Main Features / Overview
The Asus EEE PC (pronounced 'E' PC) is the first of a growing line of ULPC (or Ultra Low-Cost PCs) entering the marketplace. The segment was first popularized by the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) initiative, the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte and promoted by other social welfare organizations to address the digital divide in the developing nations back in 2005. Since then, this category has seen further development as the private sector got involved, namely, Intel and Microsoft to promote a new category of accessible low-cost computing.
According to Asus marketing literature, the EEE PC is 'Easy to learn. Easy to Work. Easy to play.' The market objective for the EEE PC is an aim towards a ultra-portable and easy-to-use PC platform without much of the high-end capabilities and cost associated with the more traditional laptops on the market today.
The Asus EEE 2G is the first and the lowest featured PC in the current EEE PC family. It is powered by an 800MHz Intel Celeron-M processor with 512MB of RAM along with Intel GMA graphics. The 2G mini laptop sports a 7' TFT display but only have an integrated 2GB of solid-state storage (only expandable via the SD memory slot). The PC is preloaded with GNU Linux OS but is also Windows compatible; however, the usability of a memory intensive OS like Windows on a storage-limited device like this is suspect. The Asus EEE 2G is networked via an Ethernet port or, more prominently, through an 802.11b/g WiFi module. It also carries 3 USB ports and a VGA video out.
Cost-Conscious / Budget consumers, Early Technology Adopter as well as the Education Market
Pricing and Availability
Asus EEE PC 2G sub-notebooks are selling on various online retailers at the time of writing (June 2008) at $299. There are no known upgrades or options for this particular model and the price point has remained stable for over 6 to 9 months.
For the purposes of this teardown analysis we have assumed that the production volume of the Asus EEE PC 2G is 1.75M for the lifetime of the product.
As a reminder, volume production assumptions are meant primarily to be used for our cost analysis in terms of amortized NRE and tooling costs, especially for custom components specific to the model being analyzed (mechanical components especially), and not necessarily as a market accurate estimate for a specific model. Our estimations are based on iSuppli market research and we derive rational estimates based on overall market shares of the manufacturer in question, as well as the number of products in a given portfolio and the relative popularity of certain lines of products.
Market Sector / Performance
In North American, Asus shipped over 350K units of EEE PC within one quarter from market introduction exceeding the original projected volume of 300K units. Asustek (parent company) also forecast shipments of over 5M EEE PCs for 2008 which includes their entire line of low-cost PCs under the EEE branding. Per an upcoming iSuppli topical report on this value computing sector, the entire (worldwide) ULPC market projected for 2008 will be about 8.5M units giving Asustek a nearly 60% market share in this low-cost computing category.
In the overall computing platform market space, Asustek was ranked the 9th largest notebook PC OEM in 2007. According to iSuppli's Global OEM Manufacturing and Design Analysis - Compute Platforms Q2 2008, Asustek shipped 4.4M mobile PCs - mainly traditional laptops, up nearly 60% in terms of volume from 2006. [Note that EEE PCs and the ULPC category were only recently introduced Q4 2007.
What Is Not Included in our Cost Analysis
The total materials and manufacturing costs reported in this analysis reflect ONLY the direct materials cost (from component vendors and assorted EMS providers), AND manufacturing and test. Not included in this analysis are costs above and beyond the material manufacture of the core device itself - cost of intellectual property, royalties and licensing fees (those not already included into the per component price), software, software loading and test, shipping, logistics marketing and other channel costs including not only EMS provider and the OEM's margin, but that of other resellers. Our cost analysis is meant to focus on those costs incurred in the manufacture of the core device and exceptionally in some circumstances the packaging and literature as well.
Function / Performance
No performance testing was performed on the Asus EEE PC 2G.
ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is the parent company of the Asus brand of PCs. Up until recently, Asustek (a world class OEM provider) had manufacturing capabilities vertically integrated into their organization. However, as a result of recent corporate re-organization, Asustek spun off their mobile PC manufacturing arm into a wholly-owned subsidiary called Pegatron Technology (according to iSuppli's Global OEM Manufacturing and Design Analysis - Compute Platforms Q2 2008).
Currently, all of Asus' mobile PC product manufacturing is considered outsourced to Pegatron [their strategic ODM partner] with facilities in China.
Country of Origin / Volume Assumptions
As with all computer systems, this system has a number of various sub-assemblies built in various countries - see the 'Overview' section on the online presentation for a list of countries of origin for the major sub-assemblies such as display, hard drive, etc. It is assumed, when not otherwise labeled, that all other unlabeled components and systems were produced by suppliers in areas of the lowest possible regional cost: China. Final assembly here is confirmed as China - and for the Accessory PCBs, we have simplified, (out of spreadsheet necessity and as this is an amalgam of small PCBs) our calculations to assume that all were made in China.
