Product: Asus Eee PC ‘seashell' 1005HA
System Specifications: Intel Atom 1.66GHz N280/ 1.60GHz N270, 1GB DDR2 SO-DIMM, 160GB HDD, 10.1-inch LED back-lit WSVGA screen, webcam, Wi-fi, Ethernet, VGA, USB, memory card reader, 3.5mm audio jack
ASUS has gone all marine recently, updating the Eee range with the Seashell family with its whole new netbook design and two new colours - white and pink - to add to Asus' familar black.
The new range is supposedly reminiscent of clear blue oceans, soft silky sand and seashells. We can't see any of this in these netbooks, but perhaps it's down to the fact that all the devices shipped to the INQ have been jet black, an unusual colour for the sea unless its sporting an oilslick.
The white model especially, says Asus, shows off the *cough* design concept which will be the basis of all upcoming Eee PCs.
The imaginatively entitled Asus 1005HA is the bigger brother of the 1008HA and more or less replaces the Eee PC 1000HE from earlier this year. The specifications of the 1005HA are fairly identical to the 1000HE, but Asus has changed the outer appearance and the inside layout, increased battery life and decreased weight.
Talking of batteries, the 1005HA has a removable battery unlike the 1008HA. It also has a 160GB hard disc drive, as does the 1008HA.
There are two models to the 1005HA series, one with a 1.66GHz N280 processor and one with the 1.6GHz N270 that we saw. The other changes in the N280 version are a 1.3 megapixel webcam compated to our 0.3MP and the inclusion of Bluetooth.
The 1005HA arrives with the Intel 945GSE chipset running the GMA 950 integrated graphics, a regular favourite of netbooks. Normally, it can hold its own in terms of graphics but we found it distinctly lacking in beefiness coupled with this processor.
This device didn't want to play any HD content from YouTube or BBC iPlayer. We have seen the more powerful N280 version handle the same content happily, if a little jerky at times, with caching working better instead of streaming. The 1005HA onboard went into over drive whilst cooling down the CPU as it struggled to play YouTube video.
The machine has the expected array of USB slots, four-in-one memory card reader and a full sized VGA port
However, the 1005HA will not best please those who want to upgrade their netbook, because reaching components most likely to be upgraded isn't as easy as it was on the 1000HE. The older Eee had an access plate on the base for accessing the hard drive and memory. But the 1005HA only provides access to the memory and the HDD is hidden away.
The device has an LED back-lit WSVGA 10.1-inch display capable of a 1024x600 resolution, which is becoming a common size in netbooks. It's much better than the 7-inch netbook screens of yesteryear, for everything from web browsing to knocking out email.
The keyboard has changed somewhat from previous Eee PC models, with a wider flatter key layout that is said to be just eight percent smaller than a full sized keyboard. One of the more welcomed additions is the full sized shift key, where past netbooks from Asus came with a half sized version that irked many, including the INQ.
The touchpad now has a raised Braille-esque tactile feel, which is easy to use. it also provides the ability to pan in and out of webpages and documents, operating much like the ‘pinch to zoom in and zoom out' feature on an Iphone.
Boot time from a cold start is fast for an HDD-based machine, with a record 50 seconds clocked on most occasions. This was measured from powering on the 1005HA, to actually having a web browser open and a home page appear. It's a time that could even rival Asus ExpressGate technology, which was sadly missing from this netbook with no explanation as to why it's been dropped.
The battery pack accompanying the 1005HA we received isn't actually a part of an available model, but will appear in a version of the netbook to be retailed by a telco whose name we cannot disclose under threat of death.
In continuous use the three-cell battery lasted two hours and thirty minutes before giving up the ghost on its most power efficient settings, which is close enough to Asus three-hour claim to make us happy enough not to call the lawyers.
Although on the highest possible battery draining settings, the 1005HA only lasted for one hour and fifty minutes before dying, which did not best please us. The retail version comes along with a six-cell pack, with the boast 8.5 hours of battery life with this processor or 10.5 hours with the Intel N280.
The new design is a welcomed update to the Eee PC range and now puts the Asus netbooks much closer to a replacement for laptops than ever before. Dropping the bulkier netbook designs from 2007 is the only way forward if netbooks want to really be taken seriously as a direct replacement and not just as a novelty devices.
We felt the lower Intel Atom N270 didn't have enough horsepower to handle everything a netbook is expected to do these days, especially with regards high definition video playback and battery life. We expect the meatier Eee PC 1005HA with a 1.66GHz N280 and a six-cell 10.5-hour claimed battery life would produce better results, and would recommend it over the model we saw.
Ample keyboard, design is easy on the eyes, multi-function touch pad
Processor too whimpy for decent video playback, not upgradeable enough
Battery life a little low for our tastes