June 26, 2009 at 11:45 am
The Asus Eee PC T91 is certainly one of the most eagerly awaited netbooks on the horizon. We managed to get hands-on with the 8.9-inch convertible tablet at a press event yesterday held at Lamborghini London. Overall our experience of the unit was a positive one, although we do have some reservations about the interface.
What strikes you when you first catch eyes on the T91 is just how small it is. The model doesn’t have the curves that you see on the Seashell Eee PC range, the T91’s design is more ‘boxy’, but that doesn’t detract from the styling. We found the T91 to be very solidly built, with the hinge mechanism feeling quite sturdy, something that’s crucial for such a device. We noticed no creaking when pressing on the case and, despite its size; I felt that I could comfortably put the T91 into a bag without worrying about its fragility.
The other thing that you notice quite quickly is how glossy the T91 is. Not only in terms of the display but also its lid. This may have been because we were playing with a black model, which generally is more reflective than white ones, but as you’ll see from the screenshots below, this will likely be quite a fingerprint magnet. The display itself was also glossy and under certain angles we struggled to see the screen under the bright lights of the showroom floor.
The keyboard was a joy to use, even though it was only a 9-inch model. The keys felt springier than the Seashell range, and travelled a bit further which gave a slightly better response when typing. We did notice a bit of flex on the keyboard, but much less than seen on the Eee PC 1000HE. The touchpad was also responsive with a single rocker bar at the bottom. A faux-chrome stylus is also neatly tucked away on the bottom right of the case.
We should also mention that the T91 has two memory card slots, which threw us a bit as you’ll notice on the video below. On the left side, there is a disk-expander Slot which allows you to expand the system drive capacity using an MMC/SD/SDHC memory card. Asus will be including a 16GB SD card when the T91 launches, which means total storage will be 32GB (16GB SSD & 16GB SD), not including the 20GB Eee storage. On the front of the unit, you will find a normal 3-in-1 memory card reader. This seems like a good design decision, especially considering that the price of flash memory continues to fall.
Our main niggles came to the software part. The Eee PC T91 netbook basically has three screen overlays. You get Windows XP, Easy Mode (for IE, Notes etc) and Widget Mode. When the device boots up, it launches straight into Windows XP. However, if you just want to quickly check on your email when out and about, then you can press the button that sits to the right of the power button which will launch Easy Mode directly.
Once you start up Windows, then you need to click onto an icon to launch Easy Mode. From here you can create notes, check your email etc. A flick of the screen left or right, will take you to the Widgets page or back to XP. The widgets are powered exclusively by Yahoo, so if you use these regularly anyway (like we do) then that’s likely to be a plus point, however you won’t be able to use widgets outside of Yahoo.
The main problem we had is that when trying to navigate pages, the screen seemed a little unresponsive. Some commands needed a few button presses to register , as you’ll see in the video below. It has to be said though that using the stylus worked much better than our fingers. We were playing with a pre-production sample so hopefully these issues will be sorted out upon release. We do think Asus have a very nice device here but much will depend if they can nail that interface down, especially considering the steep £450 price tag. Check out our hands-on video below.