The technology world can be a bit violence focused. Everyone is looking for a “killer app” or the next iWhatever Killer. Personally, I don’t feel that a gadget has to have bloodily murdered its predecessor to be useful or productive. Take the Asus Eee PC T101MT for example; it is not a killer, it has a few quirks, but it is a very sleek, productive, and useful computing device.
Available in the US for less than $485 ($14 less than the iPad, for what it is worth), the Asus T101MT is what has become labeled a “netvertabile.” It is most closely related to the other Asus Eee PC models, complete with an Intel Atom Processor, great battery life, and keyboard. The T101MT can do what other netbooks cannot; it can easily transform into a tablet computer that features multi-touch, a light weight design, and full Windows 7 software support. For productivity focused users, Windows 7 fans, or for people looking for a great compromise device, the Asus Eee PC is well-designed, smartly built, and very effective.
System Specific of the Asus Eee PC T101MT
The Asus T101MT features a 10.1 inch multi-touch resistive display which is capable of 1024×600 resolution. The display works well with either touch or the included stylus. Unlike the iPad or the iPhone, the display on the Asus device is not capacitive; you must apply pressure on it for the device to read your input. This works fine with Windows 7, and is actually very convenient when working with a stylus for input. Inking in Evernote, OneNote, or Windows Journal is very simple and effective.
The T101MT comes standard with 1GB of on-board RAM (upgradable to 2GB), an Intel N450 Atom Processor, Intel GMA 3150 Integrated Graphics and Wireless 802.11 b/g/n. Storage is handled via a 5400 RPM, 160GB hard drive. Powering the device is a 4-Cell removable device capable of running the machine for 6.5 hours (I have gotten over 6 hours in real-world computing). Unlike the iPad, the Asus T101MT includes a nearly full-sized physical keyboard, and a 0.3 mega-pixel web-cam for video conferencing and Skyping.
The Asus Tablet Netbook comes standard with Windows 7 Starter edition, which is a problem, because the mult-itouch screen cannot be fully leveraged in Windows 7 Starter without Asus Specific Middleware (more on that later). The device weighs in a bit over 2.5 pounds, and is only 10.4 x 7.1 x 1.22 -inches (W x D x H). Also unlike the iPad, the T101MT has a VGA output that mirrors the display, and three USB ports for connecting your your other devices. Aside from the Windows 7 Starter problem, the T101MT is well-engineered, and sharp.
Strength and Weaknesses of the Asus T101MT
I’ll be honest, out of the box, the Asus T101MT is a dog. The Included operating system, 1GB of RAM, and extensive Asus utilities make the machine almost unusable. You must upgrade the RAM to 2GB; you can put one additional SODIMM of PC2-6400 DDR2 in the expansion slot. You also must upgrade to Windows 7 Home Professional; this will allow you to uninstall nearly all of the Asus Bloatware included in the factory install. Granted, this does raise the price of the machine a bit to do the Windows Anytime upgrade, but if you are a deal-hunter, or have a Microsoft Technet Subscription, you can do this for cheap. The only real piece of the Asus software I recommend is the PenWrite software. This piece of software enables system-wide palm rejection so that you can clearly and easily ink. The PenWrite software “cheats” by calibrating the touch screen to only recognize the stylus-sized inputs.
As a tablet, the Asus T101MT is barely heavier than the iPad. I have owned both, and while it is undeniable that the Asus is heavier than the Apple, the extra depth of the T101MT makes the machine feel more substantial and easier to hold. The Apple and the well-tuned Asus are identical in speed. The difference is that I can surf the web, complete with gestures, pinching, and touching, in Firefox, Chrome, or Safari on the Asus. I can also type in Word, ink in OneNote, or do a presentation in PowerPoint. Everything can be displayed on a projector, and I can expand the already generous 160GB of hard drive with USB drives, SD Cards, or external Hard Drives.
The Windows 7 software library is as large, if not larger, than the iTunes store. You also have access to your favorites like Google Docs, Flash Games, and Flash Video. Being able to Skype, with video, is a major plus for me; when I travel, I stay in constant contact with my family via my web-cam. My iPad did not afford me that luxury. Additionally, with the Kindle Application, Barnes and Noble Application, or Adobe Editions, you have a fantastic ebook that is as readable and dynamic. You also have the flexibility to check out library books via Overdrive and your public library. Flexibility is the key word when considering the Asus T101MT.
I owned an iPad for one month, and while it “just worked” it never worked “just right” for me. I could not produce content on it; it seemed designed only to consume. I sold it and moved to the T101MT, and after tweaking the machine, I haven’t looked back. As I mentioned before, 2GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium are essential. I also recommend adding a 4GB or 8GB SD card, and dedicating it to ReadyBoost. Then, run Windows 7 through some speed tweaks. After you have spent an hour or two tuning up your machine, you will have a tablet that is complete, ready for productivity, and every bit as sexy as iAnything else you will find.