Country of origin assumptions relate directly to the associated cost of manufacturing, where calculated by iSuppli. In the cases of 'finished' sub-assemblies (such as chargers), we do not calculate internal manufacturing costs, but rather assess the market price of the finished product in which case country of origin assumptions may or may not have a direct effect on pricing.
Design for Manufacturing / Device Complexity
ULPCs are designed with low-cost manufacturing, first and foremost, in mind. The Asus EEE PC reflects this design philosophy in its overall compact form, specifically, the undersized motherboard and pared down feature components. The epitome of this cost sensitive design philosophy can be seen in the soldering of the CPU and SSD memory chips directly onto the motherboard (obviously, to reduce parts standard mounts and overall weight).
Also, due to its small form factor, Asus employs a non-typical 7 TFT display unit which was originally intended for automotive applications. However, where required, the Asus EEE employs modular designs such as a mini PCIe WLAN module sacrificing component integration over ease of manufacturing.
In terms of device complexity, the Asus EEE PC 2G is less complex than other, full sized laptops at a total of 1460 components (not including box contents, external components, systems and accessories). However, in terms of mechanical components, the Asus EEE PC's component count of 125 is nearly half of those found in full sized laptops. One important note: modular assemblies such as display and purchased items such as the WLAN modules are counted as a single unit in this analysis - refer to BOM for details on which items are fully broken down and itemized to the sub-component level. In most cases where we assume the OEM or their ODM are building the unit 'in-house' we will break down to the lowest level discrete component.
Component counts have a direct bearing on the overall manufacturing cycle times and costs, and also can increase or decrease overall yields and re-work. Our calculations of manufacturing costs factor counts and more qualitative complexities in the design
Note that manual labor has a much smaller effect on auto-insertion assembly lines (for the Main PCB, for example), where manufacturing costs are much more capital equipment intensive and driven by these investment costs.
The Asus EEE PC 2G analyzed in this teardown features a variant of the Intel Celeron-M ULV processor with Intel Mobile 910GMLE Express Chipset [Northbridge] with an integrated graphics (GMA 900) solution and a ICH6-M I/O controller hub [Southbridge]. Architecturally, the EEE PC design, especially on the I/O's, are not particularly exceptional. The obvious design difference for ULPCs is the bottom grade components, diminutive memory capacity and miniature keyboard and display characteristic of low cost PCs. Notably, the mini-notebook features fixed [not upgradeable] DDR memory banks soldered onto the motherboard as opposed to the more typical SO-DIMM connection and the use of solid state storage (2GB Samsung NAND flash) instead of hard disk drives.
Since ULPCs are a new to the value PC category, there are few competitive devices available for any type of comparison and commentary.
Beyond the motherboard, the Asus EEE PC 2G features a LED backlit 7 AU Optronics LCD panel (A070VW04), a Synaptics powered touchpad, a Azureware mini PCIe 802.11b/g WLAN module (AW-GE780), and 4400mAH Li-Ion battery pack.
Here is a summary of major componets by assembly:
Intel - Celeron M ULV, 320, 800MHz, 512KB L2 Cache, 400MHz FSB, 130nm
Intel 910GMLE - Graphics and Memory Controller Hub - QG82910GMLE
Intel - I/O Controller Hub - Intel - NH82801FBM (ICH6-M)
I/O & Interface
Ethernet Transceiver - PCI Express, 10/100 Mbps, w/ Integrated Transceiver Atheros - L2
Keyboard Controller - Ene Technology - KB3310
Codec - Audio, Audio, 5.1 Channel, High Definition- Realtek - ALC662-GR
Misc I/O - USB Card Reader Controller - SD, MMC - Ene Technology - KB3310
Misc I/O - Flash Memory Card Controller - Silicon Motion - SM223
Clock Generator - for Intel Alviso Chipset - Spectra Linear - CY28442AZC-2
SDRAM - DDR2, 512Mb (32Mx16), 1.8V - Hynix - HY5PS121621CFP-Y5 (2x)
Flash - NAND 8Gb SLC - Samsung - K9K8G08U0A-PCB00 (2x)
Touch Pad PCB
Touch Pad Controller - Synaptics
7' Diagonal, 800 x 480 Pixels (WVGA), 152.4mm x 91.44mm Viewable Area, 400:1 Contrast - AU Optronics - A070VW04
Mini PCIe WLAN Card
Mini PCIe Card - 802.11 b/g - Azurewave Technologies - AW-GE780