Asus Eee PC 1015PEM Netbook: Reviewed On Ubuntu Netbook Remix
After waiting about a week to get my new netbook, it finally arrived! I already had plans to install Ubuntu but I wanted to log into Windows 7 just to try it out. The experience was mediocre. After being off Windows for so long, I just couldn't get used to it. Right after Windows 7 Starter was installed, I noticed lots of unnecessary bloatware. There was also a weird dock at the top of the screen. So, I waited a bit for Windows to load and a few things popped up on screen. As usual, I get some weird software company soliciting me to install a trial version of their anti-virus. After I closed that pop-up, I went to YouTube, played a video and closed Internet Explorer. I had enough! Time to install Ubuntu.
The previous night, I made a USB startup disk on my USB drive. I was eager to install Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Netbook Remix. This was the first time the new Unity desktop was launched and I was dying to try it out. I had some problems installing Ubuntu. For those that have this netbook and want to save some time, follow these directions.
First, plug in your USB and turn on your netbook. Hit F2 right aways to get into your BIOS. You don't have to change boot priority. Go to “hard drive” and set it to “USB 2” instead of the hard drive. After you do this, hit F10 and Enter. Your netbook should restart and boot from USB. After Ubuntu loads, you have a choice to try the Netbook Remix or install it. I choose to install. After that, everything is pretty much straight forward. Now you have the option of installing Flash and music codecs. Make sure your Ethernet cable is plugged. The wireless will not work.
After installation is complete, the update manager will pop up and prompt you to update your system. Do this. Your restricted hardware driver will pop up also. It will ask you to install the Broadcom STA wireless drivers. Do it. You will need it to get wireless working. After that, you're all set. Now you can customize your machine. I was not done. There was a few things I needed to take care of.
trying out the Unity interface. I decided I couldn't use it. It was
slow and cumbersome. I didn't want to reinstall Ubuntu. What did I
do? I logged out and logged back in choosing the Gnome session. What
a relief. I felt right at home... except for one other thing. The
minimize, maximize, and close buttons. I don't understand why all of
a sudden, Ubuntu wanted to be like Mac. Up until Lucid Lynx, these
buttons were on the right side. Now, it is on the left side by
default. What's even worse is the fact that there's no simple way to
change it out of the box. In order to move these button back to the right, you have
to open terminal, type “sudo gconf-editor”. Then, you need to
navigate to “apps > metacity > general”. In the “button
layout” field, replace the value with “:maximize,minimize,close”.
Hit “Okay” and close. Now I'm home. It feels good. Want an easier way? Install Ubuntu-Tweak. It's so simple, it should come pre-installed with Ubuntu.
Performance, Looks, And Initial Thoughts
how does this netbook perform on Ubuntu? I never owned a netbook
before but I expected it to be slow. Surprisingly, this little
netbook ran pretty good. It's not as fast as my Dell Inspiron 17 with
the i5 processor but it can easily handle browsing the web and text
editing. When I just installed Windows 7 Starter, I opened task
manager and saw that it was using 730 MB after opening Firefox! With
a fresh install of UNR, I was sitting on 220 MB. This netbook only
has 1 GB of RAM so it ran much leaner on UNR than it did on Win 7. I
will probably upgrade to 2 GB of RAM some time in the future. For
now, I'm loving this netbook. YouTube works fine at 480p. Video does
stutter at 720p but I don't mind. This screen only goes up to 600p so
it seems kind of pointless to watch at 720p all the time. Speaking of
screens. I love this matte screen. Asus really did a great job with
this netbook. The screen has almost no annoying reflection. It is
really easy on my eyes. One thing I wish they did was make the edges
matte. The edges of the screen is a glossy black. I wish it was done
in a matte finish. That would make this netbook perfect in the looks
department. I love the soft touch finish on the outside. It looks
really professional. From a profile, this Eee PC looks like a wing. It is a little bulkier in the back. That is where the battery fits. Putting it on a flat surface raises the netbook a bit allowing for better ventilation.
The keyboard on this netbook is amazing. The keys are quiet but solid. It is a chicklet style keyboard. This style is very popular. Some netbooks have these keys that recess when you press them. This gives them a mushy and cheap feeling. Not with this netbook. When you press a key, only that key goes down. The spacing on the keys are great. There are just the right size for the tips of my fingers. I really can't think of anything I hate about the keyboard. If I were to add something, it would probably be the ability to be illuminated.
Touchpad And Webcam
The touch pad is good. I like that is is very large. It's about the same size as my 17” laptop's. I do prefer separate buttons over a single rocker button. I like how it supports 2 finger scrolling. Some netbooks and laptops have a thin scrolling strip at the right side of the touch pad. I hate them. I always accidentally touch that part. It's nice to see Asus giving us the finger. Two of them. One thing I don't like about the touchpad is it seems a bit too sensitive.
The web-cam has a physical sliding cover that blocks the lens. This cover is not a switch of any kind. I've tested this web-cam with Cheese and it will continue to record as the slide is covering the lens. Personally, I like it. Not that I'm paranoid or anything. You never know if there is malware or the government taking control of your camera without your knowledge. As far as quality, the web-cam takes 640 by 480 pixel photos. There is also lots of noise in the picture. It is a cheap web-cam It functions fine on Ubuntu and seems on par with other web-cams I've seen. Just don't expect DSLR-type performance.
