Review: Asus Eee PC MK90 (Disney)

 
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Published: November 19, 2009 11:00 PM
By Fabien Pionneau
After years of neglect from computer manufacturers, children have finally got a computer that's just for them.  And what’s more, it stands up very well to comparison with versions aimed at adults. Asus’s Eee PC Disney (code name MK90) is designed to be usable by children ages 6 to 12 – and by their parents.

Handling: small but tough



The model we tested is designed for girls. It’s pink and white and decorated with heart motifs and images of Disney princesses. And it actually looks very nice. For boys, there’s also a blue model with a much more standard appearance that looks more like an adult model. The finish is excellent and the netbook is robust-looking.

Asus Eee PC MK90 Disney keyboard

The keyboard takes up all the available width. It’s spill resistant. The keys are a decent size (16 x 15 mm) and well laid out. The feel is supple and pleasant.

The multi-touch trackpad blends into the rest of the shell and stands out only because of its little embossed bumps. But it has a nice feel, and gliding over it is fast and accurate. Its unaccustomed appearance is less of a surprise than on the Eee PC 1101HA.
The click bar is chromed and located just below the touchpad. The buttons seemed too firm for us, especially for children.

Asus Eee PC MK90 Disney webcamThe webcam is poor. The image is noisy, overexposed areas burn out, and a lack of sharpness is evident. Fluidity also leaves something to be desired .


This nebook is fairly quiet. The fan ramps up only during heavy processing tasks like photo and video applications. With office applications, you can barely hear it.


Connectivity is very standard. There are three USB 2.0 ports, one VGA, a headphone output, a mic input, an RJ45, a 2-in-1 memory-card reader and an anti-theft connector. There’s also Wi-Fi b/g. Actually, this connectivity is consistent with the kind of use the netbook is designed for.


Under the computer is a single removable panel for access to the RAM. The battery is not removable – Asus has designed it to protect against electrocution risks for children. A removable model would have been preferable, we feel, in case a change of battery becomes necessary.
Asus Eee PC MK90 Disney Asus Eee PC MK90 Disney
RJ45, 2 USB 2.0, micro, headphones RJ45, 2 USB 2.0, micro, headphones
Asus Eee PC MK90 Disney Asus Eee PC MK90 Disney
Trackpad Card reader, USB 2.0, VGA and power

Processor Power: Standard and enough for kids

With its very standard Intel Atom N270 processor, the Eee PC Disney earned an index of 19. That’s pretty far from the index of 100 represented by the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi 3650 and its Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU, and the difference in performance is tangible. But it’s sufficient for the uses this netbook is designed for. Web and e-mail tasks will be no problem. 
On the other hand, you can forget about playing HD video. Only SD formats like DVD will be playable on this machine. But given the small size of the display, that’s not a great loss. The DVD of Cinderella will be perfectly playable once it’s transferred over to the hard disk.

Games: 2D games for children, not much 3D



With the Intel GMA 950 GPU built into the Disney, don’t expect to be able to run the latest 3D games. Plan on sticking to 2D for the most part.

Audio Quality: If your child doesn’t have a musical ear



Poor audio has become a habit with netbooks. There’s no bass and the sound is unclear and lacks all detail. The headphone output is clean and its volume is sufficient. You should note that there’s no provision for limiting the volume, which can be dangerous if you don’t keep close watch over your kids. The solution would be not to give them headphones – but if you don't, you won’t exactly be able to complain about noise in the car or house. We can’t repeat it often enough: be careful with listening volumes.

Portability & Battery Life: Can do better

With only 3 hours 1 minute of battery life in video playback, we’re a long way from the best of the current netbooks, with 6 hours 4 minutes for the Samsung N110 or 6 hours, 10 minutes on the Toshiba NB200. We’d have hoped for at least 4 hours to be sure there’s enough power to watch two movies without having to sit your child next to a power outlet.

Size-wise, the Disney is light, at 1.1 Kg and its charger is tiny, which is a very good point.

Disney desktop and parental control: Secure but quickly limited



To make the computer simple to use and keep your children from accessing inappropriate content, Asus has installed a special interface that replaces the standard Windows XP desktop. Your child has access to several menus and a shortcut bar with oversized icons. He or she can choose to play games, listen to music, view and manipulate photos, connect to the Web, and use a messaging system, which parents can filter. Each of these activities can be assigned a time limit or restricted to certain times of day, so you can limit the amount of gaming, say, or Web surfing your child does.



It’s very simple from the parent’s point of view, but sometimes it’s a little complicated for the child. The interface sometimes lacks clarity and its design could stand improvement. Certain pages contain information and explanations that are likely to be hard for children to understand, and operating the netbook ends up being not much different from standard Windows.


So, the special interface is worthwhile for a child who’s never touched a computer, and younger children in particular. You can leave the computer in your children’s hands without having to worry too much about what they might do with it. Beyond age 10, though, the limitations will probably be frustrating, and we'd advise you to move up to the next level (still with parental control, but less restrictive
4/5 Asus Eee PC MK90 (Disney) DigitalVersus 2009-11-20 00:00:00

Pros

  • Design and finish
  • Quality matte-surfaced LCD panel
  • Lightweight but robust
  • Secure parental control
  • Comfortable to use

Cons

  • Battery life only average
  • Disney desktop interface needs improvement
  • Audio not up to par
  • Mediocre webcam

Conclusion

Small, light, and robust, this Disney Eee PC is perfect as a child’s first computer. Parents can rest easy thanks to the secure parental control. We like the netbook’s quality matte LCD panel and finish. The biggest drawback is the somewhat short battery life.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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