Asus Eee PC 1000HE review

Price when reviewed

Netbooks have seen steady progress since the introduction of the first 7in, Celeron-powered machine at Computex 2007. Intel’s Atom processors, 160GB hard disks and 1GB of RAM have become standard, while the immature “my first laptop” design has been banished in favour of aesthetics that wouldn’t look out of place on laptops costing three times the price.

Asus, architect of that first netbook, has been busy updating its original Eee PC since launch, with the range now comprising over a dozen models. The major design change of the latest Eee, the 1000HE, is the replacement of its standard keyboard with a scrabble-tile effort rather like that sported by the just-announced Samsung N310.

The separated keys meant that we hitting neighbouring letters was an infrequent occurrence and each has a positive action with a decent amount of travel too. Though this is on the light side, after the usual period spent acclimatising to a smaller keyboard we found the latest Eee perfectly satisfying to use.

The trackpad is less impressive. The pad and the pair of accompanying buttons are of a good size, but the former feels too sticky and unresponsive for our liking, and the latter are stiff and difficult to press.

Above the keyboard is a 1,024 x 600 resolution, 10in screen. And, while this does nothing particularly wrong, it does suffer from the familiar netbook weaknesses. Areas of solid colour, such as a the white background of a blank Word document, look grainy and colours appear bland and washed-out. Samsung’s NC10 and NC20 both boast much more impressive panels.

And though we’re not fans of this Eee’s styling – the glossy black finish is a real fingerprint magent and the thick bezel surrounding the screen isn’t pretty – the chassis does feel sturdy enough to take the abuse of a daily commute.

Asus has also been busy tweaking the 1000HE under the hood. The ubiquitous Intel Atom N270 processor has been ditched in favour of the N280. This runs at a slightly improved 1.66GHz and has a faster 667MHz FSB than the N270 and should offer a small boost in performance.

Our benchmarks confirmed this: coupled with 1GB of RAM, the faster Atom scored 0.42 in our benchmarks. It’s not a revolution by any means, but still a fraction faster than the majority of the netbook pack.

The 160GB hard disk is at the generous end of the netbook spectrum, and another interesting addition, aside from the upgraded CPU, is draft-n wireless. We’d also have liked to have seen integrated HSDPA, which has begun to creep into other netbooks such as the LG X110 and Dell Inspiron Mini 9, but including one would probably have bumped the price up considerably.

Asus’ final innovation is the inclusion of a whopping great battery – the biggest we’ve ever seen in a netbook, with a capacity of 8,700mAh. Asus says this upgraded power-pack will last for nine-and-a-half hours and its claims aren’t far from the truth. In our light use test, the Eee lasted for a stunning 8hrs 10mins, with this figure dropping to a still-superb five hours in our heavy-duty test. The Samsung NC10, which was no slouch in the battery life stakes, fell 40 minutes short of this figure.

In fact, there’s very little to separate this impressive nettbook from our current favourite, the NC10. Battery life is excellent, the keyboard is just as comfortable and draft-n is a bonus. But there are just enough small differences – a slightly better screen, more stylish looks and slightly lower price – to keep the Samsung in front.

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