A week with the Eee Note EA800

December 15th, 2010 in .Laptops & Netbooks .Products
Nick Holland
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A week with the Eee Note EA800

I’ve been using the Eee Note for week or so now, taking it out with me on trains, planes and automobiles (ah, now that was a great Christmas movie!), as well as into meetings to take actual notes and of course, to show off a bit too. “You still use paper?”

OK, I’m not really that bad to work with!

The eight inch display is equivalent in size to a jotter pad, making it a good mix of writing area versus space taken in a bag. Most of the construction is of sleek looking, brushed, black aluminium, and ASUS has offset using thinner 1-2mm material by curving the edges around to create strength. It’s a technique that works well as the Eee Note feels extremely solid in the hand. It’s face is actually tempered glass, but it sits underneath an anti-glare plastic coating. This coating is also generally scratch-proof and easily cleaned too, so even if you are writing in 35C heat or your friends chocolate covered kids borrow it, that shouldn’t matter. I found a little water and a tissue cleaned it right up.

2,450dpi + 624MHz CPU = As fast and detailed as you can write.

Lay your palm and fingers on it then you can write as you normally would. There’s a temptation to treat it like other tablets, but the fact is the Eee Note is not a tablet in the sense of iPad or Android. Its design, which ignores the touch of your fingers and exclusively detects the speed and distance of the included stylus, is in its own world. Combining an ultra sensitive 2,450 dpi, 768×1,024 resolution (portrait) display with a fast 624MHz CPU, means the Eee Note genuinely keeps up with the scribbles and scrawlings you put down.

No really, the display can keep up with the input. I’ve tried to outrun it with childlike colouring skills, but the best I can achieve is fractions of a second ahead. For handwriting or drawing it’s very accurate and detailed, with several different styles of pen and 64 levels of greyscale to vary your work with. I can say it certainly gets easier the more you use it; although that’s understandable since no one picked up a keyboard or even a pen without a little learning first. It’s also worth noting that the 10 second calibration system makes a world of difference too, as everyone has a different way of holding a pen. Spend a day with it and you’ll be treating it like paper in no time.

Within the customiesd OS, the notes can be tagged for ease of searching, and the note background can be changed to represent different functions beyond simple written text. Doing some maths? How about a squared sheet or quadratic equation lines? Writing Asian text? There’s vertical lines as well. In fact with 42 already in built there’s pretty much one for every situation. Admittedly I’ve been less adventurous though and stuck to the ‘college ruled’ and plain sheets.

PC link, then drag ‘n drop.

Because the display is non-backlit and anti-glare it doesn’t stress so eyes, making it perfect for eBooks. There’s native support for ePub, PDF, (as well as MP3 , JPEG, BMP, GIF, and PNG), and ASUS includes a converter in its Eee Note PC program for other popular formats, like Microsoft Office documents such as doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt, pptx, as well as standard text files too. This converter is only part of the PC side of things, which also includes a backup/sync feature for files and settings, and it also gives access to the internal 4GB SSD. The Eee Note keeps the PC software built in, so even if you want to connect it to a fresh PC the software is ready to be installed elsewhere. The additional microSD port can be used if you need extra space, and it can all be managed from the Eee Note Sync software too. Just point it to your file and hit transfer to Eee Note SSD or SD card. There’s just no fuss, which means less stress = wonderful!

Tea ‘n Bickies.

The Eee Note goes beyond a note-taking/eBook morph though, it can take photos with the inbuilt webcam or record audio and combine them into notes actively being taken. Pasting in photos allows them to be directly annotated as well, meaning lecture boards/notes or group brain storms can be easily recorded for the meeting minutes.

Finally there’s also inbuilt WiFi to connect to the EverNote Cloud syncing service, and even a web browser built in so you can grab more eBooks while you’re sitting in the airport or anywhere else with WiFi access.

If you’re after something a little meatier, then we’ve got some awesome previews of fuller tablets very soon – so stick around for that – but I’m still reading 1984 on the train to work, before looking for an excuse to dive into the next meeting when I get there; tea one hand, bickies in the other and the Eee Note under an arm. My dream of a truly paperless office is one step closer.

Oh, P.S.: For those wondering, that’s not my hand on the front page images – it was me taking the photos! The crazy hair should reflect why I don’t have quite so well maintained fingernails!

23rd December 2010 EDIT: Now featuring a quick demo video! Because of the video compression I recommend you click through and watch it in HD for more detail.

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  • http://www.google.com/profiles/114215151932457976494 Klaus

    But isn’t 8″ awfully small? I’m really pleasently anticipating this device, but a size equally A6 rather than A5 (A5 would be 10.1″, A6 7.1″), being about the third of area of a regular A4 sheet, it seems quite a pain to write on it anything beyond a small brainstorming sketch.

    I mean, this still makes it pretty much the most interesting EReader out there for me, especially as it is supposed to be double as a graphic tablet, but academic use (meaning note taking in lectures, were “notes” for me means typically 4 to 8 A4 pages per 1.5h-lecture) should be highly limited and probably even straining the eyes way to much.

