At first glance the RM (Research Machines) Asus miniBook doesn’t seem like much, it’s tiny at 22.5cm wide, 16.5cm deep and just 3.5cm high. Plus, it weighs less than 1kg.

Coupled with a white plastic chassis, a 7in screen and keyboard keys that are too small to be used comfortably, it looks more like an oversized PDA or advanced digital photo frame.

It’s only once you switch it on and use it for a few minutes that you begin to realise your jaw has dropped without you even knowing. The miniBook is something rather special.

The version we played with (the only one in the country as far as we know) was powered by a 900MHz Celeron-M and had 512MB of RAM. It runs the custom Debian Linux core and applications all run from a 4GB RAM drive with almost zero effort.

A quick look around the chassis reveals a plethora of ports and connectivity that makes it better supported than some of its far more expensive big brand sub notebooks. It has 3 USB 2.0 ports, 802.11b/g wireless, as well as a standard LAN port and a modem to ensure that you can connect from almost anywhere. A VGA connector, SD card slot and headphone socket fill up the remaining space around the chassis.

There is no CD or DVD drive on this device, and to be frank, it doesn’t need one. It also has 2 speakers mounted either side of the screen to assist the miniBook in video conferencing. With its inbuilt webcam and multimedia functions, the miniBook is very well equipped.

When you fire up the miniBook the first thing you really notice is the boot time, or lack of it. In fact, you will probably shut it down and reboot it just to make sure you weren’t bringing it out of sleep mode it’s that fast. The 4GB RAM drive is ideally suited to this kind of device.

Once the OS has loaded you are presented with what can only be described as a tabbed desktop with a taskbar at the bottom of the screen. The tabs, labelled, Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings, Favourites, and of course Help are all stuffed with icons enabling you to perform almost any task you can think of. Selecting the settings tab reveals access to a host of features from the mundane volume control to the useful ‘Add\Remove Programs’ which uses a graphical utility to automatically download and install any extra applications you require. Unfortunately we did not have time to see this in operation.

Next page: bundled applications > >