It is not often that you find a laptop/netbook not preinstalled with Windows. Well, the hot & sexy ASUS EeePC X101 does fall in that category. This 10.1-inch white colored super thin monster is powered by Intel Atom N455 processor and packs in 8GB SSD, with a 1GB DDR3 memory stick. And the surprise package is, it comes with Meego as the pre-installed OS.
What is Meego?
MeeGo is a Linux-based open source mobile operating system project. Primarily targeted at mobile devices and information appliances in the consumer electronics market, MeeGo is designed to act as an operating system for hardware platforms such as netbooks, entry-level desktops, tablet computers, mobile computing and communications devices.
It was first announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2010 by Intel and Nokia as a joint venture. The stated aim is to merge the efforts of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo former projects into one new common project. According to Intel, MeeGo was developed because Microsoft did not offer comprehensive Windows 7 support for the Atom processor. In November 2010, AMD also joined the alliance of companies that are actively developing MeeGo.
The Netbook UX (user experience) is a continuation of the Moblin interface. It is written using the Clutter-based Mx toolkit, and uses the Mutter window manager.
MeeGo’s netbook version uses several Linux applications in the background, such as Evolution (Email, calendar), Empathy (instant messaging), Gwibber (microblogging), Chromium (web browser), and Banshee (multimedia player), all integrated into the graphical user interface.
Disclaimer: Before going ahead with this review, I would like to bring it to the reader’s notice that this article is essentially a review of the laptop ASUS EeePC X101 and its hardware, and not the Meego OS in itself, although the OS shall surely be touched upon at the outset.
Hardware & Design
The laptop shall surely get full marks in the looks department. With svelte white exterior and thickness of just 17.6mm, it surely lives up to the genre of a compact netbook. Comparing the form factor with a Macbook Air 11”, the impressive design can be appreciated all the more. Plus, it is also very easy to carry and the 920 grams of electronics hardly weighs you down.
The netbook has a MicroSD card slot, one USB 2.0 slot, the power point and the VGA port on the left. At the right, there’s the microphone hole, another USB 2.0 slot, the Ethernet port and the BitLocker slot. No attachment in either the front, or the back of the netbook.
Open up the lid, and you shall be greeted by a 10.1 LED screen and a beautiful chiclet keyboard. However, I am afraid, the keys are a pain to type on and is prone to many typing errors since they are too spaced out (I must admit, I use a HP Mini 210D netbook regularly, and am no stranger to netbook keyboards). Moreover, the keys seem to work only if they are pressed bang in the center. I had to resort to a Bluetooth keyboard while working on the netbook for longer hours.
The laptop screen has about three-quarter of an inch of white colored plastic border that robs quite a bit of its chic appearance. Otherwise, the LED screen itself is very bright, comfortable to work under different lighting conditions, and has a maximum resolution of 1024x600 pixels.
As already mentioned, the netbook packs in 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 8GB SSD. Thanks to the presence of the solid state drive, the computer boots up in 5 seconds flat! Yes. Now you don’t need to put your computer on standby or hibernation to be able to boot up and start working quickly. Plus, since a SSD has no moving parts, all data can be accessed at a very quick pace, making the laptop a pleasure to work with.
The speakers are very sub-standard and almost unusable. If listening to music and watching videos feature in the priority list, then purchasing a good pair of ear/headphone is a must.
ASUS EeePC X101 ships with a 3-cell battery that lasts roughly 3 hours at a stretch, while connected to the WiFi. Yes, for the standards of a netbook, the battery performance is very dismal. And while watching a movie, it refused to last for more than 2 hours and 15 minutes. Of course, a 6-cell battery pack can be installed, but that’s an overhead cost. Plus, any leading netbook in the market easily dishes out 5 hours at least, in today’s date.
Meego – the Operating System
The OS is still in a very nascent stage and screams for at least hundreds of more hours of development. The bugs are prevalent everywhere and its stability is very unpredictable. What was shocking was although a netbook was supposed to be used on-the-go, it refused to accept mobile telephony (read: Tata Photon+, Reliance NetConnect etc) as a valid method of connectivity! In short, a data card or a mobile’s 3G connection can’t be used to access the Internet. This, in itself, is a deal breaker for Meego as an OS.
In future, ASUS also plans to bundle Windows 8 with the netbook, and I was very tempted to test out the recently launched Windows 8 Developers’ Preview on the device. However I later decided against it since even that OS is in a pre-beta stage and a review of the same would be unfair.
At a price of Rs 12,499, the netbook as actually a power packed hardware to have. Apart from the uncomfortable keyboard, something that can be overcome with practice, the ASUS EeePC X101 is a great laptop. However, it is advisable to erase the pre-installed Meego immediately after purchase and replaced by a more robust OS, like the Windows 7. However, my personal recommendation shall be the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, or even JoliCloud.