Things are always a bit schizophrenic with me, so it’s no surprise that when I was first presented with the new Eee PC from Asus that I was in two minds about it all.
On the one hand, the Asus Eee PC S101 is the exactly what everyone should want from a netbook. It’s sleek, smooth, lightweight and well-made and this new model has a very executive feel to it. This is the type of thing we’re all secretly hoping our new owners might buy us all for working on.
On the other hand though, it’s hard to deny the fact that Asus is exploiting the Eee brand name even more than ever. Things started off well with the Eee PC 701 and we’ve seen the Eee line make some great advances since then, all of which we appreciate – but part of us is still wishing it would just slow down a little bit. There are too many models; too many choices.
Asus is showing no signs of slowing though and when you see the figures and see just how much demand there is out there for lightweight netbooks, it’s hard to blame the company.
However the new Asus Eee PC S101, which we snagged a first look at earlier this month, is a little bit of a departure from the regular Eee line in that we get the definite impression that it is aiming for a precise part of the market. Whereas the previous Eee PC models have all been marketed as generically as possible, the S101 feels a bit more targeted.
It’s still lightweight and super-small enough to be suitable for everyone from a schoolgirl to a modder with time on his hands... but something about it feels a bit more ‘corporate’ than any other netbook we've seen before.
Part of it is the packaging. The previous Eee PCs have all been delivered in the usual glossy white boxes with pictures of affable looking Asian ladies and domestic housewife sorts on the cover. It was all whites, blues and lime greens. Now though, with the S101, everything has changed and the packaging has been replaced with a matte, black cardboard box. It’s bigger and embossed with silver text, so it really seems special.
Opening the box up, things have changed there too. Instead of being buried under a flood of warranty information and registration cards, everything is kept in nice and tidy boxes that slot together perfectly. There's not a jiffy bag or elastic band in sight. Even the Eee’s personal packaging has changed and Asus have swapped out the neoprene and Velcro sleeve of the older models for a more expensive-feeling folder made of leather. It’s stiffer, offers more protection and it has a proper clasp, so again it’s really giving that executive feel to the whole product.
Executive is a word we’re going to keep coming back to during the course of this review by the way – that really is just the best way to describe it. And why not? With the new graphite lid and the super-posh sleeve that the unit comes packaged in, the Asus Eee PC S101 looks very professional and would be well-suited to sitting on the lap of any travelling businessman as he commutes.
Of course, it also looks good on the laps of semi-bearded, T-shirt wearing journalists too – so let’s take a closer look and see if the specs and feel of the S101 hold up.