Asus X101H first impressions


Back in COMPUTEX Asus announced a game changing product – the Asus X101, their $200 netbook. One of the main reasons why the X101 was priced so cheaply was because of the OS being used – it utilizes MeeGo, an open source operating system that is also used on the recently unveiled Nokia N9. Today we’re getting an opportunity to sit down with the Asus X101H and experience the desktop version of MeeGo for the first time.

The device we got to handle for this particular sit down was the X101H, a thicker version of the X101. The X101H has a 250GB HDD as opposed to a 16GB SSD that’s on the X101, a VGA port that’s also missing on the X101 and a chunkier 22mm profile as opposed to the X101’s anorexic 17.6mm. Aside from those small differences the X101H is identical to the X101.

But the real star of the show is MeeGo. When you first start up the device, you’re greeted with MeeGo’s home screen. There are several panes, or “zones” in MeeGo, , like status(social networks), internet (browser), people (IM), media (music and video), applications and devices. Seems that the creators of MeeGo made a conscious decision to make social networks the center of attention here, as you’re able to see your Facebook and Twitter streams right away, without having to go to a seperate web page.

Video playback was good, but don’t expect the device to handle full HD video well, because that’s not the point of this device.

Users can download apps for the platform via an app store. Naturally there wasn’t much content on there during our sit-down with the device, but users can expect a gamut of apps both paid and free in the next few months.

The overall look and feel of MeeGo is a bit light hearted and cartoony. The icons are a throwback to retro designs, so it may not appeal to everyone. Attaching USB devices may also be a bit difficult – since MeeGo is based on Linux not every device will work. Simple devices like mice, USB sticks and external HDDs will work without problems, but more complicated devices like internet dongles and the like won’t.

MeeGo seems to rely heavily on cloud computing, and a lot of its features depend on an active internet connection. Asus tells me that their target demographic are people who just need a device that can surf the net and access their social networks – which is basically the target audience of netbooks – at a lower price point. They were still pretty tight lipped on pricing and availability, but they assure me that they’ll have one in 2-3 weeks time.

We’ll have a full review of the X101H when we get our hands on a review unit.