Reflections on the Asus Eee PC

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Here's another visual comparison of the Eee PC vs the IBM T42.

Not just for Third World children

Just how low power is it?

  • The OLPC's XO-1 is claimed by its makers to consume less than two watts in normal operation.
  • The 2-3 year old IBM T42 laptop shown in some of the photos pulled 22~32W while wirelessly web-enabled when powered from the wall via its adapter with no battery (and thus no power drawn for charging the battery). With the battery connected and charging, AC power measured 31~43W. It's equipped with a Pentium M 1.6G, 1GB RAM, and a 40GB 2.5" hard drive. Its performance was snappier than the Eee PC.
  • Under the same conditions as the IBM, our Asus Eee PC 4G sample drew 14~17W AC.
  • Green No-No: Neither IBM nor Asus AC adapter has PF correction; power factor on both measured a low 0.62~0.64.

Both the IBM and the Eee PC power measurements include conversion losses within their respective AC/DC adapters, which generally run ~85% efficient (hence, the loss is AC power mutiplied by 0.15) while the OLPC XO's 2W is most likely just the DC power. Still, the Eee appears to be many times more power hungry than the XO-1. It ran only about 10W lower, on average, than the IBM. It isn't quite the energy miser we'd expected.

OLPC turned attention to "bridging the digital divide" with a very ambitious educational project to bring a computer to every child in the world, specifically the developing world, but it's been a slow haul, and the original target price of $100 has doubled. The benefits of a small, very low power computer than can perform all the nominal functions of a laptop are increasingly evident to everyone, so making a commercial for-profit product that anyone can buy makes perfect sense. Such an approach might have helped to expedite the development of the OLPC.

The Eee PC is being sold all over the world, and initial sales were very promising. Their original plan was "to start shipping the units in July or August, with a target of selling 200,000 units this year," a target that's obviously going to be hard to meet with the delayed launch.

Small eco-footprint

It's become fashionable to tout low power consumption devices as green, but when it comes to computers, this is very misleading. Operational energy consumption represents only about a quarter of a computer's total ecological cost. Most of the CO2 emissions associated with a computer have already occurred before the end user ever boots it up. (See this page on Life Cycle Analysis of computers at EcoPC Review.)

It's difficult to assess the pre-user eco-footprint without a detailed life cycle analysis of the particular computer. In the absence of such an analysis, the quick and dirty guideline is weight and size: The smaller and lighter it is, the lower its production environmental costs are likely to be. The Eee PC weights just 0.92 kg; it is pretty green by the rough weight/size guideline, as are all UMPCs. The casing, which looks pretty good and feels quite sturdy, is made of ABS, a good quality plastic that's relatively benign as plastics go.


$250 was the anticipated price of the base Eee PC when it was first unveiled in June 2007, so the $399 price of the 4G model is considerably higher. But compared to other UMPC devices, it's much less costly. There is hardly a single product under $1,000 in UMPC Portal's database of available products, and none with similar capabilities at this Eee's price. Compared to much larger budget latops, it is still cheaper by a couple hundred dollars. The low pricing is one of the reasons for all the attention this products has been getting in the media.

Linux Still Rising

It's no surprise that Linux (Xandros) is the OS Asus chose for the Eee PC, along with Open Office productivity applications. These appear to be the favorite choices for the vast majority of UMPC devices. Windows would surely have resulted in a slower experience and required more storage, no small matter, considering the 2G flash drive of the bottom model. Let's not forget the licencing fees, either. It's interesting that the most serious Linux challenge to Microsoft OS dominance looks to come via the UMPC and low end PC markets. No matter; there's enough demand for the comfort of Microsoft familiarity that Asus has announced a version preloaded with Windows (apparently XP) by the end of this year.

A large collection of other software is preloaded; these are best covered in reviews by PC Perspective and Hot Hardware. The latter noted that many "have "kids" written all over them" despite Asus denying that the Eee PC is not meant to be a direct competitor to OPLC.

A protective pouch is part of the package.

Right side view.

The back.

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