Asus Eee PC X101

Asus plans to launch the Eee PC X101 10 inch netbook this summer for just under $200. That will give the X101 the lowest launch price of any netbook with an Intel Atom chip. You can occasionally find old, used, or refurbished models for that price, but I’ve never seen a netbook hit the shelves priced at $199.99 on day one before.

I got a chance to check out a pre-release model last night. It’s very thin and light for a 10 inch netbook. But part of the reason for that is the 3 cell battery. Asus will not be offering a 6 cell option in the US. The netbook is also a little thicker looking in real life than in the rendered images I’d seen, and there’s a VGA port that wasn’t present on the press pictures.

For the most part though, the Eee PC X101 looks like a pretty typical netbook. It has an almost-but-not-quite full sized keyboard, a small touchpad with a single button beneath it, and a 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel glossy display.

In order to keep costs down, Asus is building the netbook with a new 1.33 GHz Intel Atom N435 single core processor. It’s a 5W chip which uses a little less power, generates a little less heat, and offers a little less performance than the Atom N455 chips more commonly used.

The US version of the Eee PC X101 will also run MeeGo, an open source Linux-based operating system optimized for netbooks and other mobile devices. The netbook will be available in some regions with Windows 7 as well, but by going with MeeGo in the US, the company can avoid Windows licensing fees and keep the price low.

Unfortunately the demo unit I saw didn’t have MeeGo so I can’t say anything about how the netbook performs with the Linux distribution.

The netbook also has an 8GB solid state disk instead of a hard drive. That should help improve battery life, since a solid state disk uses less power than a hard disk. But 8GB isn’t a lot of space to work with.



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14 replies on “Hands-on with the Asus Eee PC X101 $200 netbook”

  1. The most interesting is the optimization Meego/Atom!Very good job from Intel!Fine design for Asus!

  2. Wow…  I was interested until I heard the 8GB hard drive bit…  Meego isn’t a turn off for me, I’ve played with it since it was Moblin and generally it seems nice, although I like other distro’s of Linux better, but I have faith that users could have a nice experience just using Meego… But man, I don’t think I could handle having a hard drive smaller than half the SD cards I own…  Or the memory on an intro level iPad for that matter.

    1. Well, to be fair, it’s a solid state disk, not a hard drive… but it’s still small. There is an SD card slot for additional storage.

      Honestly, my first Eee PC 701 had 4GB of storage and it wasn’t a huge problem because I only used it when I was on the go. My primary laptop now has a 250GB hard drive, but it’s got at least 220GB free most of the time, and Windows 7 takes up a lot of the 30GB that is in use.

      1. Should point out there is the X101H, which is the hard drive version and it just costs a bit more.

        The SSD version is just the only one that actually reaches the $200 mark.  But, the speed and responsiveness of the system will be better with the SSD than the HDD.

        XP can be squeezed onto a 2GB drive with a nlite and Windows 7 can be squeezed onto a 4GB by eliminating the recovery partition and vliting.

        While constant maintenance with CCleaner and such can prevent the normal slow bloating that would otherwise accumulate over time, but not everyone has the patients or persistence to keep their systems optimized all the time.

        1. Not necessarily. It depends on what type of SSD they use. The original Asus Eee PC 701 and Acer Aspire One models used slow SSDs which were outpaced by 5400rpm hard drives in many instances.

          Hopefully Asus isn’t repeating that mistake. But slow SSDs are surely cheaper than high performance once.

          You still get the benefits of lower power consumption, lower heat generation, quieter operation, and durability whether you have a fast or slow SSD though. 

        2. Brad, the old Eee PC 701 and other early SSD netbooks used first and second gen SSDs.  We’re a few generations along now and they’ve made quite a few improvements.

          Most modern SSDs are in the SATA II range of performance and some of the cutting edge ones are in the SATA III range already.  While hard drives still don’t push the limits of SATA I performance yet.

          Never mind the huge difference between access times and 4k file read/writes that give even low quality SSD’s a big advantage over hard drives, which a light weight OS like Meego can really take advantage of.

