Eee PC X101 is the cheapest branded netbook till date but Asus had to make some compromises to get the price tag under 200 dollars. Fortunately, no compromises were done on its build quality which is rock solid, just as we would expect from Asus. Find more about it in our exclusive review.
The X101 is the second netbook from Asus that runs the MeeGo operating system (first one is Eee PC X101H) and is the first one to sport the new Intel Atom N435 processor. This new CPU is basically an Atom N455 underclocked to 1.33GHz from 1.6GHz.
Build, Display – As said earlier, the build quality is surprisingly great and it does not feel cheap at all. The design is very sleek and solid and bears a textured plastic finish which does not catches fingerprints easily.
The matte finish extends to the whole chassis, not just the lid area. Even the display is matte, something that would be loved by the folks that work in direct sunlight. The screen packs the standard 1024 x 600 pixel display which is same as other 10.1 inch netbooks. I was not very impressed with the vertical and side viewing angles but, hey, it is a 200 dollar netbook.
The overall profile and its tapered down design clearly shows where Asus got its inspiration from – Apple’s Macbook Air.
However, due to its slim design, there is no VGA port and you will have to settle for just two USB 2.0 ports, card reader and a headphone jack. The only possible way to output the display is by using a USB to VGA adapter.
Keyboard – Compared to its kin X101H and other Windows netbooks, it comes with a 5 row keyboard (instead of 6). The function keys are mapped with the number keys. To be honest, it makes perfect sense since you would not be using them often in MeeGo anyway. If you have used a 10.1 inch netbook before, especially from Asus, you will get accustomed to the keyboard layout quickly. While the keys are a little on the small side, they are perfect for typing documents and emails. You just need to get yourself used to that small, pesky right shift key.
Touchpad has a very smooth surface and its edges are easily recognizable, thanks to matte palm rest area. Bottom left and right areas do the duty of left and right mouse clicks respectively. Multi touch is not supported in MeeGo but the familiar gestures can be used in other operating systems (Ubuntu, Windows).
MeeGo – If you are looking for a portable computer that delivers desktop class web browsing experience, then X101 may be the perfect companion for you. It is boots in just 10 seconds and goes into sleep mode in mere 3 seconds. All this with an underclocked processor and 1GB RAM.
For office productivity, you get Open Office apps and you can add more apps via Asus App store, which is based on Intel AppUp store.
Surprisingly, I was able not very productive with MeeGo. For example: I often use a word processor to write content and at the same time look at a particular web page opened in the browser. You cannot do that with MeeGo. There is no taskbar and you have to rely on alt + tab combo to switch between running applications. While you can also go to third Zone (third button on the top bar) and then tap on the big thumbnail of the running app, it requires three clicks to make a switch. Not very impressive. Clearly, the OS is made to do only one task at a time.
Fortunately, you can install a much more capable operating system like Linux Mint or Ubuntu on it with no problem at all. I installed it and everything worked out of the box. You can also install Windows 7 on it. I have not done it but folks at mobilityupdate.com (X101 Windows drivers, external link) have done that, so I believe that works too.
Battery Life – It comes with a 3 cell (28W/h) battery that was able to give us runtimes of just under 3 hours (2h, 50 minutes) which is no way near the claimed 4 hours runtimes. Those numbers are pretty bad considering most netbooks can easily cross 5-6 hours with active Wi-Fi use. Keep the power adapter in your bag if you are planning to be out for more than 2 hours.
Upgradability – Asus X101 comes with a 2.5 inch SATA SSD which can be upgraded easily by the user end by removing one single screw from the back panel. RAM can also be upgraded in similar fashion.
Keep in mind that the maximum RAM supported by the chipset is 2GB DDR3.
Performance – I was running MeeGo all the time and unfortunately, PCmark Vantage is not available for it which is why I was unable to benchmark the Atom N435 processor. As said earlier, X101 boots and loads apps pretty fast, chiefly due to SSD.
In real life usage, I was able to have great web browsing experience in Chrome browser, and view 480p YouTube videos perfectly. I installed an addon called “Flashblock” from the Chrome appstore to prevent auto play of flash items that often slowed down the whole netbook. Performance in Windows should be similar to my Emachines EM355 netbook but I am sure that X101 will boot and load apps much more quickly (due to SSD).
Verdict – The Asus X101 is one of the best netbooks if you are a looking for machine solely for web browsing. Since MeeGo is based on Linux, it would not catch any viruses. Plus, it can Windows and Ubuntu too in case Meego is not your choice of OS. You can buy it here.