If the suspect $150 Swedish laptop I ordered last month fails to materialize, I'm putting those moneys toward another cheap Linux laptop, the Asus Eee PC 701. That's three E's, for easy to learn, easy to work, easy to play. If the Eee is easy to obtain, I'm game.
Take it for what it's worth, but according to a forum post on the Web site EeeUser.com, two Eee PC 701 models will make their way to the U.S. at the end of September priced at $269 and $369. Both models will feature a 7-inch display, 512MB of DDR2 memory, a four-cell battery, and a flash hard drive. The higher-end unit doubles the capacity of the solid state drive to 4GB, which previously was thought to be the smallest drive offered. You'll have your choice of a white or a black case, and you'll be able to upgrade to a larger 6-cell battery. Larger models with 8- or 9-inch screens are rumored to be in the works.
A third and cheaper $199 model (seen here with expected ship date of December 2007) with a smaller two-cell battery will be sold overseas. This site, AllAsus.com, is taking pre-orders but requires a $150 non-refundable deposit--a bit steep considering it's just $49 shy of the full price.
Other features gleaned from AllAsus.com for the Eee PC 701: built-in, low-res Webcam; 802.11b/g Wi-Fi; 10/100 Ethernet and 56K modem ports; and up to 16GB of flash storage. It estimates the 4-cell battery will run for 3 hours, and the dimensions are 8.9 inches wide by 6.5 deep while running between 0.8 and 1.4 inches thick and weighing slightly less than 2 pounds. While the Eee PC 701 will ship with a Linux OS, the system will be compatible with Windows XP should you want to install it yourself.
Perhaps our colleagues at the Crave UK site will get their hands on the $199 model soon; they spied news of the Eee PC last month and reported it will use an older 900MHz Pentium M CPU and ship with Open Office, Firefox and Skype. We hope our request for a review unit yields one of the two higher-end models that will be sold in the U.S.
Aside from the low price and solid state hard drive, what I find so appealing about the Eee PC is that its dimensions place it in the UMPC category but it serves up what looks to be a somewhat roomy keyboard that will make it ultimately more usable than a UMPC that forces you to use an onscreen keyboard or small thumb keyboard (while costing hundreds more). And while I'm not ready to make a Linux the operating system on my primary PC, I'm more than happy to run an alternate OS on a cheap, second system that will be used for nothing more than getting on the Internet.