A year ago, I was looking for a portable computer that could allow me to blog from places like Aruba. I thought I found an acceptable solution with a PDA and bluetooth keyboard. It didn’t work quite as well as I hoped. As two pieces, you can’t put it on your lap and type. The PDA had some difficulties connecting to WIFI access points. The small screen with 640×480 resolution made web navigation, and blogging difficult. In the end, I realized I had to bring my real computer making that travel computer a poor financial decision on my part. Perhaps I should have listened to reader Khurram Farooq who said:
I would suggest you wait a bit for the announcement of the new Intel MID devices, or even the Asus EEE PC (rumored to be a full ultra portable compact PC for $200). The new generation of UMPC’s is also clocking in under $600, so I guess waiting for at least 5-6 months will pay off big.
A couple of weeks ago, I happened across the Asus Eee. It wasn’t able to get under $200, but the price ranges from $300-$500 depending on extras (mostly storage). I’ve been addicted the mini-computer. As you can see from the image it’s not much bigger than DVD case – and it weighs about 2 pounds. This is in stark contrast to my current laptop – a hulk with a 15.4″ screen and 8 pounds (not counting the huge brick of a charger). My current laptop has grown to be very slow. I should pare down some of the software, but I often find myself using a few obscure pieces every now and again. I should run fewer applications at one time, but I find that if I don’t have it open to work on right away, I’m not likely to touch it.
The Asus Eee comes in a few different flavors. The first choice to make is whether you want the original (701) or the new version coming out this May 12 (the 900). I could probably get the 701 for around $300 – possibly even $250 if I find one Craigslist. It has one huge drawback preventing me from pulling the trigger – the screen is only 800 pixels wide – too narrow for many websites including my own. I would be scrolling on almost every web page that I visit. The newer version due in May, the Asus Eee 900, solves this problem by substituting the 7″ screen with an 8.9″ 1024-wide pixel screen. This is enough for many websites – and it comes in a design that doesn’t add bulk or weight to the new model. The new model adds a lot more memory and a few other improvements – most of which I consider nice, but none near as significant as the screen. However, it comes at a price – $549 to be exact.
To confuse things even more, the computer comes in either Windows or Linux. The Linux version should perform a lot snappier, which is one of the key reasons for the purchase. However, it wouldn’t show movies from either Slingbox or Netflix like the Windows version. Lastly, Asus announced that come June it will start to use the newest Intel chip, the Atom. The Atom is highly anticipated because it runs at twice the clock speed of the current chip – while using less than one-tenth the power. It’s not known if this will be in yet another version at a higher price point, or if it will come at the $549 price of the 900, when the chip becomes available.
Over the last two or three years, I’ve become usually very good with my technology purchases. I rarely have bought something just to find it become obsolete. I also have usually found a way to get by with what I have until what I want hits a fair price point. This has worked for a first generation iPod Nano, a Roomba, an audio/video receiver, and more in the last year. However, this is one case where the technology opens changes my life… I could walk down the street to the coffee shop and blog from there so I’m not inside all day. I could use the computer only for blogging allowing me to avoid the slow-down of my current computer. I would consider using it on a plane (with the WIFI off of course), or even if we were doing some overnight camping. Or maybe it ends up like the last travel computer I got, sitting in a drawer largely doing nothing 99% of the time. Why must technology decisions be so difficult?
Yesterday, I went to Best Buy to give the original version running Windows a look in person. The keyboard is tiny to the point where I was making many typing mistakes. After about 3 minutes, I noticed I was making fewer mistakes – I think I might be able to develop the muscle memory necessary to make it a workable machine. As an aside, I wouldn’t buy the Asus Eee at Best Buy. As one of my friends says, “Best Buy is a great place to shop, but a poor place to purchase.”
After a lot of internal debate, I think I’ve come up with a plan. I will sell my aforementioned travel computer. This should net me $150 or more for the complete package. I will then look for a slightly used original 2GB Asus Eee, which I’ve believe can be had on Ebay or Craigslist for around $250 ($50 off the new price). This means that the Eee will only cost me $100 in new money. I think I can kill my technology craving for more that a few months with this plan. At that point, increased competition will push the prices down and the features up. I should be able to get do the same sell and upgrade when that time comes.
Photo Credit: Tweakers.net