An excellent, ultra portable laptop offering value for money with no corners cut on spec or features
Brimming with features
Very easy to use
Lack of on-board storage
Chassis can get quite hot at times
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The Asus Eee PC 4G (£219 inc. VAT) is the first attempt to create a new range of portables aimed at the youth and education market. This cost-effective machine uses a 7-inch display, which helps keep the size and weight to around 900g, so you can slip this laptop into an average bag and not worry too much about the bulk.
It may be small, but it's a fully featured laptop. Using an Intel mobile processor and fitted with 512MB of memory, it's powerful enough to handle word processing and internet tasks with ease. It isn't intended to replace your main PC, but makes a great portable companion. Instead of a mechanical hard drive, you'll find 4GB of solid state Flash built in. This limits the files you can store, but it easily stores the OS and all your major files.
Perhaps the most telling feature of the Eee PC is the use of a Linux OS. Not only does it have a smaller footprint than opting for Windows, but it also boots up considerably faster. Asus has designed the interface with a view to it being used by younger users, so there is an emphasis on ease-of-use as well as multimedia. There is also a whole host of software, so you don't need to install any additional tools.
With this in mind, we tested it out with audio as well as video playback and found it handled everything with ease, even running a DivX movie straight from a USB memory key.
If you prefer to use Windows, Asus includes instructions for installing Windows XP, as the machine isn't powerful enough to handle Windows Vista. We found it a relatively easy process to follow and install and, while it works fine, it does tend to run a good deal slower.
Asus has sat the screen in a large bezel, flanking the panel with speakers. This means there is enough room to fit a good-sized keyboard. As you would expect, the keys are small and compact and you'll initially find yourself picking at the keys. However, we very quickly got used to the layout, making this a great word processor for travellers.
Being a Linux OS we weren't able to test the battery life, but in use we managed to get a little over two hours from a single charge, which is sufficient for most commutes or classes.
It's not without its flaws, as the lack of storage space can be inconvenient at times. The unit also grows warm to the touch, but these are minor niggles over what is a fantastic piece of kit. Asus has managed to design a low-cost laptop that, if you need to have a simple word processor with you while you travel, is about as impressive as it gets.
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