Thursday, October 29, 2009

ASUS Eee PC 701SD 7" Netbook running Linux (Xandros GNU) Review

This is my review/thoughts regarding the ASUS Eee PC 701SD which I've been testing for approximately 2 months. Besides the 2 different colours (black or white), there are apparently 2 versions version of the EeePC 701SD. One version comes with Windows XP Home installed and the other version comes with Linux. The netbook that I've been using had Linux installed on it. Based on the documentation, the version of Linux installed on the ASUS EeePC 701SD that I was using was a modified version of Xandros Linux (GNU).

The ASUS Eee PC 701SD has a 7" display screen and a 8GB SSD drive. It also has a 0.3 megapixel webcam, high definition audio, a built-in microphone, and built-in stereo speakers. The lithium ion battery is rated for roughly 3 hours but based on my usage, I got a little less than 2 hours out of it. It also comes with 512 MB of RAM (DDR2).

Some of the notable programs included with this netbook are: Pidgin (multi-protocol/client chat program), Mozilla Firefox, OpenOffice 2.0 (Microsoft Office compatible suite), and Skype. A lot of the other icons on the desktop are what I would consider to be internet favourites/bookmarks. For example, the "Web Mail" application launches a window with Gmail, Hotmail, etc. on it. However, when you click on Gmail, Mozilla Firefox launches and you are brought to the Gmail log-in screen so these aren't really programs. There is also a software/driver updater program somewhat similar to the Windows Update service.

With 512 MB of RAM, I found the netbook to be slow and unresponsive at times so I decided to upgrade the memory. After referring to various websites and contacting ASUS, I was informed that it could go up to 2GB of RAM (single module). I got a 2 GB DDR2 RAM module and it was easy to install. It was very easy to upgrade the memory since unlike the Acer Aspire One that I have which requires removing the keyboard in order to upgrade the memory,with the ASUS Eee PC 701SD, it only required removing 4 screws on the bottom of the laptop, removing the small memory cover/latch located on the bottom of the laptop, removing the 512 MB DDR2 memory module and inserting the 2 GB DDR2 memory module. After the memory upgrade, I noticed a slight speed improvement but I still felt that the netbook was sluggish.

With the upgrade of memory from 512 MB to 2 GB, I found that the ASUS Eee PC 701SD running Linux was a bit faster and a bit more responsive but it was nowhere near as fast or responsive as my Acer Aspire One with 1 GB running Windows XP.

Another problem that I noticed with the ASUS Eee PC 701SD was that the wireless connectivity seemed to be unreliable. The netbook would identify itself as being connected to my router but it could not access the internet after a few minutes (~30 minutes) of use. I went through the process of resetting the software installed on the netbook back to the factory defaults and I had the same problem. I also updated the wireless drivers and had the exact same problem. The fastest (temporary) solution to this problem was to disable and re-enable the wi-fi on the netbook.

I did a search on the internet to see if anyone else had reported a similar problem and I found one or two users who had a similar problem but there was no solution.

With the small 7" size, the keyboard is obviously smaller than the one on my Acer Aspire One 8.9" netbook. I actually find the keyboard almost unusable because it is so small. I find that the smaller keyboard reduces my typing speed by over 50% so I normally use an external USB keyboard with the ASUS netbook.

Something else that I wanted to mention was that the AC power plug's prongs fold. There is a benefit to this as well as a drawback. The benefit with foldable AC prongs is that it is less likely to damage anything (if for example, you put it into your bag). The negative aspect with foldable prongs is that sometimes you have to insert it properly into the outlet otherwise it will fold into the plug.

One of the things that I noticed on this netbook is that if it is plugged into the AC outlet, regardless of whether it is on or not, the USB ports are still being supplied power. This might seem insignificant but if you plug a USB Bluetooth dongle or USB powered speakers or another device that draws power from USB, these devices will still be "on." even when you do a shutdown of your laptop (unless you disconnect the AC power from it). My Acer Aspire One netbook doesn't do this. The only benefit that I see with this is if you are charging a USB device, you might want it to continue charging even if your netbook is powered off.

Since this netbook also comes with Windows XP pre-installed and most of the programs that I wanted to use ran under Windows XP, I decided to install Windows XP Home on this netbook. I had a valid Windows XP Home license that I wasn't using from my old desktop PC. The Windows XP device drivers were available from ASUS's website. The only thing that I was somewhat concerned about was the amount of SSD disk space (8 GB) as well as the CPU speed.

In a subsequent blog entry on the ASUS Eee PC 701SD (entitled "Installing Windows XP on the ASUS Eee PC 701SD"), I will detail my installation of Windows XP Home onto this netbook and the issues that I had and what you should look out for if you also decide to install Windows XP on this netbook.

The blog entry on my experience installing Windows XP on the ASUS Eee PC 701SD is located *HERE*.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

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