  • http://twitter.com/motonacciu motonacciu

    I really liked the review. I am just waiting this beauty will become available in europe and it will be mine. I only have a question I hope you can answer (as u own the device), does the native PDF support make possible to write notes on PDF files? and how these notes are saved?

    thanks in advance, cheers, Simone

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=676207423 Jimmy Roy

    the big question: it works on Mac OS X ?

  • Anonymous

    Hi motonacciu: I’ve just double checked this and found a mistake in the article, which I just corrected. I thought you could drag and drop PDFs onto the SD card then plug it into the Eee Note, but it all has to be administered through the Eee Note Sync software instead. It’s not a big issue, since the software is pre-loaded into the Eee Note and can be installed on any PC it connects to, but due to the way the Linux OS needs to mount and read/write to the card, the Eee Note software needs to tell the Eee Note itself to do this.

    With regards to PDF files – they are read as eBooks and through the eReader function. Yes, you can annotate them within the pen/highlighter/eraser, just like an eBook actually. It keeps the annotations to the PDF/eBook within the Eee Note though: you can’t then export them both together. Unless you use the inbuilt screenshot function to create an image, then export that (as long as you don’t mind greyscale).

    The notes themselves are saved as .nte files, which can be transferred between Eee Notes, but there’s currently no PC software to read .nte files yet. Again you can still take a screenshot within the Eee Note and export it as a picture. I’ll make sure the ASUS PM knows to add a PC editor to his list!

    Belated Edit: ASUS PM says:

    Q) Does the synch software create a desktop folder that automatically syncs (like a lot of PDAs) or do you have to physically drag files back and forth?

    A) This is not supported just yet, but it is in our plans. Now it requires manually drag’n'drop.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Klaus, the writing area is roughly 16cm x 12cm, so it’s between A6 and A5. I do sympathise that A4 is the best size for academic use, but that would make the pad huge, not to mention costly and weighty, and holding it up to take photos would be nigh on impossible! It would be uncomfortable to read books on it too: to hold it up to read while travelling. Right now, the 580g weight similar to a thick book.

    Unfortunately unless you want it thin plastic (eww!), it can’t really be done given the current technology. Would people pay more for carbon fibre? I doubt it. Even though that would be totally pimp!

    I’d imagine the EA800 is the first of many Eee Note: as you can imagine the tablet market is very new and many customers cannot differentiate between this and Android ‘tablets’ without educating them on the differences, which takes time, plus, all the market research I’ve seen says everyone wants sub 10″. As the market matures and people realise that not all portable products are made with the same functions it should become more feasible I’d imagine!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have a Mac to test it on sorry. :-(

    Belated Edit: No Mac support sorry.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KRV5Z2ZEMQIX5ML7LSPCNTDWFM k

    First of all – excellent article! I’ve been really curious about this device and there’s very limited info out there. I have a few questions.

    - Does the evernote syncing include the inked notes? Do they become JPEGS?
    - Does the evernote syncing go both ways (so notes from my computer turn up on the device)?
    - How easy would be it be to print out inked notes if I wanted to?
    - Does the synch software create a desktop folder that automatically syncs (like a lot of PDAs) or do you have to physically drag files back and forth?

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/105258054732730247605 Amr

    Is there any facility to search your handwritten notes? I’m a heavy user of OneNote on my tablet PC and the ability to search through your handwritten notes is very useful.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/105258054732730247605 Amr

    There’s a bit of news on the web regarding a 12″ version of the EEE Note:


    That’s the ideal size for me.

  • http://twitter.com/heatlesssun heatlesssun

    The HP Slate 500 running OneNote is a MUCH better note taking setup overall.

  • Anonymous

    Considering the difference in price, I really hope so. Though it isn’t even fully true.

    - The HP Slate has a backlit screen. I’m not sure yet about the EEE Note, as this is the first time aside from pixel qi that I’m reading about a non-backlit LCD screen, but I assume it should mean better readability when lights are positioned to your disadvantage.
    - The HP Slate has far less battery run time.

    So there ARE advantages to the EEE Note. Especially it is the first fully handwriting-enabled device (active digitizer) I know, which has a reasonable price for a limited use, except for smartpens that on the other hand sometimes require expensive replacement paper and for sure don’t come with a screen.

    I don’t get however, why they didn’t go for 10″. Component prices/availabilty? Academic use not main target market?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4O5EYTMAR32JCHQIOBVGYCX5E4 Thomas

    How did you get hold of this device? I’ve been drooling over the note ever since I heard of it 2 weeks ago… I would really want to get my hands on one as soon as possible. Assuming of course that I’m able to get it in English…

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/thomicron Thorsten

    Since my iRex DR 1000 is dying, I desperately need a replacement for annotating PDF files (grading papers, marking up manuscripts, etc). Therefore I’m a bit disappointed that it appears to be tedious to export annotated PDF files.

    Two questions:

    a ) is it possible to take snapshots of all the pages of a document in one step?

    b) What is the format of the .nte files? For the iRex I wrote my own program to merge the annotations (the company provided no Linux version) and I should be able to adapt it, if the format is not too obscure.


