Asus Eee PC 701 notebook

Budget laptop users are getting excited about the One Laptop Per Child laptop with its once $100 price tag, but those looking for instant gratification can opt for the Asus Eee laptop PC priced from just £169 in the UK. But can a laptop so cheap really offer you what you need? We take a closer look.

The Asus Eee stands for Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play and has been designed to offer cheap affordable computing to the masses.

Sporting just a 7-inch screen and weighing in at just 890g this will comfortable fit into any bag and allow for portable working to the extreme. For those interested, the actual dimensions are are a tiny 22.5 x 16.5 x 2.1-3.5cm.

Get past the size and you get either 256MB or 512MB of memory, 2GB or 4GB of solid-state storage, a 900MHz Intel Celeron M processor, VGA webcam for video conferencing, 802.11g Wi-Fi, Ethernet port, modem, SD card reader and three USB ports, there is even the offer an optional 3G datacard too, although no CD-ROM.

The only qualm about the hardware? The small keyboard, it's not smartphone small, but if you are used to a full size offering from a desktop PC, prepare to close your fingers up.

Before you cry that Windows Vista is going to struggle running on that, the Eee doesn't run Vista instead opting for Linux and a stack of open source software (over 40 pre-installed)

Rather than just give you limited editions or trial versions, because it's open source you'll get the whole hog and this means plenty to make this worth while.

Broken down into different areas; Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings and Favourites, software included includes webmail, the Firebox web browser, Pidgin messenger (it does all the major players), Skype, Google Docs, direct access to Wikipedia, and access to thousands of Internet radio stations via Mediayou.net.

Work features Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations thanks to OpenOffice and full POP3 support comes via Mozilla's Thunderbird email package. There is even a PDF reader application if you fancy showing off.

Get into the learning section, believe it or not, it is supposed to be for kids, and you get Maths, Science, Language and Painting applications too boot. Play meanwhile gives you access to a media player, the webcam, and a photo and video manager, there are even games to play too.

Verdict

If you want a laptop to play real games beyond solitaire and penguin racing, do multimedia things like edit videos, mess around with pictures quickly, store your music collection in iTunes and run the latest edition of Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop then the Eee isn't for you.

With limited graphics, and even more limited memory the laptop is for a better word "limited".

However, if you are looking for a laptop to surf the web, check your email, and write a letter or essay then this is fantastic.

The breadth of free programs and easy to use interface (Linux isn't that scary really) means this is a brilliant machine for those looking to stay in touch on the cheap.

In fact, sod the kids, if you need to file remotely (bloggers and online journalists we mean you!) then this is a must have in the modern journalist's armoury.

Top marks.