The Asus Eee PC 904HD is currently being given away by T-Mobile on a bundled broadband package so it likely to be falling into the hands of a lot of first time subnotebook users over the next few weeks.
I’ve been an Eee fan since I bought my 701 and I’ve always been pleased by the ‘wow’ factor it produces when seen for the first time. Based on my use to date I fully expect the 904HD to follow in the 701’s footsteps and make instant favourable impressions.
My 701 was white in colour and the first thing I noticed with the black 904HD sent by T-Mobile is that the key labels are slightly harder to see unless I’m looking straight down at the keyboard but this is probably because as a Mac user I’m generally used to white keyboards.
Shipping with Windows XP means the 904HD will be a familiar experience for most users but I found it was necessary to make some changes to the default Windows settings to help legibility including adjusting the DPI setting which made text a lot easier to read.
Once I’d made these adjustments the screen clarity was much improved but I’d have expected the OS to be optimised for the device and suspect many will be unaware of how to tinker with the settings to produce a better experience.
For anyone looking to work with documents there’s a choice between StarOffice and MS Works.
There’s a pretty decent built-in webcam which sits above the screen and the bundled software include Skype and WinDVD. There’s also access to a free online storage facility provided by Asus.
Inside the box is the usual collection of CDs and manuals plus a screen/case wipe and a pretty decent zip case for the laptop itself.
Battery life seems pretty reasonable, I got about 4 hours of continuous use with a USB mobile modem plugged in and the screen brightness turned down to about 1/3 of maximum.
Using a 3G modem from T-Mobile I was able to watch the whole of the recent Top Gear special via BBC iPlayer with only a couple of brief pauses and played full screen the picture and sound quality exceeded my expectations.
Most pleasing of all, the general speed and performance of the 904HD was much faster than that of my Windows Vista laptop. As a user I welcome the continuing availability of XP for UMPCs but at the same time it dramatically highlights how wrong Microsoft got things with Vista.
Whether you buy yours direct or as part of a mobile broadband package this is an excellent choice for mobile web use.