The Highs: Luminous display, battery life, XP Home, wireless performance, super affordable

The Lows: Right shift key requires user re-training; glossy finish attracts fingerprints like paparazzi to Lindsay Lohan

The Verdict: A winner – perfect for travel and net surfing

Asus Eee PC 1000HA

One standout hit in the technology world in 2008 was the increasing popularity of  netbooks:  ultra compact wireless laptops for people on the go.  Lightweight – most weigh between 2 and 3 pounds – wireless equipped and very affordable, netbooks quickly established a prominent position in the minds of tech-savvy consumers.

The category, which didn’t exist until 2007, was responsible for sales of ~11.4 million units in 2008; netbook sales in 2009 are forecast to grow to 25 million units.  To put it in perspective, netbook sales overtook those of iPhones in Q3 of ’08 (according to data from Gartner and DisplaySearch.)

The clear market leaders in this segment are both Taiwanese firms:  Asus and Acer.  Combined they account for nearly 70% of the netbook segment.

My netbook story

Regular Practical Hacks readers know that one of my passions is traveling light.  I take real pleasure from paring back my clothing and other essentials to the barest minimum, and of course travel with one bag.  Once in a while however, I absolutely must bring along a laptop – usually my ThinkPad from work.  When that happens all my careful planning takes a big hit.

If I put the laptop in my Air Boss and am going on anything more than an overnight trip, the bag becomes too heavy to carry comfortably.  The result?  I have to bring along a daily bag for the laptop, power brick and papers.  Suddenly this ‘one bag’ traveler is navigating through airports with two bags.

So, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a netbook for a while.  Couple that desire with our home DELL Inspiron 5100 laptop acting increasingly sullen, hotheaded and unwilling to develop a meaningful relationship with our wireless network, and we now have an Asus Eee PC 1000HA.  And a large blue paperweight bearing the word “Inspiron.”

Asus Eee PC 1000HA

A few basics…

  • First, the name.  Asus is pronounced “Ah Seuss”
  • Eee? Pronouned “E”  –  Stands for “Easy” “Excellent” “Exciting”
  • 1000? = 10 inch screen
  • HA? = hard drive, (Intel) Atom processor

The specs:

  • Operating system: Windows XP Home
  • Internal memory: 160 GB hard disk drive (HDD)
  • RAM: 1 GB DDR2
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom
  • Memory expansion: Slot for MMC/SD(SDHC) cards
  • Screen: 10 inches, 1024 x 600 pixels, LED backlight
  • Networking: 54g Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), 10/100 Fast Ethernet
  • Bluetooth connectivity: No
  • Peripheral connectivity: Three USB 2.0
  • External video: One VGA
  • External audio: One headphone and one microphone port
  • Webcamera: Yes, 1.3 megapixels
  • Battery: 6 cells (6600 mAh), up to 7 hours
  • Weight: 3.19 pounds (51 ounces)
  • Dimensions: 10.5 × 7.5 × 1.5 inches

The price:

I paid $384 at Amazon, but had a couple of $25 “reward” certificates from my Amazon credit card.  As an Amazon Prime customer I qualify for overnight shipping for $6.99; I ordered it last Friday morning and it arrived at 9:15AM Saturday.  My landed price was $341.

Ironically, I paid $1100 or so for the DELL laptop 6 years ago; the specs of the netbook would make Mr. Inspiron blush – it’s a way more capable machine for close to 30% of the Inspiron price.  (I do realize it’s six years later…  but still!)

First Impressions

We love it.  Setup was quick, including adding it to our encrypted wireless network.  I installed Excel, Word and PowerPoint from an old Office disk (I put the files on a thumb drive for the install.)  Best of all, the Eee PC comes with XP Home which is the system we used on the Inspiron, and I have XP on my work laptop. A few quick notes on the essential elements of any netbook:

Keyboard

The keyboard is 95% the size of a full size keyboard, so using it is relatively easy. The action of the keys is fine, and getting used to the slightly tighter keyboard is relatively easy.  Both my wife and I adapted to the keyboard quickly.  The one issue which we’ve encountered is the location of the right shift key.  In order to accommodate the up arrow key, the shift key is half sized and a bit further away than is the case with a regular keyboard.  The result is a somewhat unnaturally longer reach to hit the key:

Asus Eee PC keyboard

The best way to understand it:  if you put your hands on a conventional keyboard as if to type and reach for the right shift key without thinking about it, your right pinky will probably hit the shift key on its left half. When using the Eee keyboard, it feels as though you’re reaching to hit the right half of the shift key on a full sized keyboard.   Other than this issue, using the keyboard is easy.

