Which? Asus EeePC? Everex CloudBook? hp Mini Note? MSI Wind?

This is a post I didn’t want to do. I wrote a lot of it and then just put it away. But recent events have made this dead post come back to life.

My head has been spinning like a top over the best cheap totable computer to get for mobile blogging. Right now, the choices are:

hp Mini Note (2133)
10.04″ x 6.5″ x 1.05″ – 2.8 lbs

Asus Eee*
8.86″ x 6.30″ x 0.79-1.26″ – 2.0 lbs
(*size/weight might differ slightly for 8.9″ screen model)

Everex CloudBook
9.06″ x 6.73″ x 1.16″ – 2.0 lbs

This hasn’t been an easy decision. And I still haven’t made it.

There are many factors to consider:

Cloudbook: Uses the VIA chip. No one seems to like this chip. Has a 30GB hard drive, but it’s slow. HDs also use more power than chip storage. One review noted WiFi tends to shutdown when the unit gets hot. And owners also report some WiFi problems. The screen is 800×600, but I could still use that.

Asus EeePC: Limited built-in storage that can be overcome with SDHC. A keyboard size that takes, to put it mildly, adjustment to use efficiently. There haven’t been many complaints about its speed, even when Windows XP has been put on it (a model Asus now itself offers). The screen is 800×600 and there is a new model with an 8.9″ screen that does 1024×760. No complaints about battery life, even with XP. Plus, there’s a ginormous third-party battery available.

hp Mini Note: More expensive than the rest. It has the advantages of a better casing, larger keyboard, larger screen, hardware hackability (add RAM, change HD). The disadvantage is its VIA chip.

Over at JK on the Run, a comment from VF made me think:

I think the only interesting model is the low-end 1ghz version with a 4 gig flash drive. Install a Nlited XP and you’d have a true mobile system. (Not Foleo-class instant-on, but as close as we’ll probably get.)

The 1 ghz C7 also draws less than half the power of the 1.6ghz chip. That should mean the low-end version will have the best battery life by far. (No hard disk and a lightweight OS should also help.)

I want to see the reviews of the low-end one…

I replied

VF, those are very interesting points. I’m also reminded of what I’ve read from EeePC users. Just get an SDHC or even Flash keychain drive and have mucho storage.

You just might have created some enthusiasm in me now.

However, when I studied the specs, I found the inevitable gotcha: the 4GB SSD is PATA, while all the hard drive options are SATA.

There is a difference in these interfaces:

PATA wikipedia entry

SATA wikipedia entry

So the idea of starting out with the $499 Linuxed SSD version and then swapping out the SSD for a hard drive doesn’t look like it can happen. SSD users will have to hope that compatible SSDs will be produced in larger sizes at reasonable prices — with some timeliness too.

Aside from the framing sentence that opened this post, other new stuff appears below.

Yesterday Asus announced the U.S. price and availability date for the new 8.9″ 900: $549 on May 12th.

Ouch! $549?! Asus is really pushing its luck here.

Every chance I’ve had, I’ve stopped into J&R to bang on the EeePC. The keyboard is no fun. I’m not sure that I really could ever get used to it.

The new 900 has just about the same size keyboard too!

The “about one month from now” date for the 900 seems to confirm a suspicion I had last night after visiting Best Buy. I went there to see if I could fondle the EeePC running XP. I was told that model is currently “web only” and that they expect to have it in stores “in about a month.” I think what we’ll see in Best Buy a month from now will be the 900, not the current 7″-screen model with XP.

As for the hp Mini, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to its keyboard. I have concerns about it.

I’ve tried the keyboard on the 12″ hp 2710 notebook and it has what I describe as “hard feedback.” The travel distance is short and ends abruptly. It’s like tapping my fingers against concrete.

I’ve used a keyboard like that before and it generated a repetitive strain injury that took me a long time to get rid of. I worry that the Mini’s keyboard might be just like that and would reactivate the injury.

However, last night I had a chance to try out the keyboard of another hp notebook. I don’t have its designation, but it’s a large one with a “Special Edition” tag slapped on it and the word “Entertainment” used in some sort of phrase.

That keyboard was better than the 2710. I could use that with no problem.

So, which keyboard does the Mini have? I don’t know!

(Hello all you good people at Laptop Magazine. You’re based in NYC. I live here too. How about a ten-minute invite so I can stop by and bang on that review hp Mini you guys have? Just make sure Joanna Stern has been disarmed of bacon!)

And as for that earlier vision of buying one of the least-expensive models, there has been some extraordinarily bad news about it posted by someone who did just that.

Plus, there’s the whole controvery over the VIA chip. Rough benchmarks just released don’t look at all good.

Then there’s the MSI Wind. Which looks mind-bogglingly similar to the hp Mini. It’ll offer a screen resolution and size identical to the Asus 900. Storage will be an 80GB HD. The keyboard looks bigger than the 900’s too. When released in June, it’s expected to contain the new Atom CPU.

I think I should just put my head down on my desk and not expect to pick it up to buy something until June!

That’s probably how it’ll all work out anyway.

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3 Comments on “Which? Asus EeePC? Everex CloudBook? hp Mini Note? MSI Wind?”

  1. Art Kavanagh Says:

    Out of that lot, I’d have no hesitation in choosing the HP Mini because of the keyboard.

  2. ekeko Says:

    but what about the glossy display of the 2133? it is not that bad as some reviews point out? I mean, will I be able to work on that display for hours without getting headache?

  3. mikecane Says:

    @ekeko: I don’t know. I haven’t seen it myself yet. J&R will be getting it in, so when they do, I’ll fondle it to death.


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