With the popularity of a new generation of low-cost laptops known as netbooks on the rise, we decided to procure one to see if they live up to all the hype. First we started with researching the many models available (over the last year a multitude of devices have landed on the market). In our research we found many worthwhile candidates for our needs. We settled on the ASUS Eee PC 1000 because of positive reviews, and two important factors: 40GB of SSD storage (sometimes faster than standard rotating HDDs, and definitely more resilient to getting banged around) and a track history of people having successfully installed beta versions of Windows 7.
Unboxing – the Eee came in a rather small box, holding the netbook, manuals, power supply and carrying case. Physically the power supply is the smallest that I have ever seen on a laptop – but then the Eee uses far less power than most laptops. Turning it on, the Eee came preloaded with a Linux distribution – simple, easy to use… not at all what we wanted.
Windows 7 beta – loading Windows 7 turned out a bit of a trick. First thing, to save size and money the Eee has no CD/DVD drive, so an external USB drive was required. Then the 40GB SSD in the Eee 1000 turns out to actually be a 8GB and a 32GB SSD – with the 8GB drive as primary. On my first attempt I tried to install Windows 7 on 32GB drive – the Windows 7 installation failed on several attempts.
I began reading up on what those who were successful did to get Windows 7 installed. It turns out that they had been installing Windows 7 on the 8GB drive. At first I was skeptical that I could get anything worthwhile to fit in only 8GB, but I attempted the process anyway. Turns out the install of Windows 7 would fit, the install actually being smaller than Windows Vista. Yet this solution is not optimal – you have to jump through quite a few hoops to get Program Files, the pagefile and user files off of the 8GB drive and onto the larger 32GB drive. Even then space was low on the 8GB drive, and after installation of Windows Updates I realized that the solution was just sub-optimal.
I decided to find a way to install Windows 7 on the Primary 32GB drive. It took a while, but after some fooling around I was able to get some required system files only on the 8GB drive continue with the Windows install on the 32GB drive. Finally I had the install that I wanted.
Windows 7 it turns out does run on an Eee netbook – but I wouldn’t say that it runs well…. at least not without some tweaking to turn off some of the flashier features of the system. But it does run, and it boots up rather quickly (likely due to the SSD drive). However, when you install Microsoft Office you start to see the shortcomings of the low-powered Intel Atom processor in the Eee – after opening just a single Office product, the system starts to slow down significantly, open two Office programs and it slows to a crawl. Stay away from Microsoft Office and the Eee performs decently.
There are lots of reviews about the netbooks being the future of inexpensive ultra-portable computing – and the Eee PC 1000 shows that netbooks are clearly on the way. Other more powerful, newer machines are already on the way – and may just do what this Eee just doesn’t quite do yet. I do, however, believe that the Eee as designed (with Linux on it) does do what they designed it for – it just wasn’t designed to do what we wanted to do with it.