Asus Seashell review: Eee PC 1008HA

£368
Price when reviewed

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.

Touching down

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

Warranty1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions262 x 178 x 26mm (WDH)
Weight1.130kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Atom N280
RAM capacity1.00GB
Memory typeDDR2

Screen and video

Screen size10.2in
Resolution screen horizontal1,024
Resolution screen vertical600
Resolution1024 x 600
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 950
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs0
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity160GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Optical disc technologyN/A
Optical driveN/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

Wired adapter speed100Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readeryes
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3MP
TPMno
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseyes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use339
Battery life, heavy use187
Overall application benchmark score0.42
Office application benchmark score0.54
2D graphics application benchmark score0.32
Encoding application benchmark score0.38
Multitasking application benchmark score0.48

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows XP Home
OS familyWindows XP

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