A teenager reviews my Eee PC 900

The Denki-Guy is a family man and fortunately,the entire family is very receptive to new technology.  Over the past weekend, I allowed my 16 year old daughter to take over my new Eee PC 900.  The understanding was that the change of ownership would be temporary and she would share with us, her thoughts about the computer.

The media fervor over the Morgan Stanley research report authored by 15 year old Matthew Robson inspired me to report on my daughter’s thoughts on the Eee PC.  Parents are often accused of not listening to their teenagers.  I think the same thing can be said of technologists.

It has been my experience that engineers devote the most energy to features they want to use themselves.  As a concession to the non-technical crowd, we may consider how our mothers or grandparents my interact with a device.  Any consideration of teenage usage patterns are an afterthought.  As a technologist myself, I think we have our priorities reversed.  A few short years from now, today’s teenagers will be the next generation of young professionals.  Teenage preferences today will define the must-have features of tomorrow.

The first thing my daughter said she liked about the Eee PC 900 is it’s sleek industrial design.  This is not surprising from someone coming from the iPod generation.  To someone from the Denki-Guy’s generation, sleek design is a costly feature that requires a reduced functionality.  To my daughter, a sleek, fashionable industrial design is a basic requirement, not a luxury.  Functionality trade-offs are only accepted when the rational is understood.    For example, the trade-off of keyboard size vs. overall size is an easily understood trade-off.

The second on the list of likes is the small compact size.  The smaller size would allow her to take the Eee PC to more places like the library, school or a coffee shop.  She comments that the keyboard feels a bit small but is is large enough for typing.  Any smaller and she would need to resort to two fingers.  I asked if she would prefer a larger keyboard and she said no, she prefers the smaller size.  She doesn’t have any particular comments regarding the screen.  It does the job.

Another factor in the plus column is the price.  When I told my daughter how much I paid for my Eee PC 900 ($130 + shipping), she immediately asked if that was a close-out price (which it was).  She felt that a good price point for a teenage Netbook user would be about the same as that for a higher end cellphone or iPod, around $250.  Her logic is that if parents are willing to buy their teenagers a cool cellphone or iPod, they are unlikely to balk at buying a netbook for about the same price.  If the PC is priced any higher that that, it becomes too precious to to be portable.  She would be afraid to take it with her because of the possibility of loss, theft or accidental damage.  BTW, newer version 9 inch Eee PCs are available online in the $200 to $250 price range.

As for the negatives, the first comment was about the appearance of the desktop.  The words my daughter used to describe it were “Old School”.  She has come to expect slicker user interfaces like the iPhone, SideKick or Windows Vista.  She also felt there were too many mystery icons in the tool tray.  The Smiley face in particular annoyed her.  Another negative was the heat.  The Eee PC 900 gets quite warm during operation. My daughter comments that you definitely would not want to hold this computer on your lap, during the summer.  On the other hand, the warmth may be nice during the winter.  When I pointed out that the energy producing the heat came from the battery, she added that the battery life was too short and energy should not be wasted on heat.

The above negatives were relatively minor and would not affect my daughters desire to use the Eee PC 900.  There were two issues that were more significant:

  1. The battery life is too short to allow for extended usage.  Based on my daughter’s usage pattern, the battery was good for about 2 hours of constant usage.  Since portability is important, my daughter does not want to carry a power adapter around.  This implies that the battery needs to last all day.  Practically speaking, the computer will not be used heavily for eight hours straight.  I believe that four hours should be the design goal.
  2. The other significant issue for my daughter was the lack of iTunes support.  To the younger generation, an iPod is a must-have device much like the record player was to out parents.  The lack of iTunes support means that the owner of an Eee PC with Linux must have access to another computer running the Mac OS X or Windows.  The problem in this case is that Apple has never released a Linux version of the iTunes application.  Of course one could always spend the extra money and buy a Windows version of the Eee PC

Overall, my teenage daughter liked the Eee PC 900 and was reluctant to return it when I asked for it back.  I really think that ASUS has a real hit with the Eee PC series.

The Denki-guy

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One Response to “A teenager reviews my Eee PC 900”

  1. Kevin Folan Says:

    I also went for a closeout model – the HP 2133 Mini. $350 from Wolf Camera online (I signed up for their weekly bargain email). This one sold out fast, as the device had the max RAM (2Gb) and webcam. It was discontinued because the newer model (2140) replaced the Via processor with the Atom. I really wanted a Macbook Air like one of my coworkers but no way was I going to pay that much. The HP 2133/2140 have a nice aluminum skin that makes it a “poor man’s Air”. It is an attention getter as I carry it around opened up. Drawbacks are weird resolution (1024×600) which is too small for some dialog boxes; MacOS has not been ported to this device (Via graphics seems to be the blocker); runs hot!; short battery life. Since I couldn’t turn it into a hackintosh I put Windows 7 on (next best thing?). iTunes is not an issue for me, I’m a happy ZunePass subscriber.

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