Sunday, 27 July 2008

Asus Eee PC 900: better battery for UK users - how to get one

If you bought an Asus Eee PC900 in the UK, you might have noticed that the battery life isn't too great. The Eee PC900 mini-notebook computer shipped to UK users with only a measly 4400mAh battery (and therefore poor battery life - I get about 2 hours out of mine) while buyers in the USA and HongKong got a bigger 5800mAh battery, so not surprisingly there was an outcry from customers, and Asus finally agreed to do a battery swap which to their credit is at least an attempt at customer service (see e.g. Wikipedia, and Mobile Computer's report).

Well, the battery life can now be improved in two ways:
  1. Upgrade the BIOS to 0601 (make sure the Eee is connected to the Net e.g. via a wireless network, make sure it's plugged into the mains, go to the Settings tab, Add/Remove Software, Settings tab, against BIOS Updates click Open, find the version 0601 which says "Updated all battery discharge tables to extend battery life" and click its Install button, it'll need to restart to do the update. Don't touch it while it's updating - and using it on the mains will ensure it doesn't switch off in the middle of the update which could kill your Eee).

  2. Get the higher capacity battery, which is now available. To get your hands on one:
    • buy a high capacity battery from an Asus reseller for under £30 plus postage, as a spare, or
    • return your original battery to Asus for a swap, which will cost you £10 for the battery plus the postage costs of sending your existing battery to them (or you could buy a spare and swap your original!).

1. Extra battery

Spare batteries at the £30 price point are currently quite hard to come by (most places were selling them at twice that price).

I managed to get one from Ebuyer at £28.65 plus shipping costs (delivery charges vary depending on the timing, from £2.58 for 5-day delivery to £7.23 for next day or Saturday delivery). So it's black, my Eee is white, never mind, I'll have a multi-coloured UMPC!

They might run out soon but at the moment there are still a few black Eee 5800 mAh batteries at Ebuyer. There are other UK Asus resellers but I don't know what their stock position is.

2. Battery swap

The process is a bit involved. To save you time hanging on the phone with Asus support (I spent at least 20 minutes on hold), here's what you can do (at the moment, anyway, unless Asus go and change the procedures again!):
  1. Go to the Asus EeePC 900 battery swap web page.
  2. Fill in your details and submit the form (you'll need the serial number of your EeePC900 from the bottom of the computer, see the screenshot above).
  3. Wait for them to send you an email with RMA number (return number) for your Eee, with packing instructions and address details for their agent A-novo; it may take you a few days before you get the email (chase them if you've not heard after a week), and I'd send it recorded delivery myself. If you need to call Asus to chase or check stuff, rather than donating still more of your hard-earned dosh to them by your being kept on hold for ages on an 0870 number, you can try their landline 01442 202700 (press 2 to get their support line) which unlike 0870 numbers are at least included in your inclusive minutes, if you call from a mobile phone and have that kind of package.
  4. After they get your battery A-novo will send you the replacement bigger battery; at the moment they'll meet the costs of delivering it to you but you'll be charged £10 for the replacement; again, it may take them some days or a week or two to do it.
If you haven't got an Asus Eee PC900, don't get one: get the PC901 instead, or just wait for the model after that, or get something else altogether - there's an exciting spate of mini-notebooks coming out this summer, both Windows and Linux. I know that in the tech world new models come out all the time that are better and cheaper, but normally it takes a year or so - and I'm extremely fed up that I got my PC900 just a couple of months ago, and yet the PC901 is now out - which is meant to be much better, with a 7 hour battery life. And at the same price or less than I paid for the PC900, too. Yes, this sort of thing is to be expected, but for it to happen in a space of just 2 months is ridiculous. I'm repeating myself, I know...

Sadly, I very much doubt that Asus will do for PC900 buyers what Apple did for those who bought the first generation iPhone, and refund buyers a proportion of what they paid because they dropped the price significantly just 2 months after it went on sale (yes, 2 months - same kind of time period as with the PC 901, what a coincidence).

I do like the Eee a lot, but the combination of the battery saga and the PC901 coming out "too soon" after the PC900 means that, as a consumer, I'm now not very inclined to trust Asus as a reliable manufacturer to buy from (because of what they've cost me in terms of my time as well as my wallet). As value (in all its senses) for money is important to me, it's not very likely that the next laptop or ultra-mobile PC I get will be an Asus. Not unless they let me swap the PC900 for a PC901!


Mia said...

I have to say I agree, I was really excited about getting my Asus eee 900 but now I feel a bit ripped off. I bought it to use in lectures and relied on the reviews that mentioned the longer battery life.

Improbulus said...

Absolutely, Mia! Plus the PC900 was only launched in April, so for Asus to release the PC910 with twice the battery life at the same price just 2 months later has really shafted those who bought the PC900 to use in lectures this autumn.

I guess it's fine for those who delayed and got the 910, but as even the PC900 had a long waiting list, if you didn't buy one ASAP you might have risked not getting one in time for term to start. I feel really annoyed with Asus. But at least we're not as hard done by as those who bought the 710 in March!