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Microsoft Windows XP on the Asus Eee PC: first impressions

Now that I have a new portable optical drive, there’s no excuse for not installing Microsoft Windows XP on the Asus Eee PC. While I could have gone the route of using nLite to create a lighter, custom XP install to save on storage use, I opted not to do so for this go-around. Why? The simple reason is that most consumers won’t have the knowledge, time or patience to run through that process. That means the results and impressions I’m seeing would likely get better with a custom approach, so consider this a “worst case” scenario in general. One tweak that’s surely affecting my impressions for the better: I have a 1 GB SODIMM memory module in the Eee.Xpasuseeepc

  • Storage capacity: XP Professional SP2 takes up about 2.5 GB of the 4 GB on-board flash memory. I didn’t have XP Home handy, but if you did, you’d probably reclaim a little more space. Still, having 1.5 GB of free space isn’t that constraining to me. My mail and docs are all stored on-line, so I only need room to install applications. Considering this device is mostly used as a portable office, I don’t anticipate using up the free space with applications. In a worst-case scenario, I could use one of the USB 2.0 ports for additional storage or for portable application installation.
  • Boot up, standby, and resume: here’s where SSD really shines. Without any BIOS or registry optimizations, the XP boots up around 35 seconds after pressing the power button. When I again press the power button, which is configured to put the Eee in standby mode, the machine is idle in about 3 seconds. Pressing the power button again to wake it up: under 5 seconds.
  • Overall system responsiveness: although the CPU is running at 630 MHz, it feels much snappier to me. Previously we could compare or provide impressions between two similar systems and know what to generally expect by looking at the CPU clock cycle. That goes out the window when comparing two systems that utilize different means of storage, i.e.: magnetic hard drive vs. SSD. Put another way: the Eee PC at 630 MHz appears much more responsive and faster overall than say my old Samsung Q1 running XP at the full 900 MHz CPU speed. I’m not finding myself waiting for apps to respond; everything is crisp and smooth.
  • Battery life: the jury is still out here because I’m having an issue with the ACPI driver; the driver from Asus isn’t quite up to snuff from what I’ve read on the EeeUser forums. My fave battery monitor, Notebook Hardware Control, can’t determine the drain on the battery as a result. I’ll have to search for another option, but it’s likely that no app will help me here until I get the ACPI driver sorted out. Running the CPU at roughly 66% of full speed will certainly help the battery life, but I can’t determine how much as of yet.
  • Connectivity: one of the first things I did after installing XP and the bazillion updates to it was to get my USB727 EV-DO USB modem installed. Of course, there were no issues since the device is supported on XP. The Verizon software is managing my WiFi connections as well as my EV-DO, which is showing download speeds around 1250 kbps in my current location. Uploads are a solid 550 kbps.
  • Other functions: everything seems to be working just fine; I’ve installed Skype and the integrated webcam fires right up as expected. The trackpad still has the vertical scrolling functionality and all of the keyboard functions appear to be fine as well. It’s not that I expected an issue here, but you certainly don’t want to lose functionality when going from Linux to Windows on a piece of hardware. One key function that is lost is the handy Asus utility that lets you move windows that are off the screen. With the out-of-the-box build, you simply hold down the Alt key when your cursor is in a window. You can then move that window at will; you don’t need to drag the window by the title bar, which comes in handy on the 800 x 480 screen. In XP, you lose that ability; the only way to deal with windows partially off the screen is to use a tray app that switches the res to 800 x 600 in a panning mode.

Although I’ve barely used the Eee PC with XP, I can already see that this is a good combo for me and my work habits. The custom build of Xandros Linux worked well for me and given that I can factory restore the device quickly, I like having both options. The benefits of XP? Fewer issues with device drivers for one; my new EV-DO card doesn’t yet have a Linux driver, but works fine in XP. More third-party and mainstream application support is available in XP also. Not a huge deal for me, but to others, that’s a must.For $399, the device runs XP (and Linux) far better than I would have imagined. Right now, this is a great productivity setup for me: I’ve got connectivity practically everywhere in a relatively inexpensive device. More thoughts to come, but that’s a brief summary of my first impressions. Drop your questions in the comments and I’ll try to address them…Update: I just realized the trackpad offers horizontal scrolling support as well under XP thanks to the Synaptics driver, which is a real time-saver with the 800 x 480 screen. To recap: you get both vertical and horizontal scrolling support on the small trackpad.

