Other bundled apps include Open Office 2.0, an anti-virus package, media and music players, the Thunderbird mail client and Firefox. Everything in this little powerhouse is as familiar as the icons being used to launch any of the miniBooks' applications.

It is obvious from the very moment you start to use the miniBook that a great deal of time and effort has gone into its development. Nothing is hidden (well, we couldn’t find a terminal, but we only had it for an hour or so!) all of the available features are easy to find and it is obvious that it is aimed at guiding Windows users without losing them. Connectivity too has been closely looked at with a built-in Skype client, Gmail and Hotmail.

What is not clear is exactly where it sits in the PDA, laptop chain. Dave Leach from Research Machines gave us a presentation in which Research Machines firmly place it as an ‘access device’ rather than a productivity tool. And access it can. We successfully connected it to a Sun Secure Global Desktop Connection over a wireless link. For mobile users it may possibly be ideal lightweight thin client. Seeing the miniBook displaying and operating a remote Windows desktop seemed to many to be the icing on the cake.

As I said earlier, we only had it for an hour or so, but our first impressions are very strong. Research Machines told us the first batch are mainly destined for the government’s ‘Computers for Pupils’ initiative where the most disadvantaged children are given computers and internet connections in a bid to bridge the digital divide. This is the ideal device for it. With two models, the highest spec costing only £200 and lowest £169 it is cheap, exceedingly well thought out and above all, usable from the word go.

OUR VERDICT

As I said earlier, we had it for only an hour or so, but our first impressions are very strong. Providing no build gremlins creep in, we suspect the RM Asus miniBook is destined for a huge user and fan base, and more importantly, this could be the way that Linux finally emerges into the UK education sector at user level in massive quantities. RM Admitted to us that the profit margin on these is not very large, but boy, it is going to sell a lot of them.