Hard on the heels of the Eee PC 900 comes the 901, now sporting a shiny new Intel Atom processor

At first glance, there’s little to separate the latest 901 version of the Asus mini-laptop from the 900 model that was released less than two months ago. So now the casework is subtly restyled, giving gentler rounded corners, and the finish is glossier, where the previous model was satin. But the important difference lies in Asus’ choice of processor. Out goes the 900MHz Celeron, and in comes 1.6GHz of brand new Intel Atom.

Lifting the lid, we have the same 8.9in screen, a useful step up from the 7in of the original Eee PC 701, allowing the display to fill out the lid space more naturally.

Like the 900 its brightness and contrast are rather limited and there’s still a sparkly patina which further obscures fine resolution.

Looking around the chassis, we have the same array of ports and sockets - ethernet, USB, audio in and out jacks on the left side; VGA monitor out, two USB and multi-format card reader on the right. The only change here is the DC power socket which has moved from the rear position to the right side.

We did find the trackpad a little easier to use now. While the actual trackpad is still lacking in correct pinpoint precision, requiring some care to resize windows, for example, the click buttons are now much softer, improving the general feel here.

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Hard on the heels of the Eee PC 900 comes the 901, now sporting a shiny new Intel Atom processor

The new Atom processor is designed especially for low-power devices like the Eee PC, and can be under- and overclocked on the fly. So while the nominal speed is 1.6GHz – an impressive-sounding figure for such a tiny system – the 900 can be dropped to 1.2GHz to further improve battery life. And when a little extra power is required, there’s a Super Performance mode, accessible from the bottom menu bar, or through a dedicated button between the screen hinge and keyboard.

There are five buttons here: the leftmost one will switch off the screen, the second resizes screen resolution, the third controls processor speed as discussed, while the fourth is set as a quick launch for Skype. Both these last two buttons can actually be reassigned to other functions using Instant Key from the system’s Settings page. And the rightmost button is a power switch, which calls up onscreen options for Task Manager, Standby, Restart or Shut Down.

Wireless capability has been upgraded to 802.11n, although while we could connect to an 802.11g home router easily enough, we experienced problems in joining any of several office networks.

Our review sample was the Linux version, fitted with a total of 20GB of solid-state storage. Divided into 14.4GB and 3.8GB of usable space, the operating system resides on the smaller of these two drives, leaving the larger for all your personal files. Additionally, Asus is offering up to 20GB of free online storage through its YOStore application included with the OS.

In general use, the Eee PC 901 performed well, even if it was not as snappy in its interface as the lightweight operating system, 1GB RAM, and faster processor would suggest.

Perhaps most important after the change of processor, a larger 6600mAh battery is fitted as standard, and this bodes well for extended unwired use. In our initial tests this gave us around 5 hours 30 minutes of battery life.

See our Laptop Advisor website for expert reviews of today’s best laptops, plus read our essential advice to make sure you choose the right specs

OUR VERDICT

The Eee PC 901 remains an attractive proposition for computing on the move. With its larger battery and lower-power processor, it’s not far from achieving a full working day’s use without the use of mains power - and that ought to be the goal for any ultraportable that has aims to be a dependable netbook.

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