The honeymoon period for the hugely popular Eee PC appears to be over. Not only is it under attack from a number of copycat machines such as the MSI Wind, but it's also getting stick from people who actually bought the thing, due to an on-going battery issue.
Here's the problem: UK Eee PCs come with a 4400mAh battery. In some other countries, including the US, Eee PCs come with a larger 5800mAh battery, which gives them a slightly longer battery life.
At first glance, this looks like yet another case of rip-off Britain. Asus offers to swap users' 4400mAh batteries with a larger 5800mAh battery -- for a fee of £10, including postage and packaging -- which just seems like a slap in the face. Why should Brits pay extra for something our American friends get for nothing?
But hang on a minute, the situation really isn't as bad as it seems. First of all, Asus has always said the UK would get the 4400mAh battery -- not the 5800mAh unit. You can be jealous, fair enough, there's equal cause for Johnny Foreigner to be jealous of us.
You see, US customers get a much shorter warranty than we do -- one year for the Eee PC itself, and just six months for the battery. Here in Blighty, we get two years for the Eee and a full year for the battery. Given how expensive extended warranties can be -- Domestic & General charges £200 for a year's laptop protection -- a one-off battery upgrade fee of £10 suddenly doesn't sound so bad.
Then there's the fact that Asus has just released a BIOS upgrade for the Eee, which it says can offer up to 3.5 hours of battery life depending on usage. We've yet to try it, but you can bet your bottom we will in the next couple of days. In the meantime, you can download it here.
Crave thinks most consumers will agree the situation isn't so bleak. A source at Asus confirmed this morning that only around five people have taken it up on the battery-replacement scheme. And as prevalent an issue as it may seem, Asus says only a small minority of users ("possibly as many as five") are actually complaining.
If you're an Eee owner worried about the battery issue, Crave recommends you do the following: download the newly released BIOS upgrade. Then, if you can be bothered, reach into your pocket, send the guys at Asus a tenner, and they'll send you a nice 5800mAh battery. They'll even let you keep your old one until the new one arrives.
There. Now we can all get on with our lives. -Rory Reid
Update: Asus says it will release full instructions on how to claim the larger battery by 10 June 2008. Our understanding of the process is as follows: users will be required to fill out an online form at a dedicated micro site, which will need to be printed, signed and returned to Asus -- along with a £10 payment. Asus will then send a 5800mAh battery to the user. Upon receipt of this battery, the user is required to return their 4400mAh battery via post. Users that do not return the 4400mAH battery will be charged the full price of a 5800mAh battery.
A previous version of this article implied, with tongue firmly in cheek, that the small number of consumers who have complained to Asus were 'nutters'. Some readers did not see the funny side of this, so we have removed the comment. We apologise for any offence caused.