Asus Eee PC 901


I recently bought myself an Asus Eee PC 901 netbook, with Linux preinstalled. It’s a fine piece of machinery, and here are some thoughts on its hardware, software and how it worked together with my other devices, which are mainly Windows based.


You might’ve thought a 15,4″ laptop is pretty nice to take with you, but with a 8,9″ screen and weight at a bit over 1 kg, the Eee PC is really easy to carry with you – and it comes bundled with a good looking carrying bag type of thing.

By todays laptop standards, the Eee PC is maybe a bit shabby with its 1.6 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, integrated graphics chip and 20 GB SSD hard disk. But you know what? When it comes to launching apps or just using it, it works actually quite well.

While 20 GBs may seem small, it’s actually big enough to store apps and important files, plus you can always take an external USB drive with you if you really need more space.

The 901 comes with WLAN and integrated Bluetooth. The WLAN is really good: It picks up networks much better than the relatively new and high-end HP Compaq laptop I had at work. I haven’t used the Bluetooth feature much yet, but it seemed to work quite well.

The battery appears to last quite well – it easily does 5 hours in moderate use with WLAN on and monitor brightness at max.

What comes to the input devices, the keyboard, touchpad, microphones and the webcam, they all appear to be at least decent: the webcam works for random things you might use a webcam for, but it could be better. The microphones (it has two for better sound) record clean audio, which is a good thing for internet calls or such. The keyboard is perhaps a bit small and some keys are located in a bit odd places (such as 1), but it has a good feel to it and it’s quite good when you get used to typing with it.

Compared to Acer Aspire One netbook, the keyboard has a better feel to it. In the Acer, the keyboard is a bit bigger and has a more typical layout, but the typing feel is kind of heavy.

The biggest surprise of the inputs to me was the touchpad – it supports multitouch! As far as I’ve noticed, this isn’t mentioned anywhere in reviews I’ve read etc., and it’s a really nice feature. You can scroll websites etc. with it, and there’s also a zoom in/zoom out two-finger gesture, but that one doesn’t seem to work so well.

Comparing again to the Acer, the touchpad is a bit better, mostly because it supports multitouch and the Acer does not.

It also has two speakers, which do a decent job considering their placement and size.


The device came preinstalled with Xandros Linux, with a custom Asus Launcher UI thing for IceWM. It’s basically a tabbed interface which makes it easy to launch installed apps.

The main idea with the user interface seems to be ease of use, and I think they’ve succeeded. I like the approach of using a tabbed launcher instead of a start menu, and people who haven’t used Linux before will definitely welcome the fact that they’ve made some modifications to “dumb the system down” a little – for example, by default you don’t see anything else except the home directory in the file browser.

One thing I missed from the default installation was a way to open a terminal. At first, I didn’t find any other way to open a terminal than browsing to bash with the file browser and running it manually. However, it turns out ctrl+alt+t opens a terminal.

As is usual with Linux distributions, Xandros on the Eee comes with lots of apps – games, open office etc.
If you don’t need any more special apps, like subversion, you probably won’t need to install anything.

If you aren’t in an english speaking country, you might want to check that the OS is in english before getting one. The finnish translation, while mostly OK, has some spots where it’s really bad. The translations themselves aren’t exactly wrong, they just sound totally out of context – as if the translator had absolutely no idea where the text was going to be used in – so it can be a little confusing.

One particularily bad one was that they had translated “Windows”, ie. the name of the operating system, to “Ikkunat”, which is the literal translation of “windows” in finnish – but the Windows OS is called Windows in finnish too. Microsoft is actually guilty of this same mistake as well: the finnish Windows 2000 installer said Ikkunat 2000 at one point.

Also, if you don’t like the default Xandros Linux OS, you can always drop in another distribution or even Windows.

As for additional software, there are some unofficial eee pc repositories which you can use with the default Xandros installation to get more apps. The version of Xandros on the Eee is based on Debian Etch, so it uses apt. The default repositories didn’t contain things like Subversion or Apache which I need for work, so I had to configure Debian’s repositories. However, this is pretty easy for anyone to do, as there are excellent guides on the Eee User Wiki

Interfacing with Windows

Since my home is mainly a Windows world – my desktop PC uses Windows, my phone runs Windows Mobile – this was a small concern for me. However, it turns out the Eee PC works almost seamlessly with Windows!

Shared folders? Sure, and it comes with an easy to use GUI for that too, similar to how you’d share a folder in Windows. This is of course based on Samba behind the scenes.

There is one problem though: I’m unable to access my Windows PC from the Eee. For whatever reason, the network shares just don’t work in that end. The Windows PC can access the Eee’s samba shares perfectly well, though.

I also tried Bluetooth with my HTC Touch Diamond phone, which worked quite nicely right away.


If you need (or want) a computer that’s easy to take along, you’re in pretty good hands with an Eee PC. If you’re looking at a 901, I think you should go for the Linux version which comes with a bigger hard disk – it should be okay even if you’re not familiar with Linux yet. It has good performance, excellent connectivity (even more so if you get the model with integrated 3G) and good battery life. What more can you ask for?