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Asus Eee PC 701 Review - Components Part 2
Storage

Traditional hard disk technology (with moving parts) represents a major weakness in portable devices. Hard disks cause reliability issues, as they are vunerable to knocks and drops. Additionally, as a hard disk has a number of spinning and moving parts, it is near impossible to make a hard disk noiseless. A key attribute of the Eee PC is that there is no conventional hard disk in the machine. Instead, the Eee PC is supplied with a 4GB solid state drive (SSD), that has been configured to use UnionFS.

UnionFS allows files and directories of separate file systems, known as branches, to be transparently overlaid, forming a single file system. The Eee has two such partitions (/dev/sda1 and /dev/sda2).  /dev/sda1 contains the software image and takes up about 2.6GB of the SSD. Any changes that are made to that image are stored on /dev/sda2.

The primary reason why Asus has chosen to use UnionFS is because it acts as a form of protection mechanism, allowing the machine to be reset to its factory state extremely easily. This is very important for Eee's target audience. Should a user manage, for whatever reason, to hose their system, it can be reset effortlessly.

However, there is a downside to this feature. If you uninstall any of the packages that the Eee ships with, you don't free up any of the 2.6GB consumed on the first partition. Moreover, upgrading an existing package to the latest version not only means that no space is reclaimed on the first partition, but that the precious space on the second partition is used. Whether this is important depends on whether you are the type of user that likes to use the latest software versions.

Asus has recently announced that they will be releasing a software development kit for the Eee PC, which will enable the OpenSource community to develop, easy to port and easy to release software for the Eee PC platform.

Networking

As previously noted, the Eee PC has both a wired 100 Mbit ethernet port and 802.11 b/g wireless networks. Both types of connection were easy to set up, and delivered expected speeds. Wireless range is particularly good, and I successfully connected to my router at good signal strength even when I had walked down my road. The Eee PC has a significantly more sensitive wireless connection than Nokia's Internet tablets. The WiFi antenna can be disabled with a couple of keys (Fn-F2), which helps to conserve battery life.

The only networking omission was the lack of integrated Bluetooth.

Trackpad


(view large image)

The trackpad on the Eee PC was also better than I had been led to believe. Yes, it's quite small, but it is responsive and accurate. It has a scroll area on its right hand side, replicating the function of a mouse wheel. The trackpad button could certainly do with some improvement, as it is too clunky and noisy when pressed. It would also help if Asus provided a visual marking on the button to indicate that it is in fact two buttons.

On a couple of occasions, the trackpad sensitivity reduced to zero at bootup. A strange bug, but fortunately only a minor irritant.

Webcam


(view large image)

The Eee PC also offers an integrated webcam, producing images and videos in VGA (640x480 resolution), up to 30 frames per second. The camera is mounted in the bezel above the display, which makes it useful for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software, such as Skype. You do need to upgrade to the latest beta of Skype to make use of this functionality. More on this later.

The image quality from the webcam is reasonable. In poor light, the frame rate drops to a minimum of 7.5 frames per second.

General Operation

Read ahead

1. Introduction
2. Components - Part 1
3. Components - Part 2
4. General Operation
5. Software Introduction
6. Internet Tab
7. Work Tab
8. Learn Tab
9. Play Tab
10. Settings & Favorites Tabs
11. Additional Software
12. Final thoughts
13. Additional Screenshots
14. Appendix


Last Updated Sunday, January 13 2008 @ 11:11 AM EST


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