2012-09-09

Asus EEE X101CH Review


For quite I while I have to fix, update and maintain this little netbook. Although it's not mine - I've used it for quite a while and feel comfortable writing this review.

The Outside

It's meant to be cheep. Plastic only. However it means that it's light. Just a bit over 1 Kg with charger in your bag. So don't expect anything special, it's meant just to do it's job and it does it quite well.

Keyboard is surprisingly comfy. Touch pad is incorporated to plastic cover. With this one I had few problems, but about that latter on. It has full size HDMI connection, VGA, 2xUSB 2.0 LAN, Audio connections and Card Reader. That's it.

Screen is reasonable - 10.1 inch LED Backlight WSVGA (1024x600) screen. It's not glossy, colorful and sharp enough that it wouldn't strain your eyes.

All in all - it's good enough that it wouldn't bother you.

The Inside

This one is a bit tricky. Sure it has standard Intel Atom N2600 Dual Core processor and a gigabyte of RAM. 320Gb HDD, 0.3 Mp front camera, single (quite bad) speaker,  WLAN, Bluetooth... Nothing special until you touch operating system... Here goes my rant...

It is suggested to be used with Windows 7. What a load of bullshit that is. First touch pad drivers... Non of both types of drivers provided by Asus does not work and it's better to leave it as is after installing Windows. One of those makes touch-pad unusable other simply does nothing. Great.

Secondly it has only a gig of RAM, immedeatly at least half of it is occupied by Windows. So if you want to write a document while opening 3 or so tabs of chrome while listening for music in the meantime - you gonna have a bad time... You cannot upgrade RAM since it's stuck right to the motherboard and does not have SO-DIMM.

I'm not sure ether it's fault of Windows since it does not have swap space and tendency to ran out of memory or ether it's problem with overheating, but netbook tends to freeze up from time to time (also it gets hot) when under heavier loads. It's really annoying and it's a huge problem. On this alone I would not recommend buying this one, but only if you cannot live without windows.

Yep. Linux to the rescue! Linux did had a problem with this laptop since Linux did not sported Intel GMA 3600 graphics (this netbook Intel Atom uses these). So you got 800x600 resolution only, or something similarly small, but since release of Linux Kernel 3.4.2 it works fine. So newest batch of Linux distributions will work better and better with this laptop. Currently I've installed Ubuntu 12.04 and 3.4.2 Linux Kernel and it works fine. Sure Battery wont hold as long, brightness settings does not work yet as well, YouTube video lags a bit too (from time to time), but hey, at least it does not freeze up for a minute once per 5 minutes and can multitask. Ubuntu 12.10 already contains this Kernel update as far as I know, so there wont be any need for addition fiddling with Linux Kernels very soon. Also running Linux makes it faster and more responsive. And no more - "you [pathetic human being] need TouchPad Drivers" popups again!

All in All

It's small little netbook, probably will be on sale for very low price in official retailer shops since Asus is killing eee netbook series due to tablet invasion for small portable devices. If you do need something like that and you're comfortable with Linux I would really suggest grabbing one just because of low price it could end up. Otherwise if you do need windows and you do need exactly netbook, I would suggest to avoid this model.

Update

So it seems that Ubuntu 12.10 will not boot at all since there is a bug that requires to blacklist that particular GMA chipset. So far the best is to run 12.04 with 3.4.2 kernel. At least that works. More info here: http://linuxrepository.blogspot.com/2012/09/how-to-install-linux-342-quantal-kernel.html

Update 2.0

Ubuntu 13.04 works fine. Unity is quite slow, but Xubuntu is perfectly usable. No issues whatsoever. Maybe something is not quite right (again it's not my laptop and I am not a primary user of it so I didin't test everything), but from first sight it's fine and so far I had no complains.

Asus Transformer Prime Revisited or Bashing The Prime

I should keep my promises... I haven't found any time to do any blogging, or I was too lazy. Who knows... Anyways this is my retaliation. As promised Asus transformer review revisited! If you haven't seen last review - look here.

The Bad


WiFi... I've mentioned that WiFi is not the strongest point of this tablet. It's still true. Range wise it's OK...ish. But the main problem with it is speed. Downloading larger files suffers from quite a speed loss. I can't tell the exact figures since it depends on place and WiFi spot, but I've ran into situations where cheap eee net-book downloads up to 4x times faster. For regular usage it's fine, just for larger files you will feel lack of speed.

Battery life is amazing. I love it. Problems appear when you ran out of battery. There is two stages of battery death. When it does not turn on, but displays an empty battery if trying. And another stage is when it does nothing at all. On first stage it takes somewhere up to 15 mins of charging time till you'll be able to turn it on. On second stage it takes up to half an hour of charging. It sometimes becomes really annoying. For example if you're not using tablet for few days or a week and just want to watch a movie in little time you got.

It's bit on the heavy side. While reading a book or playing a game it may become a bit uncomfortable. It's not a big deal but...

The Ugly

Brushed aluminium finish does look good, and I can't see any scratches on it. Fingerprints don't shine on it ether (the screen is still a magnet for them). However it gathers fat from finger prints and then dusts so that might look a bit ugly. It's still quite easy to clean it though, but it's not as easy to maintain shiny as some plastics.
OK i'm nitpicking here, but my point is that it looks really good only if it's clean therefore it requires regular cleaning of all surfaces.

Opening keyboard a bit too wide and pushing on it a bit makes a gap in the keyboard dock back side. I does not break just makes a little gap that is closed easily with little push. It's just a tiny bit annoying.

Although I was worried about audio jack connection, it turned out fine. However micro-HDMI connection turned out to be fiddly. It will loose connection from time to time if you're moving tablet. So it might not be the best option for presentations if you want to have tablet in your hands and connected via micro-HDMI. I have to point out that it won't happen randomly, so for connecting to TV and watching movies/YouTube there are no problems.

The Weird

Physical keyboard is only good in so few languages. If your native language is English or one of few supported that it's fine for you, but for me it sucks. I can't reply to the most of the emails, I get uncomfortable when using IRC or other chatting programs... The only option is to use non standard on-screen keyboard. It does work, but leaving out physical keyboard in spots where it would be most useful is a bummer to say the least. Sure I could write using only standard characters, but I feel like a retard by doing that.
It is possible to solve this issue with external apps apparently.  Also incoming Jelly Bean update might contain cure for this issue.

If I'm trying to watch a better quality movie on my TV via HDMI connection... First of all most of such movies won't be playable by default player. Sure it's a minor complain since there is so much to choose from. However most players stops playing those movies after 3-15 mins randomly. It's due to software decoders as far as I know and only few support hardware decoders well enough to be usable. So I ended up using BSPlayer. So don't rush to purchase any of the player apps and test those before buying if you need one.

Round up

These are the main bad point I've seen so far. I still think it's awesome tablet and worth it's price, just it's not as perfect as someone may portray it. Sure new model is already out there, but if you get chance to get this one for cheap, I would say it's a good deal.