The eeePC Comes of Age

I am sad. And weak. And I go through phases where I buy new computers. I also sell slightly older ones on ebay, and so it kind of balances out. Today I bought another computer.

Last week I sold my Asus EEEPC 701 because although it was lovely and implausibly cheap I never really used it much. And besides I needed the money to pay for yet another computer that I seemed to have bought, of which more later when I actually get my hands on it.

Anyhoo, having sold lots of things on ebay for more than I expected I found that I could afford to buy the computer that I've got today (I hope you are all keeping up).

The 701 sold me on the idea of a mini-laptop, it was just that I wanted one that was genuinely useful. And to me that means running Windows. I quite like Linux, but it turns out that most of what I want to do has a Microsoft flavour. We managed to get the 701 to run XP quite successfully, but the small screen size made using it a bit of a pain, and the lack of a proper keyboard was also somewhat irritating. And to put all the software I wanted on the device would have filled the solid state memory several times over. So off it went.

What I actually wanted was a mini-laptop with a proper keyboard, a slightly larger screen, a hard disk and running Windows XP. And it turns out that you can get exactly that in PC World, for only sixty pounds more than the original device.

The Advent 4211 is a re-badged MSI Wind. This is one of the newer mini-laptops with one of the latest Intel Atom processors. It comes with 1G of memory, a 90G hard disk, a lovely 10" display delivering a very useable 1024x600 resolution and it works a treat with Windows XP. It is nowhere near as funky looking as some of the mini-laptops, being a rather somber black, but it goes like a rocket. And it only costs 280 quid, which to me is a major bargain.

This afternoon I put Visual Studio Express and XNA Game Studio on it and was soon running some of my XNA demos with no problems at all. It won't have the grunt to do the 3D stuff, but for simple programs it is well up to the job. Windows XP on the Atom seems to zoom along very satisfactorily. The keyboard is nice to use with good sized keys and the screen looks great. It also plays movie files extremely competently, the only let down is the rather poor quality of the internal speakers (but you can of course add headphones or an external amplifier).

It actually comes with a copy of Microsoft Works on the hard disk which means that you can be writing documents and spreadsheeting to your hearts content straight out of the box. I've not had a chance to test out the battery life yet, but from the reviews I reckon that a couple of hours should be tenable. And there is also a high capacity battery available.

If you are in the market for a dirt cheap, and very portable, laptop then I don't think you should look any further.