biggest annoyance, by far, has to be the system's subpar Wi-Fi. If nothing else, the Eee is meant to be a web-surfing machine, the perfect companion to your overpriced espresso drink. But it has a ton of difficulty finding hotspots. Expect to retry detection several times before a list of local networks appears. That might not sound all that tedious, but losing five minutes plus when connecting to the internet—frequently—gets real old real fast in the year 2008.

And these problems even occur with your own saved networks. For some reason the Eee doesn't like to remember security keys. Users eventually become smart enough to paste the code somewhere in their documents, but really, should we have to?

Conclusions

I'm not sure that the Eee is a "don't buy." But more and more every day, I'm wishing that we'd invested the $400 elsewhere (a new smartphone, for instance). Initial reviews accepted the system's shortcomings partially because everyone loved that golden price/performance/size ratio and partially, even tacitly, because many expected bugs to be ironed out in due course.

Maybe more RAM would improve the experience, but at this point I'm fearing the investment. Maybe loading Ubuntu will solve the OS problems—I plan on doing just that this weekend—but most users won't deal with that hassle. At this point our love affair is over and we realize that the Asus Eee PC, as important as it may be for the market, is a glorious "miss" in its current state.