When the first Eee-PCs were introduced, it was love at first sight for me. I’d been looking for a small, portable device that would let me blog, send email and surf and this seemed to be it. The reason I never got the original 701 was because models with bigger screens were announces even before these 7″ versions actually hit the market. But when I saw the pink 701 on sale last week I couldn’t help getting one for my eldest daughter. It was dirt cheap and she loves it to death.
Great for kids
Judging from the bundled software and the pictures on their website, Asus definitely also targeted these machines at kids. TuxPaint is on there, as well as a couple of educational games. Although somewhat ‘aesthetically challenged’, these programs are truly ideal for kids. TuxPaint especially is quite clearly the result of years of user feedback. It’s got everything that kids want, and for them is the best paint program I’ve come across.
But there are more reasons why the Eee-PC is ideal for kids. It’s ‘their size’, it’s colourful (the pink definitely helped win my daughter over), and it’s very easy to operate. Asus’ special blend of Xandros Linux might be a little too limited for power users like me, but it’s completely ideal for children. The tab-based interface has a ‘favorites’ tab that I used to gather all the programs my daughter uses so she has no trouble at all switching apps and finding her way.
Some room for improvement
Of course there are a few things that could be better. The power adapter didn’t have a euro standard plug, and with the supplied adapter thingy it’s not quite as safe as I would’ve liked. For now the 7″ screen will do perfectly, but eventually I’d also like to teach her how the web works. Most websites are designed for larger screens, so that might prove to be a problem. The 2 GB SSD drive is 80% full with just the default software, but there’s a lot of stuff she’ll never use, so I’m sure I can free up some more space. Also, the model I got (701 2G Surf) doesn’t have a webcam. Ruby loves Skype, so we’ll probably have to get her an external one.
Another problem is that the OS comes in English and Chinese only. Currently, my little girl doesn’t really read anything on the screen, but she will at some point. At that point I’ll probably look into upgrading to Ubuntu or enabling Xandros’ full desktop mode.
The machine came with Skype 1.4 installed, but that doesn’t even do video. I went to the add/remove software application expecting to be able to download updates, but I couldn’t. This utility is essentially a package manager which you can use to get ‘officially supported’ software for the Eee-PC. Unfortunately, it offers only one single download, a BIOS update. It looks like Asus has been so busy milking the Eee brand they forgot to post more software. There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to upgrade Skype anyway, and it’s not very difficult. But for a machine named ‘Eee’, where all three for those ‘e’s stands for easy you’d think Asus would make this well… easier.