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Ultra-thin goes cheap with the Asus Eee PC X101

Asus, it could be argued, invented the netbook PC with its bargain-basement Eee PC - and it hasn't given up on the market, despite an increased focus on tablets, smartphones, and high-end laptops in its most recent releases. Ahead of its Computex launch, we grabbed some time with the Eee PC X101 - and it's a vastly different beast compared to the original.

Although formal specifications haven't yet been released, it's believed that the machine will launch running an Oak Trail Atom N435 clocked at 1.5GHz - and while the new platform brings some major performance enhancements over the original Atom models, it's still far from a beast. Gamers, basically, need not apply - and should probably look towards the company's high-end UX series instead.

For those who want an ultraportable, however, the X101 is worth a second glance: with measurements ranging from 17.6mm at its thickest point - where the three-cell battery can be found - and dropping down to a mere 3mm at the front, it's a svelte beast, and weighs in at just 950g. Despite this, it includes a rather nice island-style keyboard - and while the keys were cut down from those found on the flagship UX series keyboard, it feels comfortable in use.

Asus has chosen to equip the X101 with Meego Linux - a netbook-and-smarpthone-oriented distribution developed out of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo, but since more or less dumped by the smartphone maker in favour of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Asus chairman Jonney Shih was keen to point out that a Windows version will also be available, however.

The device includes in-built Wi-Fi, two USB 2.0 ports, and a microSD card reader. When we asked why microSD had been chosen over a standard SD card reader - aside from the space limitations - an Asus spokesperson told us that "microSD is more or less standard for tablets, and we're aiming the X101 as a tablet user's accessory."

UK pricing and full specifications have yet to be confirmed, but one thing Asus was very proud of was the headline US price: the Eee PC X101 will be hitting the streets priced at $199, the first 10-inch Eee PC to retail for the magical sub-$200 figure. A Windows version, however, will fetch a premium over the default Meego model.