Product: Eee PC 1008HA (Seashell)
System Specifications: Intel Atom 1.66Ghz N280, SATA 160GB HDD, 1GB RAM, 10.1-inch screen, 1.3MP webcam, 3.5mm jack, Mic, Bluetooth, Li-ion battery, MemoryStick, SD, SDHC, USB, Mini VGA, VGA, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Windows XP
THE ASUS SEASHELL design initiative surrounding its new netbooks has so far yielded three devices, the 11-inch screen 1101HA, the 10-inch 1005HA that we reviewed recently and the final model, the 1008HA. These are the new designs that we've been told will now show up in all of Asus's upcoming Eee PC netbooks, so it's apparently here to stay and we'd all better start getting used to the new look.
Although these new models all have the same aesthetic look, the 1008HA sets itself apart from the crowd with its slim-line build that might be Asus's take on the Apple Air notebook, only in netbook form.
Its build is really thin. We can't stress how thin this really is. It's just darn thin. At its thickest point, the 1008HA is only an inch high with the lid closed. Seeing it placed side by side with other Eee PCs from the past, it's only about as thick as just the screen on the Asus first generation models. This is a remarkable feat in itself, especially when you consider that netbooks have only been around for about year or so.
Compared to Apple's MacBook Air, the Asus Seashell is not really all that remarkably thin, however, as that lightweight device comes in at just 0.76-inches thick with the lid closed. But let's not forget that the Airhead has a much wider footprint than the Eee PC 1008HA, so the internal components are spread out a lot more. The Asus netbook doesn't have the luxury of a wider overall size, as it's only 262mm wide by 178mm in depth as compared to the massive 325mm width and 227mm depth of the Air.
We've been told by Asus that the 1008HA has been brought down in size by some miraculous feats of engineering, with the motherboard being merely the size of a credit card. However, as a result of that compact build the Asus Eee PC notebook is now completely non-user upgradable.
Helping in bringing down the overall size is a non-removable 6-cell battery, which helps reduce the overall bulkiness of Asus netbooks but ends up in taking away any alternative power options, not to mention making the battery non-replacable just like those in Apple notebooks.
Asus's recent S121 also has similar slim line design, with a low-profile battery that is removable. In our humble opinion this would have been more preferable in the 1008HA. We're sure this would have pleased the critics and silenced the naysayers at the very least.
On first glance around the periphery of the Eee PC it appears to have no ports whatsoever, no USB, VGA, Ethernet, mic or audio jack. The ports are hidden away behind curved doors that are worked into the case's sides.
It's a distinct aesthetic step to have these ports shuffled off out of plain view and it makes the chassis look much neater, whereas on competing netbooks they're just there, hanging out for all and sundry to see. Okay, it's more for sleekness of look and clean design to hide them away, but it actually does look good and adds to the perception of high build quality.
There are two issues with the ports that we found irksome. To save space Asus has bundled in a miniVGA socket, which isn't really supported by a great many devices and seems redundant to have been included. Getting around this as an issue Asus has included a removable full sized VGA adaptor, housed in a space underneath the case and hidden away. This can be plugged into the miniVGA port to provide access to a full size VGA socket. This isn't very easy to find and most users won't be able to without reading the manual, just as we didn't at first glance and so did not bother in the end to use the VGA connector as a result.
The second bothersome issue we had was with the Ethernet socket. This is placed at the rear of the right-hand side of the 1008HA where, upon our initial discovery of it hidden behind a flap, it looked like it wasn't a full-sized Ethernet port.
We had never seen a two-thirds size Ethernet port before and struggled to remember an IEEE spec for such a design. Eventually, we realised there was a non-evident flap to be pulled down that opened up the Ethernet port bringing it up to full-size.
Others will surely struggle with these details, if and when they use an Ethernet cable or VGA port, as both weren't obvious for us to find or use.
