Sunday, April 06, 2014

Worth the low price (ASUS 7 [8 GB, Intel Celeron M, 900 MHz, 512 MB) Notebook review]

Note:  This is a repost of a review I wrote of the ASUS 7" (8 GB, Intel Celeron M, 900 MHz, 512 MB) Notebook on Epinions, located here. It was originally posted on Jan 24, 2010.  I know it's out of date, but I'm testing a site I just found to automatically post on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm a member of a currency-tracking web site called Where's George.  Last year, I went to Las Vegas and knew that I'd be entering a lot of bills on the site.  Right before I went to Las Vegas, I decided to get a small laptop or netbook.  My primary reason for getting one was that I wanted to be able to enter bills from the comfort and security of my hotel room.  I knew I'd want a computer to take with me on the trip, but I didn't feel like dragging a desktop along for the ride.  (Airport security is strict enough about laptops.)

My primary criterion for purchasing said computer was the price.  I knew that I'd be using it after the trip, but I didn't know how often.  I didn't really want to have to shell out too much money for something I'd be using once or twice per year.  I also needed something that could connect to a network wirelessly since I‘d be using it on the road, so to speak, and most places that have Internet access have the wireless kind.  Size was also a big factor.  I'd need something that could easily fit in my backpack and still leave room for other things.

This was back when I was working for Wolf Camera and we had just brought in the Asus line of netbooks.  (For those that are wondering, a netbook is a smaller version of a laptop.)  The price was about as small as I could expect to pay and still get something that turned on most of the time.  Add to that the fact that I could get an employee discount.

My manager and I both bought one of these.  We didn’t really have the option to upgrade anything through Wolf.  It came with a 7.5 GB hard drive, 504 MB of RAM and a 900 MHz Intel Celeron processor.  My manager has been able to upgrade the RAM, but I don’t know about any of the other features.  The operating system is Windows XP, but I've heard that you can get Linux on it.

I don’t know how easy it is to get at the solid-state hard drive or what’s involved in replacing one.  The comes with one SD card slot and three USB ports.  Given how cheap SD cards and USB drives are, I think these would be my best option for expanding file storage, especially considering that I don’t really store files on here.  All of my files are on my desktop.

When it arrived at the store, I opened it up immediately to make sure it did turn on.  (Which it did, thankfully.)  I didn't really have a chance to try it out until I got home, mostly because we don't have wireless at work.

It didn't come with any major programs outside of Internet Explorer and Microsoft Works.  You do get the standard assortment of games like Freecell and Minesweeper.

Connecting through a wireless network is pretty easy.  For some reason, I've had issues staying connected at home, but I've never had a problem in other places.  (My mother's laptop has never had these problems, so I think it may be some issue unique to this laptop and our router.)  The entire time I spent in Las Vegas, I was able to stay connected using the Asus without problem.  (There’s also a port for connecting through a network using cables.)

That's not to say that I didn't have issues.  The first thing I noticed was that it doesn't have any sort of CD, DVD or floppy drive.  If you want to use a physical device to get information on to or off of the 701SD,. You have to use either a USB drive or an SD card.  If you have software on a CD or DVD that has to be installed through the CD or DVD, you'll have to get an external drive.  I don't know how easy it will be to install.  I can only hope you can get the drivers online.

This is ironic because the netbook comes with a DVD backup of the computer.  I'm told that it's an image of the hard drive when it left the factory, which means that you'd just have to copy it on to the computer.  What this means is that you'd have to have some other computer that has a DVD drive so that you can copy the information onto an SD card or a USB drive to then copy on to the netbook.

Also, the 701SD is small.  Yes, I wanted small, but I didn't expect it to be this small.  The netbook has small keys and I have big fingers, which made typing hard.  I'd often miss keys and end up typing a bunch of other stuff in trying to hit the backspace key.

Add to this that I was trying to enter serial numbers most of the time.  Because of size limitations, there's no 10-digit keypad.  I had to use the numbers at the top of the keyboard.  After checking what I had entered each time I entered a bill, I noticed that I was making a lot of mistakes.  I didn't have a chance to get a separate 10-digit keypad while I was out there, but I knew I'd have to get one eventually.

Fortunately, I had a USB mouse that I had won during some employee training.  If I hadn't had that mouse, I think I would have sought out the nearest Office Max.  Having used laptops before, I knew I wouldn't want to have to use the tracking device.  This one has proven to be especially problematic when trying to click on a small box.  When I raise my finger, the cursor will often move down a little.  The USB mouse, on the other hand, works perfectly.

One issue that cropped up by my next trip was the battery shelf life.  It seems that the battery won't stay charged for more than a week if you leave it off.  This means that you have to remember to charge it up before going out.  Even when you do go out, bring the power cord if at all possible.  The computer's initial estimate seems to be about 3 hours, but it could end up being much less depending on what you're using it for.

Another issue is that the screen size isn't standard.  This isn't really a problem unless you're installing software, which I haven't done a lot of.  (The only two programs I've installed are mIRC and Juno.)  When I went to install a printer recently, I noticed that the two buttons on the print screen fall below the bottom of the screen.  Hitting enter works in this case, but I could see someone running into issues with this.

The sound on the netbook wasn’t that great, but I wasn’t buying it to play music.  (If you are, there’s a headphone jack.)  Immediately after turning the machine on, I disabled the audio and haven’t missed it.  I generally don’t listen to sound while surfing the web.

I wasn’t looking to do much with this netbook and I pretty much got what I wanted out of it.   I'd recommend this netbook for anyone that needs something cheap and small and can handle the small keyboard.  The 701SD is almost small enough that I can fit it in my pocket.

If you buy it, I'd recommend getting the USB mouse and additional 10-digit keypad.  I'd bring it out with me more often if I didn't have to bring all of the additional stuff out with me, but I do bring it on trips where I'm staying in a hotel.  The Asus 701SD has done what I need it to and will hopefully continue to do so.

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