No matter what positive characteristics this netbook may have, the biggest negatives are sufficient for me to conclude: do not buy this machine.
My point of comparison is just one machine, an HP Mini 1116NR from nearly three years ago. I have recently shattered its screen by dropping it, but for what I paid, it’s the most remarkable computer I’ve owned.
Starting with the non-negotiables on the Asus Eee PC X101CH:
- The power connector is impossible cheap and fragile. It’s an old-fashioned cylindrical conductor but only about 3-4 mm wide (tiny) and therefore wiggly and weak. It already has a serious connection problem, and I have to constantly check that the indicator light says it’s well connected.
- The keyboard is horrid. People have figured out how to fit a good keyboard on a netbook-sized space, so why provide a bad one? The right shift key is half sized, which I might learn my way around, but the keys don’t respond easily and my error rate (mostly missed letters) when touch typing on this machine is too high. It’s still very difficult after weeks of using it.
- The hard disk also makes the most dog-awful noises: really loud clicks and pops when it wakes up and at random times for no reason I can tell. Since I have the netbook in part to take to seminars and meetings, this is completely unacceptable.
Those three are deal-breakers for me. Other than them, all I can do is to compare with my years-old HP mini. It had a 16 GB SSD (solid state) drive rather than the 320GB noisy and slower and less robust drive that the X101CH has. I’m a huge fan of the SSD’s speed and lack of fragile moving parts. Although no features of the X101CH are better than my old netbook, it is slightly bigger overall, and so it doesn’t fit in my camelbak for running to work. Interestingly, the HP mini was cheaper three years ago than the X101CH today. Moore’s law has forsaken me in this market. Indeed, these days I often find zero netbooks offered with SSDs.
I do like the “VGA” graphics connector built in to the X1010CH. On my old netbook, I had to buy an extra dongle to connect to external displays.
The only other problematic differences I’ve experienced is in support for its hardware. The graphics card does not have open specifications and so open-source operating systems have had a hard time supporting it.
Ubuntu 12.04 and Ubuntu 12.10 on the X101CH
As of November 2012, Ubuntu 12.10 is a complete failure on this machine. After a long time waiting (from what I understand) 12.04 gained support for the graphics chip, and installing 12.04 with a network cable handy worked perfectly for me (sound, mousepad, display, sleeping, etc) — with a few exceptions:
- The resolution provided on an external monitor is only 1024×600, the same as the built-in display. This is awful; my old netbook provided a full-resolution extended desktop over two monitors. Worse, after an update (?), external monitors are completely unadjustable and only 3/4 of the desktop is visible on any external display.
- Also, while the touchpad’s two-finger scrolling feature works, I’ve not been able to to get it to be sensitive enough to be comfortable.
- Lastly, the brightness controls do not work. There are only two levels, it seems, and neither is very dim.