          Even the low end “Boot Drive” SSDs just have slow write speeds but still bring performance comparable to modern hard drives, which also have improved a bit since 2007.  Like a modern 5400RPM drive can perform about as well as a 7200RPM drive from a few years ago.

          Really, Asus would have to be using something like a micro/SD card instead of a true SSD to get performance that low with what’s available now. Though some of these low end systems do indeed opt for that kind of solution.

          However, the X101’s quick shutoff and boot times for example suggest it doesn’t have a slow SSD anyway and the tablet market has been pushing SSD development as well.  So unlikely Asus would have to resort to an old generation SSD for any of their newer models.

          The large bottom panel though suggests something besides the RAM may be upgradeable and it will be interesting to see what it gives access to.

  3. 8 gb always has been a hoax. and in fact only linux systems can run satisfyingly on a hd space like this. even win xp and programs claim a lot more of space over time and win7 … forget about it .. needs at least 32 gb.

  4. Excellent! I default to Linux anyway (usually UNR) and the SSD makes quite a bit more rugged. 8 GB and an SD card is plenty when traveling. Usually TB drives are mainly useful when dealing with a lot of video or even more imagery.

    No windows, amen!!

  5. I don’t understand why Asus continues to avoid the US education market.  Make this available with a 6-cell battery for a little more and there might be a number of elementary schools or middle schools interested.  But a 3-cell battery is big problem in an educational setting since it won’t last the school day.

    1. Well, it isn’t that Asus is avoiding the US education market, they will sell to anyone who wants to buy, but they aren’t a US company and their main market isn’t for education. 

      Even Apple, which is a US company, doesn’t really cater to the US education market other than to offer their existing products to anyone willing to buy them.

      However, Asus does take custom orders from companies, schools, telecoms, and governments.  So some schools have in fact purchased Eee PC’s for their curriculum, and it’s just that Asus doesn’t specifically make Eee PC’s for schools.

      The 3 cell battery for the X101 is also just the default, but since it’s replaceable Asus can offer a 6 cell version upon custom order request and it’ll just raise the price for each unit.  Though bulk orders should receive a discount.

      Also remember the X101 is rather low powered for a netbook and Meego is less resource hungry than Windows.  So even with a 3 cell it should last 5+ hours for at least light use.  While a simple battery swap can double the usable time and it’s possible to get external battery chargers to always keep one charged for use.

      1. I’ve been told that there will bee no six cell battery option, and since the
        x101 has a completely new design batteries for other See PC models won’t
        fit.

        But Asus is estimating 5-6 hours of battery life. I didn’t include that in
        the article because there are often big differences between manufacturer
        estimates and real world performance.

        1. It really isn’t that hard for them to make a 6 cell and for large order customers Asus makes exceptions.  Mind I specifically stated “upon custom order request”.  I wasn’t referring to what Asus offers to the general public.

          Besides, there are companies that will custom make the battery for you if you order a large enough quantity.

          While for the run time, the demonstration unit indicated over 5 hours remaining when it was running on battery power.  Of course you can’t really trust OS estimates but Meego also has better power optimization than Windows.

          So figure that even a regular N450 netbook can get close to 4 hours with a 3 cell battery.

          Remember the N435 not only uses less power but also generates less heat, which makes it a bit more energy efficient, and the SSD likely uses less power than a typical hard drive model as well.  So 5 hours at least should be reasonable but it probably won’t reach 6 hours though.

  6. Anyone else feeling that this hardware level is where Chrome OS should be?  This is the pricepoint that Google needs to really get into the market…

    Though I’d love to get ahold of one of these running MeeGo.  I’m happy to see the Netbook UX revived and in the wild, since it was announced earlier this years that NUX was going to be discontinued.  The NUX is slick and very well feature-packed for such a compact interface.  

  7. I’m waiting for the AMD Fusion version at-least with that you can get some hardware acceleration. If they did a tablet version of this for $300 i’d buy it in a second.

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