Another advantage to using Linux is that it's easier to make the OS fit the screen. The 701's very nice 7in, 100dpi, LED-backlit, 800 x 480 screen isn't a standard resolution, but there are pixels aplenty to ensure dialogue boxes don't disappear off the bottom of the screen as they almost always did with early Windows-based UMPCs. Any that do can usually be resized to fit the screen with just a click. Windows, rather than dialogue boxes, open full-screen by default, but it's easy to switch between them using the tabs in the status bar at the bottom of the screen.
No cut-down 'mobile' browser here
That said, run too many apps and the tabs rapidly run together into a mess because there are no separators between them. Ultimately, you end up with a line of icons. If you want some extra screen space, you can temporarily dismiss – and restore – the taskbar by clicking on the triangle at its far right end.
In one respect, the Eee PC's screen is a step backward: it's much smaller than the laptop's lid, like notebook screens used to be back in the early 1990s. Asus has wisely used the space either side of the screen for the 701's speakers – rather tinny ones it has to be said; use the earphone socket instead – and there's a 0.3-megapixel (640 x 480) webcam above it.
GUI customisation limited to changing the colour
The laptop's lid feels rigid to withstand many of the knocks and bumps that inevitably occur during a life on the road. The hinges run smoothly but with more friction than you usually find with notebooks – again, a sign of solidity. Not so the keyboard, which presented us with slightly misaligned keys that have the rattly, lightweight feel of low-end laptop keyboards circa 2000.
Typing on the 701 is certainly possible, but if your fingers aren't those of a five-year-old, it'll take a wee bit of practice to make sure you hit just the letter you want and not an adjacent key too. But all the keys you'd get on a full-sized model are here present.
Re. DRAM not Flash
The Eee PC's SSD is Flash. The write lifespan issue is overplayed. The drive's likely to last the usable lifetime of the machine.
In any case, it's easy enough with, say, Windows to write temporary files, virtual memory and such to a cheap 4GB SDHC memory card, which is what I've done. That way you (largely) limit writing to the SSD to software installations.
DRAM SSD not flash
A lot of people have commented that the SSD might not be suitable for other OSs as it has limited write life. I was under the impression that this applied to flash based storage rather than the DRAM based storage which most SSD hard disk replacements are. I'm assuming that's the case with the EEE PC - anyone know any different?
@Swap + Flash Usage
"I expect they've simply removed the restore partition that takes up quite a bit of the flash on the 4GB version (it's not really needed anyway, as you can restore the OS from a USB key or external DVD drive anyway)."
It does not have a separate restore partition. The base system which doubles up as the restore partition is mounted read-only, and is merged with the partition holding the user generated files using the magic of UnionFS. Why is it that MS with its self-proclaimed "innovative" prowess haven't come up with something as useful as UnionFS?
nlite XP, USB... and maybe even malware free?
Phil - Can you post that 'config' somewhere? (I have not seen nlite before)
Could the version you created could be run from the SD slot??
And if all writes could be directed to a USB key, then the SD carrying the OS can be write-protected... and therefor safe from modification by malware???
It's not going to take much bulk pricing at Asus, with a bit more harsh commercial realism at MIT, for this little gem to match the price of Negroponte's Dream.
Difficult decision, eh? A small but proper computer, running real operating systems and real applications, or one step up from a V-Tech "My first laptop" toy?