Computex Taipei: Fear, loathing and the mini-laptop war

Ultraportables battle it out at Computex

Fear: Being woken by an earthquake my first night in Taipei. Loathing: New ASUS Eee PCs face a battle royale for low-cost mini-notebook dominance, as does the new Intel Atom chip that powers them.

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I spent some time with the just-launched Eee PC 901, 1000 and 1000H on the show floor and at their launch and...now I kind of want one (I'm already having visions of hooking one up to a solar-charging backpack when I go hiking, but that could just be the lack of sleep). The new Eee PCs all boast a power efficient Atom processor, integrated 1.3Mp Webcam, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi (a WiMax version is also planned) and six-cell batteries providing up to about 7 hours of battery life.

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Solid state hard drives (SSDs) are also an option for those seeking quicker boot-times, maximum battery life and improved shock resistance. (That'd be why ASUS bizarrely strapped a GPS-less Eee PC to a bicycle for models to pose with.) A couple of clever extras: an included 20GB online storage service allows for file encryption, 5GB of downloads per day, and works with both the Windows and Linux flavors. ASUS also intends to bundle a Wii-like Eee Stick wireless gaming controller with the Eee PCs and its desktop Eee Box B202 that's set to hit the US in July starting at $US269.

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ASUS hasn't committed to a US launch date for the new Eee PCs, but did say the mini-laptops would be available throughout much of Asia by the end of the month. The 901 has already gone sale here in Taiwan for $ NT16,988 (roughly $US560). The Eee PC 1000H will be available here on June 13 for about $US 630, followed shortly after by the 1000 at around $US660.

ASUS expects Eee PC sales to double to 10 million units next year, but boy has it got some stiff competition ahead. Major competitors include HP's 2133 Mini-Note (VIA C7-M chip) in addition to the just launched Acer One and MSI Wind (pictured below); both Atom-based mini-laptops start at $US399. Not to forget Dell's elusive "Mini Inspiron" or the vast range of yet-to-be-announced mini-laptops that will use competing chip platforms from Nvidia, VIA, Qualcomm, Arm and Texas Instruments. A lot of positioning right now, but this Reservoir Dogs-style stand-off is going to break out into an all-out war anytime now.

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Hopefully the competition will be a good thing because I'm definitely going to get a mini-laptop. Here's the new Eee PC breakdown, what would you do?

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Danny Allen

PC World (US online)

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