  • Anonymous

    Evernote, which the Eee Note is packaged with, allows you to search stylus-created docs on a Windows-based tablet (when you’re logged into your online Evernote account). This is what I do frequently with notes created on my old Dell XT (stylus input)

    Is this still the case with the proprietary files created by the Eee Note?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KRV5Z2ZEMQIX5ML7LSPCNTDWFM k

    Oh, one more thing. Is there any form of password protection for notes?

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately you have to snapshot each page and I’m not technical enough to know what format the .nte files are sorry.

  • Anonymous

    How does it search through them exactly? The Eee Note uses a tagging function for each note.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/thomicron Thorsten

    Thanks for the reply. Could I ask you to send me such a .nte file (possibly together with the corresponding snapshot) so that I can see whether it’s possible to guess the format (it was very easy for the iRex DR). Thanks, Thorsten, a.k.a. ohl (at) physik (dot) uni-wuerzburg (dot) de

  • Anonymous

    Hi Nick. If you upload notes created with your stylus into Evernote, it does a full-text search and will pull up the notes that contain the word/words you’ve searched for. This only currently works when you’re logged into your online Evernote account, rather than through the desktop client.

    I was wondering whether inked notes created by the Eee Note are searchable in the same way when uploaded to Evernote. I understand what you mean about tags, but that’s not the same as a full text search.

    Thanks for the insight and thorough review of the Eee Note

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think so. There’s no handwriting recognition, it’s treated as a picture essentially (as far as I know). The .nte files do extra things like keep a record of the undo states and tags you give the notes that make them globally searchable within the Eee Note.

  • Anonymous

    Tagging the notes manually.

  • Anonymous

    Component prices/availabilty? Academic use not main target market?

    @Yu0 – I think it’s just testing the market. It’s an affordable price right now, but make that 10″ and it shoots up. The thing is if you wanted to read eBooks (which I’ve done with it on every single train journey for the past week!) 10″ is bigger than most paperbacks so difficult to hold – especially on a crowded train. But who knows, if there’s interest from academia then maybe ASUS will make a 10″/A4 version?? There’s definitely a second gen in the works because they keep talking about adding colour.

    @heatlesssun – The HP is $800, you can’t rest your palm on it because it uses a capacitive screen and it’s only available in the States! I’d *love* to try a HP Slate to compare OneNote, but I live in Europe (and don’t have $800! ;-( )

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, k. Sorry I didn’t see your reply sooner because ASUS asked for the Eee Note back yesterday to give to another journalist :-(

    I can’t remember about Evernote specifically – I will try to borrow it again to check this – but I can answer the sync question: the desktop machine automatically makes folders and copies (just the latest version, I think) back and forth. You don’t have to drag files. Selecting new files (txt/office docs etc) requires a quick run through the converter, then selecting a check box in the program and it’ll send them to the Eee Note. Those are then included in the next sync up.

    I did find out an update for the micro SD card though: making a directory called “books” and “notes” on the SD card means the Eee Note can ‘see’ new files without using the software, as long as they are native formats like ePub or PDF. When you plug the card into the Eee Note, hit “sync” when it prompts you, then it’ll see compatible stuff (.nte, epub, pdf) automatically!

    As for password protection.. urmmm.. not that I ever saw. It’s something I never considered tbh and certainly something it needs – either on notes or globally when you turn it on! I’ll bring it up with ASUS. Since it’s a new product there will likely be updates as they refine it with user requests.

  • Anonymous

    I have good contacts in ASUS to borrow one to write about on here :-D but I had to give it back :-(

    They launched the Chinese version in Taiwan not so long ago, but this one has the first version of the English software on it that they are still tweaking (although I couldn’t tell you what still needs doing!). It should be available in Jan-Feb in Europe/US from what I heard.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4O5EYTMAR32JCHQIOBVGYCX5E4 Thomas

    Aww. Then I suppose I’ll have to manage going through christmas without it :( Thanks for the reply though! And great review also!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4O5EYTMAR32JCHQIOBVGYCX5E4 Thomas

    Actually, I read a few places that there is a 12″ color version with a windows OS underway sometime in 2011. Though that wil cost about 800-900$. That may however be a very useful tool for professional artists, architects and so on if it is quick and has a good resolution.

  • Anonymous

    Apparently I’m getting some pics of it soon ;-) So check back next week :-D

  • Anonymous

    I just found out: EverNote can search handwritten notes. If you use the function “add to Evernote” it will sync with it and then make it searchable!

  • Anonymous

    I just found out: EverNote can search handwritten notes. If you use the function “add to Evernote” it will sync with it and then make it searchable!

  • Anonymous

    Oh nice find! I’ll see what I can dig up and do a comparison article if possible! :-D

  • Anonymous

    Sorry I didn’t copy any to my PC before I gave it back :-(

  • Anonymous

    Excellent! That’s a big difference maker for the Eee Note. Any update on the U.S. release date?

    Thanks Nick.