Asus – EeePC 901 on Orange mobile broadband review

Orange's 'free' netbook is the super Eee PC 901 from Asus
Photo of Asus – EeePC 901 on Orange mobile broadband
£24.47 per month, 24-month contract

Asus can be credited with having started the whole netbook idea off (at least in its current incarnation – we haven’t forgotten Psion). Even if you want to argue against that proposition, perhaps opting for Intel with its Atom processor as the driving force, or some other player, then it is difficult to argue that Asus has not been a driving force behind the format’s success. With more Eee PC models than you can shake a stick at, it has certainly kept the competition on its toes.

Orange has decided to adopt the Eee PC 901 as its ‘free’ netbook when you take out a mobile broadband contract. Now, while you don’t actually pay for the Eee PC 901 itself you do have to sign up to a £24.47 per month contract for two years, so there is a price to pay.

The contract is subject to a 3GB monthly usage limit and once you overstep that you’ll pay per megabyte. To its credit Orange offers a usage calculator at its Web site which might help you work out whether 3GB a month is enough for you.

Data connections go up to 3.6Mbps, but what you’ll actually get will depend on your location.

On its site Orange says the Eee PC 901 is worth £350, but when we looked around on the Web while writing this review we found it SIM- and contract-free for prices around £250.

Our Orange review sample came with its SIM card fitted underneath the battery, which itself slots into the back of the notebook. With Wi-Fi here as well you could take advantage of free wireless networks to help you make the most of that data allowance. And there is Bluetooth too.

So, what about the remainder of the specifications of the Eee PC 901 and its usability? Well, there is a 1.3-megapixel camera for videoconferencing, 16GB of SSD internal storage, 1GB of RAM and Windows XP as the operating system. At 1.1kg you’ll find the Eee PC 901 doesn’t take up too much bag space and it comes with a protective pouch.

The 8.9-inch screen isn’t huge, but as long as you only want to look at one window at a time it should be fine, and the wide format 1024 x 600 pixels give good Web page rendering. You can go to 1024 x 768, but if you do that you need to scroll around to see the full screen.

The keyboard is pretty good. It is cramped and even our small hands had trouble getting used to it, but we can’t fault the construction quality. The built-in software, meanwhile, includes things like the Adobe reader, Microsoft Works and StarOffice. There is a reasonable range of connectors including three USB ports, external monitor connector, headphones and microphone and Ethernet.

So, how did the Eee PC 901 fare online? Connections were easy to make and held up well. Orange’s software includes an SMS manager which proved efficient and fast. We liked that it pops up a ‘new message’ indicator when a text arrives, and it rings like a phone. Web browsing was also painless and we have no real complaints about efficiency.

Company: Asus

Contact: 0800 079 2000

We think taking on a 24-month contract, when both mobile broadband and the netbook area are so volatile and fast changing, might seem like a bad idea six months down the line. But it is not difficult to see why Asus is at the top of the netbook tree.