Asus' EeePC 900A, $300 at Best Buy, soon presents a question: what did they cheat on to get the price that low?
As the smallest netbook going that has both a 1.6 GHz Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM (the older cheap Eees had a battery-munching 900 MHz Celeron and 512MB) you'd think it would be more expensive. With a gorgeous 8.9" display inside a 9.5" by 6.7" form, it's tiny but still big enough to type comfortably. It's an antidote to the netbook segment's sneaky upwards creep in sizes and profit margins.
But in use it falls a little short of the experience suggested by those specs. It's a game of spotting the corners cut.
That it's a linux model with a 4400mAh 4-cell battery and just 4GB of storage is clear on the box. Those things aren't that big of a deal. They also took out the webcam and bluetooth: that's fine, too. But a little research also reveals that the flash drive used in the $300 Eee 900A has extremely low write speeds, which makes that component a prime suspect for the slow web performance, mouse jumping and irritating second-long lockups.
To complain seems almost greedy, given that it's an Atom netbook at an almost disposable price (Target's own $300 EeePC, for example, is a junky last-gen model with only 512MB RAM and that older Celeron CPU) but its presence in brick 'n' mortar stores is a try-before-you-buy opportunity that shouldn't be skipped.
* $300 is a steal for a 9" netbook with an Atom CPU.
* 1GB of RAM
* 3 USB ports
* Small and very light (2.2lbs), but not so much it makes typing a UMPC-style annoyance.
* Slow 4GB SSD has only 350MB of free space out the box
* Stingy 4400mAh battery
* Can't take Eee Surf/7xx or 900 batteries
* No bluetooth or webcam
It's portable and powerful, but the EeePC 900A's slow-coach drive is the likely culprit for frequent, irritating dips in performance. Though great for basic netbooking, those who'll be putting their machines to work should bear in mind that for another $50, they can get a the excellent Dell Mini Inspiron 9 with 1GB and XP, or the EeePC 900HA with a 160GB hard drive, XP and webcam.
Update: Looks like Best Buy is now selling the MSI Wind U100 in black for $350, too. – Joel [Best Buy]