Asus Eee 701SD: Xandros

I had a chance to sit down and use the Asus Eee PC 701SD. It had Xandros installed as the manufacturer default operating system. It’s very basic and wasn’t that impressive in anyway. The system itself has an Intel Celeron M processor but I’m not sure of the exact speed. I’ve read some that it might be running at 900 MHz. It has 512MB of RAM which is a little slow and comes with an 8GB solid state hard drive. The other bells and whistles are your standard network card, wireless card, webcam and an SD card reader.

When you log into the system for the first time, you are prompt for some information like your name and a password. After that, you’re greeted with a tabbed desktop. The tab sorts the shortcuts into six categories: Favourites, Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings. There’s nothing special about them. They’re just a way to keep things organized.

The Favourites tab contained a bunch of shortcut to programs that you frequently use. I’m not sure if those shortcuts are put there automatically or if there’s a way to put them there. I’m not too familiar with Linux so I wasn’t able to add any. The terminal would have been something that I’d use a lot but I don’t recall seeing a short cut for it anywhere.

The Internet tab appears to be the busiest of all the tabs. Since this laptop was made for surfing, I guess that would make sense. It had shortcuts to just about all of the popular resources that one would need to get started on surfing around. The nice thing about it is that Skype came installed which is good because I use it to make outbound internet-to-phone calls. It turns his laptop into a phone whenever I have an internet connection. Unfortunately, the built-in microphone wasn’t all that good. It picked up a hissing noise from somewhere. It’s a little odd that the microphone is located at the bottom of the laptop underneath the location where the touch pad is.

The wireless card works pretty well and I was connected within seconds after start-up. It did a pretty good job at locating the nearby wireless signals. It even found my friend’s wireless signal when my other laptop could barely pick it up. Once you’ve connected to an access point, it saves the settings and it’ll use it the next time it detects that signal.

Firefox comes installed and works fairly smoothly. I haven’t seen any issues with the memory leakage yet but then again, I’m not too familiar with Linux to see it. Since the screen is small (7″) you’re not able to see everything. Asus Eee PC’s website is small enough so that everything fits the width of the screen. My site on the other hand doesn’t fit the screen properly. I think part of the blog posts are cut off and the sidebar is not show. You have to scroll over to see everything else. Of course, you can use the shrink function to squeeze things in.

The instant messaging client works fine as well. It connects to chatting software such as AOL, MSN and Yahoo. I signed on with my MSN account and it listed my entire contact just fine. I didn’t get to test out the chat or the video features so I’m not sure if those are any good. Nonetheless, it connected to the MSN Messenger service without any issues.

The Work tab connected a whole bunch of software that you can use to do work. It has anything from a word processor to spreadsheets to power point. It uses Open Office which is similar to Microsoft Office and works just as good.

Anything that you can do in Microsoft Word, you can probably do in Open Office Writer. It’s probably not as sophisticated as Word but it’s close enough.

The file manager is similar to that in Windows. Actually, it looks almost identical. Navigating around is no problem at all and accessing files on a Windows machine is easy as well. You access network folders the same way as you would in Windows using UNC addressing.

The Learn tab contained some pretty cool learning tools. I had a chance to test out the “Go Chinese” software which teaches you to speak Mandarin. The software would teach you a phrase and then it would break down into a song and sing that phrase as the lyrics of the song. It was a little catchy and it did help with the word. I’m not sure if it’ll help with the tonation of the word.

The Play tab has a selection of things for you to choose from. You can play some games, listen to some music, watch some movies, records yourself with the webcam or just record your voice.

The Games shortcut goes down another level and offers a selection of games. I didn’t play any of them because I didn’t feel like it but if ever I am bored, these games will be here waiting for you.

Overall, the Asus Eee is easy to use but the OS that it comes with isn’t all that great. It has some nice software included but I guess I’m looking for a bit more. The webcam was a bit slower than I had expected. When I was testing the hardware, it seemed like it performed just fine but when I started recording, the video and the audio were out of sync. The keyboard was a little hard to you because it’s so small. I had to resort to one finger typing which was a little slow. And certain keys were moved around so I was hitting the wrong keys every now and then. But the laptop does what it’s supposed to do. It boots up and serves web pages fairly quickly. There were some delays when I went to launch some software but it was acceptable. The downside is that I had the machine freeze on me a few times when I went to launch more than one application. So until I upgrade the RAM, I think it’s best that I stick to running one or two applications at the same time.

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