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My biggest surprise gadget…

June 02, 2009

A few weeks ago, I made an impulse purchase. I had been reading about them for a while and hearing about how underpowered the Atom-based Netbooks were. Then I bought an Asus B204 Nettop to hook up to my Pioneer plasma. It does an amazing job of playing videos that are stored on a Drobo that I shoved in a closet. It does everything I need, is whisper quiet, and consumes a tiny amount of power. In fact, it does almost everything my Quad-Core home office machine was doing (at least the stuff I left it on 24/7 to accomplish) and consumes 1/20th of the power. Its a savings of at least 140 Euros/year and its a much better all-round experience.

Then I finally decided to just do it. I headed over to Mycom in Hoofddorp (near my office), and picked up an Asus Eee PC 1000HE. One of the main features of this model vs the other netbooks was a long battery life. In fact it was advertised at 9.5 hours, though I wasn’t expecting that to be anything close to real. At 380 Euros it wasn’t dirt cheap, but then again, its not that expensive… And if it was powerful enough, I wouldn’t have to travel with a full-sized laptop either.


I have had this thing now for about 4 weeks and I am constantly amazed at how fantastic it is. It has blown away all expectations. Every few days I am finding new tasks that I can do with it, further reducing the number of reasons I have to carry a full-sized laptop (I will forever need one for work though, since I typically run 3-4 virtual machines for classes).

So let me run through some of the reasons I love this thing:

Great Battery Life:

Its advertised as having 9.5 hour battery life. I didn’t believe that they would be anything close to accurate. To make things worse, I wiped the HD and installed Windows 7 for which there are no official drivers. But after everything is installed and running, I can easily get 8.5 hours and sometimes a little bit more. It should be great to use in Jiri, Nepal where they are lucky to get 8-10 hours of electric power per day. In fact, check this out. The box has been running for a bit over 2 hours now and here is the current estimate of power available.


Photo Tasks:

One of the main tasks I hope to achieve with this was the ability to manage photos while I was traveling for fun. Its not a high-powered photo editing workstation, but its fast enough to run Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2. Plus with a 160GB harddrive, it has plenty of room to offload photos from the CF cards from my digital cameras.




Dev Tasks:

Occasionally I have an idea that needs to be put down in code. For this Visual Studio 2008 is wonderful to have. The 1000HE runs VS and compiles just fine. Its not going to win speed awards, but its good enough while I am supposed to be relaxing.


Troubleshooting Tasks:

Sometimes I find it interesting to break open a Packet Capture tool. At first it didn’t seem to work, but with the latest beta versions of WinPCap, Wireshark and other related tools do a fantastic job.


Other Tasks:

Since I loaded up Windows 7, I get all the benefits of that new OS. I love the new scripting environment available with the Powershell ISE. Makes coming up with new utility scripts much easier than before.

imageMicrosoft Office is on here as well, so I have the basic writing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps. and the Windows Live suite gives me Live Writer, and Microsoft Mail for easy management of Google and Hotmail accounts. The little camera built in to the bezel should be cool if I ever use Skype.  VLC does a fantastic job of playing almost every video I give it.

What the device cannot do:

Although I really love this box, there are a few things I hate. The keyboard is a bit small, but its workable and I am getting used to it. The main gripe I have is the fact that it only has a trackpad. Apparently it supports Multitouch, but its still a trackpad. I so wish it had a much more functional and easier to use pointing stick instead. It is really annoying having to use this and productivity drops immensely due to not having the stick. Whenever I fist start using a Thinkpad, the first thing I do is disable that touchpad at the bottom. I wish manufacturers would get rid of the useless wastes of space that they are.

I wish it had a CF slot in addition to the SD slot. My Canon IXUS 870 IS uses a SD card, but my D700 and D70 use CF. Sure I can carry a card reader, but having it built in would be fantastic.

Video performance is great, but the device crawls when I feed it a video from my Mino UltraHD. I can convert it to something more useful and then play, but I get no love with the raw file.


Despite those few weaknesses, I really do love this laptop. It has completely blown away all my expectations and I will be happy to drop off my Thinkpad with friends in Dubai when I go off from there to Kathmandu in a couple weeks. I can fully recommend the Asus eee PC 1000 HE.

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