The anticipated Windows XP version of the Asus Eee PC has landed at Best Buy as well as CNET Labs. We had hoped our Windows-based Eee PC review unit would arrive by way of the forthcoming 9-inch model, but alas, the hardware remains the same as the 7-inch Linux version we reviewed last year. It runs Windows XP Home Edition SP2, but features the same chassis with the same internal specifications: a 900MHz Intel Celeron M CPU, 512MB of RAM, and a 4GB solid-state drive. As for the software bundle, Microsoft's Windows Live messenger, photo gallery, and e-mail suite are preinstalled, in addition to Microsoft Works.
What also stays the same is the 800x480 resolution display. You can switch the size of the desktop to a virtual resolution of 800x600, but this adjustment causes many of the icons to appear below the screen, forcing you to scroll to the bottom of the screen to reveal the rest of the desktop. The 9-inch Eee PC will reportedly bump the resolution up to 1024x600.
We were able to use some of our standard laptop benchmarks, despite the limited hard drive space, including one of our most taxing tests. The Eee PC has neither the memory nor screen resolution to run our Photoshop test, but it performed admirably on our multitasking test, which uses iTunes to convert 128Kbps MP3's to AAC in the background while converting a QuickTime movie in the foreground. The Eee PC outpaced the 9-inch Intel Classmate PC, which has a 1.8-inch 30GB hard drive and the same Celeron chip, completing the test in 102 minutes--more than 35 minutes faster than the Classmate.
Before we got to our benchmarks, we noticed how quickly the boot time was--15 seconds flat--thanks in part to the solid-state drive. We were also able to get more than three hours of battery life running a DivX-based movie on the internal drive, which is better than most mainstream consumer laptops with larger batteries, but not enough for a half day's worth of work.
While we're curious to see what a larger screen and keyboard does for overall functionality, our initial experience with the 7-inch Windows XP-based Eee PC has been a positive one. With the 7-inch version currently priced at $399 (at Best Buy in either white or black), we think the Asus Eee PC stands out among the world of affordable, ultraportables.
Stay tuned for a full review in the coming days.