The Asus Eee PC 1008HA keyboard is identical to the "92 per cent" keyboard of the 1005HA, which is supposedly that percentage of a full size keyboard in key-size and dimensions. As with that other Eee PC, it's a pleasure to type with and responds well to the touch. Also onboard is the same brail-esque touch pad, which offers up the multi-function of "pinch to zoom in and zoom out" ability of the Iphone on pictures and websites.
We had noticed on early models aired to the public at CeBIT that the mouse-pad area wasn't raised at all. Instead this space is just flush and looks exactly like the rest of the palm rest, with the only clear definition of the mouse-pad being present being the one-bar mouse button behind that space.
At the top left of the keyboard is a button for instant access to power on and off the Bluetooth, WIFI and also the mouse-pad's multi-function capabilities. In past generations of Asus netbooks this button was also used to access the ExpressGate Linux-on-a-chip. This was used to provide a fully functioning Linux OS within seconds of boot-up, but it has been removed. This feature is on all Asus motherboards and was a welcomed addition, we were led to believe, on its netbooks. But if Asus is aiming the 1008HA at consumers who do not understand the choices of OS presented, maybe the company has concluded that it's better not to confuse them.
The 10.1-inch WSVGA 1024x600 capable display is the thinnest screen we've seen on any device of this calibre, and supposedly has the same screen dimensions as the 1005HA model we recently saw. In actual fact it's a tad wider diagonally and a tad squatter, creating much more of a letter-box shape and look to the display. This is a tad awkward for viewing very long webpages, but it is an ideal size for video playback.
Another nuance we noticed is the screen is set lower than the keyboard on the case. This is a feature we've seen in laptops before only not in netbooks, where similar screen sizes back to back appear shorter. This makes for an ideal netbook where space is at a premium, such as in planes, trains and automobiles. Having the screen fully opened at an angle for better viewing is possible with this type of screen setup.
One of the issues we had with the SKU of the 1005HA we saw for review was the Intel N270 processor. We thought it was just too low powered for most uses of netbooks today, none more so than with an HD video which it just couldn't play at all.
Asus offers the 1.66GHz N280 CPU as an option, which thankfully comes as standard inside the 1008HA. This provides a bit more power compared to the 1.6GHz N270, which is clearly evident in the playback of HD media. Although it didn't exactly struggle with BBC iPlayer streaming content, it couldn't really display the video at intended resolution natively on its relatively small screen.
The initial specifications of the 1008HA had the built-in battery at 3-Cells, same as the 1005HA, which we found wanting in terms of battery life. Thankfully Asus came to its senses and included a 6-Cell battery on this Eee PC.
Asus has stated that the battery is capable of 6 hours on its most power-friendly settings. We only managed to get 3 hours and 45 minutes out of the 1008HA in continuous use, which was a tad disappointing to us, seeing as how the battery is non-removable and will obviously die before a full working day is through.
The only possible way to achieve Asus's claimed battery life would perhaps be to power down the screen to just a glimmer of light and have no WiFi or Bluetooth running. We've found that both of these measures do somewhat increase the battery life in other notebooks and netbooks.
Asus has also included a 160GB hard disk drive, which might be a power-drainer as compared to a solid state disk. However an SSD would have considerably upped the cost and likely offered considerably less storage capacity. None of Asus's latest netbook models come with an SSD as an option.
We can finally see where Asus was going with this Seashell design concept, as the thinness of the 1008HA does show off its vision much more than the other netbooks in the series. The processor is finally the right one for a netbook, as it can handle just about everything that a netbook needs to do. For our penny's worth this includes HD video playback and not just surfing the web and handling email or IM'ing, Tweeting and Facebook'ing. The battery in this model is a tad worrisome as it's non-removable, but then again most users of netbooks with removable batteries will always like the idea of having the option of a secondary spare battery rather than actually getting around to buying one. µ
Fast enough processor, good design, very thin build, decent screen size and dimensions.
Possibly the hidden ports, the jury is still out.
Awkward non-standard miniVGA port, limited battery life.
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