Asus claims that this netbook can get 13 hours on a charge. Let me tell you right now, they are lying. No one is going to get 13 hours on a charge. At least not on Ubuntu. Asus has low power exclusive OS called Express Gate. It's a simple OS that lets you have quick access to the Internet and key applications without having to log into Windows. I removed this partition when I installed Ubuntu so I don't have it. In Windows, when you press FN and the spacebar, you have access to what they call Super Hybrid Engine (SHE). This toggles from power saving, super performance, and high performance. That function does not work in Ubuntu. From a fresh, topped off battery, Ubuntu is telling me I have 8.2 hours of life. That actually sounds more realistic. 8 hours is perfect for me. I want to be able to last a full day on the go and that's more than enough. I just don't want to carry around a power cord like I see most people doing with their laptops. I also doubt it can last 13 hours on Windows even on power saving mode. You would have to turn the brightness down all the way, turn off Wifi, and use it just for typing I'd imagine.
In terms of up to date technologies, the 1015PEM has lots of new numbers. USB 3 support. Wifi N capability. DDR3 RAM. Bluetooth 3 support. This is great on paper. I'm glad to see this new netbook having the latest, up to date technologies. Just don't expect everyone else to be up to speed. Most Wifi networks are still using the wireless G standard. USB 3 haven't been fully adopted yet though the demand for more HD media has helped push it. DDR3 is an improvement over DDR2. I have used Bluetooth 2.1 in the past and it is slow. Bluetooth 3 compatible devices should make wireless transfers less frustrating.
Goodbye Unity, Hello Gnome!
using the UNR and trying out the Unity desktop for a few more hours,
I've decided to stick to the standard Gnome desktop. I've done a
fresh installation of Maverick Meerkat Desktop Edition and it is
serving me well so far. It seems to take a few more seconds to boot
up but that's fine with me. There were a few things about Unity that
I couldn't get used to. For one, the side bar was sluggish and
unintuitive. In comparison, it seems to me that Compiz in normal
settings run smoother than Unity. The dock was cumbersome. Because
the dock is moving, your apps never seemed to be in the same place
that it once was. The universal search addition didn't impress me at
all. I've been used to Gnome Do for years and it is much faster than
UNR's universal search. Using it right now on Ubuntu's Desktop
Edition, I can confirm that Gnome Do performs much faster than UNR's
universal search on the same machine. What's even more annoying,
because they try to ignore their sluggish performance, there is no
progress bar. There was a few times when I was trying to click on an
icon thinking that it was done when the icons moved because more
results popped up.
Also, I can't get used to the minimize, maximize, and close buttons on the left side. There doesn't seem to be an easy way to change this without breaking the whole desktop since these buttons overlay the top panel. If it was moved to the right side, it would cover the notification area. I said, “fuck it.” I'm just going to install the desktop edition and I couldn't be happier. I'm not to sure a new desktop was needed. Yes, a 10” screen is a bit small but I have no problems with screen real estate. I have not ruled out Ubuntu Netbook Remix completely. If they improve on the interface and performance, I might give it another visit somewhere down the road. As of now, there is no way I can recommend it. It needs work. Goodbye Unity. Maybe some other day.
Not For Gaming
Just for giggles, I've tried Alien Arena on this little Eee PC. After moving the window and playing with the settings to fit the screen, I got it working. It doesn't run very well. It stutters more than a nervous kid with Tourette's. Needless to say, this is not a gaming computer. I wasn't surprised really. I didn't expect it to be a power-house. I am not much of a gamer anyway. I have tried Supertuxkart and it is playable. If you decide you want to play games on a netbook, look into buying one with the Ion graphics.
Who Is This Netbook For?
After using this netbook for a few days, I am very happy with my purchase. I love it! It's perfect for my needs. I can listen to Pandora while typing up work and the battery will last me a long time. It is about the same size as a school textbook so it doesn't feel awkward carrying it around. I purchased a neoprene sleeve and it is very discreet. People can hardly tell I am carrying a netbook. Browsing the Internet have been very enjoyable. Watching YouTube videos have been fine at 480p. As I mentioned earlier, watching at 720p and above will result in stuttering. If you are looking into buying this netbook, I would definitely recommend it. Just realize you won't be able to run first person shooters or playback in 1080p HD videos. If you need a netbook for word processing, browsing the Internet, and moderate multi-tasking, then this netbook is a good choice. I purchased this netbook for $369 from Amazon. You can buy a netbook cheaper but expect a slower experience with multi-tasking. The Asus Eee PC 1015PEM is the first of many true dual core netbooks to come. My system monitor shows 4 cores running. I know it's a hyper-threaded dual core. I bring this up to show off to my friends. Yes I know it's not as fast as my Intel i5 laptop but it is cool to see netbooks finally getting a major processor upgrade. If you are looking to keep Windows 7 on your netbook, I strongly recommend getting a 2 GB RAM upgrade. I am looking to upgrade my RAM in the future. The most memory I have seen used on my netbook was 600 MB so far. I don't need it yet but I like to be prepared. I have installed Inkscape and GIMP on this netbook. There may be a time when I will have to use it. When that day come, I'll have enough RAM.
have considered getting a tablet but I decided against it. If I
wanted to consume lots of media, then a tablet would be perfect for
me. Right now, I need something that will help me get work done.
After owning a netbook, I further understand the appeal. Most of the
time when I am using a computer, I am only using the Internet. I'd much
rather carry this Eee PC to go rather than my full size 17” laptop.
I don't need a quad core computer with the latest graphics card to
surf the web. This netbook is perfect for that. I love this netbook!