21 Responses to “Microsoft Windows XP on the Asus Eee PC: first impressions”

  1. Anyone else experience their CPU being at 100% all the time with XP? It seemed to be happen to mine recently, so much so that youtube video would constantly drop frames. So in the meantime, I’ve reverted back to Linux.

  2. Hi,
    i just bought a EEE pc And im thinking about putting XP on it..
    dont no yet is it worth all the trouple in buying a portable disk drive?
    Or can i put the xp install file on a memory stick?

    Thank,
    charlie

  3. sarah holland

    Novice here. My mother bought an Asus for the sole purpose of downloading podcasts she can listen to anywhere in the house–away form her main computer. She tried an ipod first and it drove her crazy–too small and not user freindly for an old person. When the Asus arrived we found it can not download anything becasue of its Linux operating system. First of all, is that true or do we just have to try harder or is there a work around? The Asus instructions simply said “plug your ipod into the side port” . Since it can get on line, why can’t it download it directly? Is installing XP the only way out? Since we are both computer illiterate can we take it somewhere to have them perform this?

  4. @JME, just order one from the US. Even with international shipping and the usurious VAT/duty, it’ll still probably be cheaper (in Euros) than it will be when they start selling it in Germany. You just know they’re going to ask the same price in Euros as the Dollar price in the US — which’ll make it 40% – 50% more expensive in Europe than in the US.

    @Kevin, I have XP Home running on a very old 400 Mhz Celeron laptop with 160 MB of RAM (among other low-speed uses, we use it as a print server since it has a parallel port). I was amazed at how well XP ran on it…until I installed anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware software. One (or all) of those just killed the performance. Now, it runs like a dog. Have you put such software on the Eee PC? If so, how has it impacted the performance?

  5. Alan Pozner: A laptop with 15,4″ screen will have three times the weight of the Eee, thus making it not really portable.

    The key is that for $399 the Eee is about the cheapest “subnotebook” you can get. Normally, the smaller the size of the machine the more expensive it will be.

    Xou can upgrade the Eee (to a certain extend) but you cannot make a 15,4″ laptop any smaller or lighter.

  6. Alan Pozner

    Kevin,

    I know you LOVE your EEE but let me try to be the voice of reason again. The EEE is $400 and XP is not free. If you want to be legal you need to buy a copy of XP (looks like about $109). You also added RAM. That’s $550 for a laptop with a tiny screen, slow processor and small disk space. I can buy a Dell Vostro with a 15.4″ screen, 1GB RAM, XP Home, 120GB HD DVD+R for $449. I can find the same kinda pricing over at HP/Compaq.

  7. You said you were surprised at how well it ran at 630. How quickly we forget that the early XP laptop operated in that range. I still remember my 700 mHz machine that operated on XP just fine.

  8. I got just under 3 hours of continuous battery life with wifi on, the screen set at 3 notches above the lowest setting, and running XP.

    I must say though that charging the ASUS is a bit of a dog – in my estimation, it took about 3 hours to charge the battery from empty!

    Anyone else notice similar recharge numbers?

  9. Hey Kevin;

    The hold-alt to move and resize windows thing (it should resize if you right click) is a Linux thing, not just an Asus thing. It is really handy for small-screen devices, though… I don’t have an Eee, but I’m sure you can get the Hold-Alt-to-move thing on Windows using WinMover:

    http://www.majorgeeks.com/WinMover_d4961.html

    I install it on all my Windows boxes; the alt-move thing just becomes too much of a habit. ;)

  10. This article really makes me want to buy an Eee. What more could you want from a device like this.

    I can´t believe it is still not available over here in Germany. You guys are so lucky that you can just go out and buy one.

  11. It’s great, isn’t it :)

    as all umpcs, umpcsroll is must install for off screen apps..

    .. I’m using asus acpi which works, but only gives prosents ( 7, 10, 20, 30%..etc ) of battery life, not minutes…
    .. and I have set it to sleep at 7%.
    .. i’. using battery eaters battery gauge

    battery eater gave 2 h 15 min from 100% to 7% wifi on, typically getting easy over 3 hours wifi of screen down 4hours.

    My xp review: http://jkkmobile.blogspot.com/2007/12/video-review-asus-eee-pc-with-xp.html