Having planted the idea of netbooks into people’s consciousness a year ago with the Eee PC 701, Asus has since given us 8.9-inch (the 900 and 9010) and 10-inch (the 1000) versions. With its latest addition to the Eee PC family, the S101, the company has moved the goalposts again.
The S101 looks like no other netbook available (at time of writing) because Asus is aiming for a another market segment that previously we thought didn’t exist: the premium netbook. Unfortunately it comes with a premium price tag.
On sheer looks alone it should be a winner; never before has a netbook been the cause of so many ooohs and aaahs in our office, and once you get your hands on one you will understand why.
The stylish, slim-line (266 x 191.2 x 28.5/38mm) S101 weighs in at a mere 1.1kg (without the AC adaptor) and is available in three colours: brown, white and black (or as Asus would have you believe, Mocha, Champagne and Graphite). Its sleek look makes it appear as though it came out of Asus’s stable of ultraportable notebooks, since it’s totally unlike its Eee PC brethren in appearance.
There are three versions of the S101 but the one you are more likely to find is the Windows XP Home version (our review model) with its 16GB SSD drive. There are two much harder to find Linux versions with 32GB and 64GB SSDs, costing approximately £489 inc. VAT. To boost the capacity of the Windows version, Asus bundles in a 16GB SDHC card supported by the built-in 4-in-1 card reader, bringing the capacity up to 32GB.
Opening the lid reveals a quality, brushed metal finished wrist pad and a spacious keyboard that runs almost the entire width of the netbook. And because of the size of the screen, the S101′s footprint allows space for good sized keys. The keybed shows hardly any flex and the keys themselves are nice and responsive, the result being that the whole thing feels really good to type on. Similarly the large touch pad is responsive, as is the single rocker-style mouse button.
The 10.2-inch, LED backlit screen with its 1,024 by 600 pixel resolution is impressive, and it’s good to see that it has an anti-glare coating and produces clear, bright images. The only real downside to the screen is the nasty big gloss black bezel that goes around it; it should have a nice thin bezel to carry on the slim-line design. Built into the top of the bezel is a 0.3-megapixel webcam.
For all its sleekness the S101 is still a standard netbook underneath the skin, with an Intel N270 Atom processor clocked at 1.6GHz and backed by 1GB of DDR2 memory and Intel’s 945GSE chipset. Port-wise you get three USB 2.0 ports, two audio ports and a VGA port, while to connect to the outside world there is 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0 and a 10/100Mpbs wired Ethernet.
Bundled in with the S101 are Microsoft Works 9.0 and StarOffice 8, along with Windows Live Suite, which is enough to get you up and running.
Battery life is not quite up to the dizzying standards of other Eee PCs but it’s still not too shabby; four hours of life from the 4-cell battery while using the S101 for normal, everyday applications.
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