Finger inputs are best reserved for launching applications and the general manipulation of application windows, while the stylus comes into its own when prodding at smaller icons, such as those in the Windows XP system tray. Asus deserves credit for enabling the 'large fonts' and 'large icons' options in display properties, both of which make it slightly easier to operate the T91 with your fingers. The company also deserves praise for providing a screen that delivers decent picture quality.
Asus has supplied a couple of bespoke graphical user interfaces, designed specifically for poking about in. The first of these, Touch Gate, provides finger-friendly access to a range of commonly used applications, including Internet radio, a calculator, a photo app, Notepad and Internet explorer. The second GUI, Touch Gate Widget, displays -- you guessed it -- widgets, or mini applications, including an event calendar, stock information and so on. It's fairly useless, since these apps can easily be launched from the start menu, but some users may get value from it.
Asus has let the T91 down slightly with its choice of CPU.
Whereas the majority of Eee PCs use 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPUs, the T91 has to make do with a 1.3GHz Atom Z520. We found this chip's performance to be fairly ponderous during everyday use, and extremely frustrating when running even moderately demanding applications.
The addition of a paltry 1GB of RAM doesn't help, and you might not be too chuffed to find the hard drive in the T91 is a tiny 16GB solid-state drive. Total storage is expandable to 68GB by installing a 32GB SDHC card in the machine's disk expander bay and making use of the 20GB of online Eee Storage, but the T91 isn't ideal for storing a large multimedia collection.
The T91's wireless capabilities are very good. It includes 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, so it'll connect to just about any type of wireless network, and it also has Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, so you can connect Bluetooth-enabled peripherals. It's also equipped with a 0.3-megapixel webcam, a relatively average-sounding set of stereo speakers, and a digital array (twin) mic, which is slightly more effective than standard mics for anyone using voice-recognition software.
The T91 comes pre-loaded with copies of Microsoft Works, 60-day trials of Microsoft Office and Norton AntiVirus 2009, and a variety of Asus software. Inside the box, you'll also find a recovery disc -- even though the T91 lacks a disc drive -- and a carry pouch.
The T91 wouldn't run our benchmark tests, but we don't need PCMark05 to tell us it's slow. The 1.3GHz CPU and Intel graphics aren't even quick enough to run BBC iPlayer without dropping frames, which is hugely frustrating.
The software designed to accompany the T91 is pretty ropey, too. The handwriting-recognition software, in particular, does its best to frustrate the life out of you by only recognising one written character at a time, meaning you have to write a letter and wait a second before you're allowed to write another. Needless to say, writing long sentences, never mind lengthy documents, is a pain in the backside. You'll probably find yourself reverting to the tiny keyboard instead.
Thankfully, battery life is pretty good. The T91 lasted 3 hours and 36 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, and an impressive 5 hours and 10 minutes in the less intensive Reader's test. The only disappointment is the fact that the lithium-polymer battery isn't user-replaceable, so you can't carry around a spare, or swap it out for a new one when it goes bad.
Asus' Eee PC T91 is something of a disappointment. It could have been the ultimate netbook, combining portability with the flexibility of a twisty screen. Unfortunately, its limited storage, fiddly keyboard, rubbish performance and below-par touch software mean you're better off with an ordinary Eee PC.
Edited by Charles Kloet