Touchpad

The Eee’s touchpad – by Synaptics – is easy to use; some users have commented on stiffness in the touchpad buttons, but I’ve found that pushing the beveled edges of the buttons inward (from the front) with my thumbs to be quite easy.  A couple of neat features:  by using a pinching or spreading motion with two fingers on the touchpad you can adjust font size.

Put one finger on the touchpad (place the cursor on the right border of the screen first) and tap another finger twice, and a movable on-screen magnifier window pops up – making tiny type easy to read.

Tap two fingers once and you activate a “mouse wheel” for automated scrolling; tap the pad with three fingers, and it’s the equivalent of a mouse right click. Finally, you can scroll up and down by drawing two fingers across the touchpad!  Really clever and really easy to do in actual practice!

Display

Not much to say here – the display is bright and luminous with great color saturation.  I’m glad we didn’t opt for a smaller unit – propped up on my legs or lap, the display is a reasonable size… but frankly I can’t imagine using a netbook with a smaller display.  Using Full Screen of course makes great sense.  I haven’t downloaded Firefox yet but when I do I’ll install the “Fuller Screen” Add On; it utilizes the entire screen. Here’s a quick shot I took this evening; it doesn’t do the display justice:

Asus Eee:  Display image

Memory

Although some users have upgraded to 2GB of RAM, I didn’t bother ordering a 2GB module.  (For reference, they’re less than $30 and the install is simple.)  We’ve been perfectly happy with the performance of the unit with the standard 1GB RAM.  Perhaps we’ll upgrade in the future, but at this point the Eee is being used almost entirely for web surfing and 1GB is plenty adequate.

Battery Life

I haven’t run any controlled tests, but out of the box the battery – with the netbook set to “Super Performance” looks to have close to a 5 hour battery life.  That’s also with the display set at maximum brightness.  Asus claims 7 hours, but I imagine that’s at a lower level of performance and with the unit used for web browsing exclusively.  Our old Inspiron would last about 2½ hours, so our expectations are perhaps lower than others might be.

Wireless

Using the Asus in exactly the same spot in our home as we used the Inspiron, its performance has been great.  I’ve watched YouTube videos without a hitch, with multiple browser windows open.  The unit connects to the wireless network quickly and we haven’t experienced a glitch since we connected it to the network.  This evening I brought it upstairs to the bedroom which is farthest from our wireless router, and its performance was no different than had I been in the same room as the router.

The case

Amazon offers the Eee 1000HA in any color you want as long as that color is black.  The black case is elegant looking, but its glossy finish makes me want to buy a pair of microfiber gloves – this thing is a fingerprint magnet.  TV’s “Monk” would suffer a nervous breakdown after about 2 hours with the Eee!  Other than that minor point, the unit has a solid feel and I’ve noticed no flex or hint of flimsiness in it.

Oh – one other point. As mentioned in specs, the Asus Eee 1000HA weighs 3.2 lbs. – or 51 ounces. It is quite light and I can’t wait to travel with it.  Worth noting – the power “brick” is more a mini brick – it’s quite small and can’t weigh more than a few ounces, another big plus for travelers.

The Asus also comes with a zippered neoprene sleeve for travel, and for you Monkish types out there, a microfiber cleaning/polishing cloth.

Wrapping up

This is not a PC that you’re going to use for heavy computing and working on your firm’s 10 year plan.  (Although some users are actually using their netbooks for gaming, so don’t underestimate the power of these machines.)  I see this machine – at least for us – being used primarily for net surfing by my wife. 

The true test for me will come when I travel with it and use it for work documents and perhaps doing Practical Hacks posts, comment moderation and edits from the road.  After I put a few miles on it – literally – I’ll write a longer review or do an update to this post.

