Asus Seashell review: Eee PC 1008HA
Stunning design goes hand in hand with fine usability, but the non-replaceable battery and high price count against it.
The arrival of yet another Asus netbook might not seem much of an event - after all, prospective purchasers can already befuddle themselves with the other 22 in the range - but its latest, the 1008HA, is a little bit special.
Glossy plastic reaches around its gorgeous, curvy physique, and whatever colour you plump for - choose from black, white, red or pink - its slim, futuristic lines are more reminiscent of Apple's far pricier Macbook Air than the average netbook: a commendable achievement given the price.
It isn't, however, quite as sturdy-feeling as Asus' previous design-led netbook, the stunning S101. Pick up the 1008HA by the corner and the all-plastic construction creaks gently in response. Dare to be a little rougher with it, and you'll discover noticeable flex in both the chassis and the glossy screen above.
But, a few creaks here and there are understandable given the headline weight of just 1.13kg and dimensions that peak at just 26mm thick. Next to this netbook, even the class leader - the Samsung's NC10 - looks chunky at 37mm thick and a little overweight at 1.31kg.
Trick of the light
The clean, crisp lines of the Seashell's figure are aided and abetted by a number of design choices, some sensible, some less so. The most glaringly obvious of these is Asus' decision to secrete all the ports and connectors away out of sight.
Unclip the flaps on the left and right-hand edge of the Seashell and you'll discover two USB ports, a 10/100 Ethernet socket, two 3.5mm audio minijacks and a curious little socket which looks rather like one of the mini-USB variety. It's nothing of the sort, however, and is actually a mini-VGA port. To save space, Asus provides a VGA dongle which, cleverly, stows away in a magnetic compartment in the 1008HA's underside.
Other compromises are a little more difficult to forgive, however. Flip the 1008HA over and you'll spot the second omission: there's no removable battery. To keep the Seashell's figure suitably trim, Asus has opted for a three-cell internal Lithium Polymer battery rated at just 2,900mAh.
A three-cell battery normally heralds disaster in the battery life stakes, but imagine our surprise when the Seashell lasted for an impressive 5hrs 39mins in our light use test. Of course, enabling the wireless and surfing the web will leave the figure dwindling to nearer the four hour mark, but it is an impressive performance for such a conservatively rated battery.
There are no compromises when it comes to usability, though. The keyboard is sensibly laid out - the cursor keys squashing down to make way for a nice wide right-hand shift key - and each key responds with a reassuringly positive action. Only the half-height Enter key on our US model gave us any cause for complaint, and that will thankfully be making way for a proper, full-height Enter key in European models.
The trackpad is worth singling out for praise, too. The single button which rocks left and right might not be everybody's cup of tea, but the dimpled finish to the pad feels great under the finger and the buttons responds with a firm, crisp click.
Under the bonnet
Powering the 1008HA is a host of familiar faces. Intel's Atom is present in its 1.66GHz N280 incarnation, and the 1GB of DDR2 memory and 160GB hard disk are standard netbook fare. Consequently, they weren't any great surprises when it came to benchmark results; the 1008HA earned a solid 0.42 in our benchmarks.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||262 x 178 x 26mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom N280|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,024|
|Resolution screen vertical||600|
|Resolution||1024 x 600|
|Graphics chipset||Intel GMA 950|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Internal disk interface||SATA|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3MP|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||339|
|Battery life, heavy use||187|
|Overall application benchmark score||0.42|
|Office application benchmark score||0.54|
|2D graphics application benchmark score||0.32|
|Encoding application benchmark score||0.38|
|Multitasking application benchmark score||0.48|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows XP Home|
|OS family||Windows XP|