Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Asus EeeBook preview

In 2008, a new category of portable, super-compact notebooks gained prominence, majorly due to their affordable price. These were lovingly called 'Netbooks' as the major use case for these low-power devices was internet access. As device makers started focusing on tablets (post the iPad revolution), Ultrabooks (after Apple's lightweight, super compact MacBook Air), and hybrid devices, Netbooks disappeared into oblivion.

Asus, which was among the big netbook players, offering its Eee PC devices, is all set to revive the category. It is back with EeeBook, a new low-cost, super-compact notebook. We got a chance to spend a few days with the device and here are our initial impressions...

The Asus EeeBook is not only a compact notebook, it's also lightweight which makes it easy to lug around. The device weighs just 980gram and is fairly slim at 17.5mm. It looks good and feels solid despite being a budget notebook.

We got a dark blue EeeBook as our demo unit that sported a matte finish on the lid as well as inside. It's a bit prone to smudging. The device has an 11.6-inch display with a resolution of 1366x768p. Thanks to the small screen, you'll not notice much pixilation but viewing angles are not very wide and colours distort when you don't look at the display head-on. The display is not touch-enabled so you'll not be able to use the touch-based gestures of Windows 8 but you're not really missing much.

The keyboard panel houses an island-type keyboard that is good for casual use but a little cramped. So typing for longer durations is not a very pleasant experience. The keys offer average tactile feedback. They're not backlit but then most budget laptops don't come with backlit keyboards.

The trackpad was not cramped and responded well to touch. The left edge of the panel houses a proprietary charging port, and SDcard reader, a micro-HDMI port and a 3.5mm headset jack. The other edge sports two USB 2.0 ports.

The base of the panel sports four big rubber feet and a non-removable battery, which as per the company lasts up to 12 hours.

Going to the internals, the EeeBook is powered by Intel's Bay Trail Atom Z3735 1.33GHz quad-core processor and 2GB RAM. This is the same processor which is being used in budget Windows tablets. We were satisfied with the performance offered while using the device for light tasks such as web browsing, watching videos, and creating and editing documents.

The EeeBook comes with 32GB internal storage out of which around 20GB is available. This, we feel is not sufficient. Although Asus is offering 500GB web storage, we don't see cloud storage replacing local space in markets like India where internet connectivity is still not ubiquitous.

While the official pricing of the device hasn't been announced, the Asus EeeBook is expected to be available at around Rs 15,000. At this price, we're not sure we'd be able to recommend it over Windows tablets that offer the added benefit of portability and touch displays. The tablets can also act as netbooks if you simply connect a keyboard accessory.

However, if you're sure you only need a portable laptop, this is a better option compared to Chromebooks that are powered by Google's Chrome OS as the latter rely more on internet connectivity even for performing some basic tasks. We'll have a detailed review of the Asus EeeBook soon.

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