Sadly, my original Asus EeePC 701 died. After a sequence of events that was likely not entirely Asus' fault, it refused to POST. I tried everything and, as I write this, the machine is in for repair with a replacement to be arriving early next week.
This left me without what has become my main machine for two weeks. I'll admit that I went through withdrawal. The EeePC is so handy that I tend to take it everywhere. Late last week, after discussing it with my wife who is planning to be away for a few weeks and wants to take an EeePC with her, I bought a second EeePC, a black 4G-Surf.
My 701 ($399) was from the first production batch, so I thought I would take the time to compare it to the 4G Surf ($356).
The 4G Surf is a slightly lower-end cousin to the 701. The differences are a smaller battery (4400maH compared to the 701's 5200maH) no integrated web cam, and no bundled slip case. I've also read that some 4G Surf variations don't have an accessible RAM cover. Mine has this cover and all 4G Surfs take a standard So-DIMM, unlike the 2G versions that feature 256MB of RAM soldered on the mainboard.
After using the 4G Surf for the weekend, I have to say that except as listed above, it is exactly the same as the 701. (No shock there.) The battery seems to last at least as long as my 701's, though it was always a little funky. Something I attributed to it being from the first production run.
I used the Surf for a two hour train ride from Kingston to Ottawa this weekend. I started the trip at 6:06 and when the train arrived in the station at 8:00, the battery was reading 50%. This was with WiFi disabled and the screen brightness turned down, which is how I tend to run laptops on the train. I listened to MP3s with Amarok the entire time, had Firefox and OpenOffice.org open for the majority and did regular file management and reading. Very typical use, for me.
When I get the original 701 back, I plan to give it to my wife and keep the 4G Surf. Both are virtually identical and, personally, I prefer the black.
For $50 less, you lose the sleeve, get a smaller battery and lose the webcam. I've never used the webcam on the 701, the battery seems about the same to me, and the sleeve, while nice, clearly isn't worth $50. As a second EeePC, I think the Surf is an unbeatable value. As a main machine, the supposed better battery life of the original 701 probably make it a better choice. Both machines are fantastic.