Monday, March 15, 2010

The Best Eee PC - Past, Present, and Future

As a Eee PC owner and enthusiast, I feel the need to keep up with the netbook market. I tend to keep an eye out for whatever I feel is the best Eee PC that is currently available. This post is mostly a timeline for the good 10 inch Eee PC’s that have been released.

The Early days:
I wanted an Eee PC since the 701 first came out in 2007. I did recognize that it was still largely a toy but that didn't bother me. When the Eee PC 900 was launched in May 2008, I rushed to my local electronics store to see it first hand. The screen size and resolution had improved from 7 inch 800×480 to 9 inch 1024 x 600, the trackpad was larger, and the Intel Celeron processor was faster. I was convinced that this was the one I wanted until one month later.

The rise of the 10 Inch Netbook:

      When ASUS moved into the 10' inch market, it was a revolution. We now had a brand new Intel Atom N270 processor, keyboards 92% the size of laptop ones, readable screens and battery life which out performed many laptops. The best Eee PC became the Eee PC 1000/H. The 1000 model got bonus points for running an alternative OS, 7 hour battery life, and having 2 SSD's. The 1000H model got points for transforming the netbook from a toy, into a cheap laptop. I ended up getting the 1000 model as a gift in August 2008 and I use it to this day.

      After the release of the Eee PC 1000/H in May 2008, it would take ASUS nearly a year to top their efforts. The rest of the industry was getting busy coming up with their own netbooks and it was during this gap that the 9 inch Acer Aspire One emerged as one of the most popular netbooks. However in February 2009 ASUS did it again with the release of the Eee PC 1000HE. It had a slightly faster N280 Intel Atom processor and an improved keyboard. Battery life was improved to a claimed 9.5 hours. Although the 1000HE was the best at the time, the overall size and weight of the device was quite bulky making it not quite the same mobility device the Eee PC used to be.

      Sometime after the release of the 1000HE, ASUS began experimenting with a new form factor. It was still a 10 inch chassis but the new design meant smaller and lighter than before. They released the 1008HA but it lacked a decent battery and it was expensive. In May 2009 they perfected it and the best Eee PC became the 1005HA with the Intel Atom N280. Weight was down to 2.8 Ibs, battery life became claimed at 10.5 hours. The keyboard was changed again and the touchpad was tweaked.

Present Day:

      Since the release of the 1005HA, the netbook market has become largely stale. 9 inch offerings are now scarce and all of the netbooks from the various manufacturers have the same features and specifications. The only real battles left are between pricing, battery size, and looks. The Intel Atom has received a much needed upgrade from the N280 Atom Diamondville to the new N450 Atom Pineview. Rather than focus on performance, the new processor adds even more battery life by being power efficient. The best Eee PC you can get today is the 1005PE. It is very similar to the 1005HA, but uses the newer N450 chip and has the 1000HE keyboard has made a comeback. 

The Future:

Some interesting developments include Nvidia’s ION graphics for netbooks which greatly improves performance for gaming and HD video playback. I think it is a much needed addition to the netbook market but too costly for most. The Eee PC 1201N has the ION graphics and it considered a netbook, but at 12 inches, I disagree. In general, I feel that good netbooks need to be 10 inches and anything over that is just a laptop. Another development has been the release of something called the Broadcom Crystal HD graphics accelerator. It's a chip designed for netbooks and it allows the user to play 1080p HD content using the standard Intel graphics. It is much cheaper than getting an ION based device but it won't improve gaming performance. 
In a few months, The Eee PC 1005PR will be released and it will come with a HD Display (1366x768) as well as a Broadcom Crystal HD graphics accelerator. which means that this 10 inch Eee PC can smoothly play HD video. No word on pricing yet, but I feel that it will be around $449 USD.

Eee PC 1005PR Specs:

10.1" LED Backlit WXGA Screen (1366x768)
1.66 Ghz Intel Atom Pineview N450 CPU
1GB of RAM
250GB Hard Disk
Broadcom Crystal HD graphics accelerator 70015
WLAN 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1
6-cell battery with a claimed 11.5 hours of battery life


Netbooks have come a long way since the original Eee PC. Going forward, I would like to see some improvements in the default operating system choice. Many users are dissatisfied with the Windows 7 Starter experience and I would like to see ASUS address this more seriously. 3G as standard would also be welcome, but 3G plans will need to get alot cheaper first.

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Archos Home Tablets

A new 7-inch device called the Archos 7 Home Tablet was announced today (Mar 1, 2010) at CeBIT. It will run Google's Android mobile OS using a 600MHz ARM9 CPU. It features a 7-inch 800×480 resistive touch-screen and weighs about 350 grams. it will have Wi-Fi, a mini USB port and battery life of 7 hours for video playback and 44 hours of music playback. It is set for launch sometime in April 2010 and will have a 2GB or 8 GB capacity + Micro SD Slot. Suggested retail price is reported at around 179 US dollars.

Compared to the Archos 5 Internet Tablet:

Similarities include the Android OS, 720p video playback, and support for many audio codecs including FLAC.

Where the Archos 7 Home Tablet is better: 44 hr music playback (compare with 22hrs), cheaper(compared with 250-500$),

Where it is worse: slower processor (ARM9 vs ARM Cortex-A8), less ram (128MB vs 256MB), no accelerometer

Other Thoughts:
This is a really good value considering the prices of all the other tablet devices out there. This is like an iPad but expandable, cheaper, and smaller. If we take a closer look at the weight, the iPad is just too big at 680 grams.This Archos device is half that. From what I have seen, this is just a very capable device overall. If you don't need the fastest tablet or on a tight budget, this may be the tablet for you. I myself am interested in this sort of stuff. I'm sure there will be more exciting announcements from CeBIT as the week progresses, but so far, this device looks like a winner.

Also announced was the ARCHOS 8 home tablet which has the same tech as the 7, but it is more like a digital picture frame.

For More Information:
ARCHOS 7 Home Tablet hands on
Hands on Video at CeBIT 2010
Official ARCHOS 7 and 8 Home Tablet link