For now, we’re both quite smitten by the Asusit’s a winner!


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26 Comments on First take: Asus Eee PC 1000HA netbook

  1. Michael W. says:

    Watch any Hulu video in 480p (high resolution)? How is it in full screen mode? If it can handle Hulu, I’m gettin’ me one.

    [Reply]

  2. Kevin says:

    Michael –

    Standard TV shows and movies work fine; I walked around the house while watching an episode of “Monk” and it never skipped a beat.

    But when I went to the HD Gallery @ Hulu and tried a couple of shows the audio was fine but the video very jerky… NG.

    Hope this helps.

    [Reply]

  3. Kevin says:

    Here’s a very good YouTube review of this unit:

    http://tinyurl.com/8epctx

    [Reply]

  4. Greg says:

    I’ve had my eye on netbooks for a while, just haven’t had money or reason to get one yet (although I really hope I don’t have to travel again with my clunky laptop :P ). I’m still waiting to see what comes out this year, but one of the ones I’m looking at is the Lenovo S10. It has basically the same specs as every other netbook out there, except that it only has 2 USB ports and a 3 cell battery (hence why I haven’t gotten one yet). Supposedly they’re going to have some second- (or is it third-?) gen devices coming out this year, so we’ll see what’s offered. They’ve had a year and a half, so maybe they’ll start getting the keyboards and touchpads right this year. ;) (Here’s hoping…)
    I look forward to your full review. :)

    [Reply]

  5. Greg says:

    Oops… I’m behind the times! Turns out you can get a 6-cell battery for your S10 for $89 more (bringing the total cost to $438. A solid $100 more than the Eee, but I really like the design of the S10, and am trying to avoid the Eee brand (too popular!)… Maybe they’ll do better on pricing this year. ;)

    [Reply]

  6. Michael W. says:

    I didn’t even know about the HD tab on Hulu until you mentioned it … I’ve just been using the regular viewing options, but at 480p instead of 360p.

    I think the Asus might fight my needs. I was favoring the Acer One but I’ll wait until your detailed review, hopefully you’ll mention some of the other companies and why you picked Asus.

    Also I thought I read somewhere that the Atom chip only supports 1 GB of RAM? But you indicate you can easily upgrade to 2 GB?

    [Reply]

  7. Kevin says:

    Michael –

    Hulu @ 480p works just fine… I wandered about the house with the Asus while watching a Knight Rider episode and it was fine – on the downside, my IQ dropped 10 points from watching the show. ;-) The internal speakers, BTW, are “OK;” of course there’s a headphone jack. The machine does have a VGA output for connecting to a (larger) display.

    As for the RAM upgrade, it looks to be extremely easy. Check out this YouTube video (the 1st half – in the 2nd half he upgrades the hard drive)–

    http://tinyurl.com/cqlmy6

    I believe the limit is 2GB RAM. I’ll likely upgrade at some point…

    [Reply]

  8. dom says:

    Question: I presently use an old thinkpad to get on the web and use logmein.com’s remote control product to access both my home and work workstations.

    Have you tried logmein to try and remote onto other computers? I imagine that it’d work just fine since its windows home.

    [Reply]

  9. Kevin says:

    Dom,

    I haven’t tried logmein.com but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t work with the Asus.

    [Reply]

  10. Stew says:

    I own an ASUS Eee PC 1000 with a Celeron. When I play a movie, it doesn’t fill the screen. It has a black picture frame all around it. I am using maybe 50-60% of the screen. Is this a fundamental limit of the graphics? What can I do to fill the screen in one dimension (vertically) to get a larger picture? I get a sumilar result with WinDVD 5 and Windows Media Player. I played MPEG2 and Xvid. Same result. I have used alt+enter, but this doesn’t help (I get the result I describe). The OS is Windows XP.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Stew, what program or site are you using to watch movies? I could try it with my Eee.

    [Reply]

  11. Peggy Bayliss says:

    I bought my Asus 1000EV about 10 days ago and I absolutely love it. No set up except for the wireless network. Haven’t bothered to set up the e-mail client, but doubt any problems there. I opened it, turned it on and was ready to go!!

    I noticed the great little magnifying tool that was a total mystery until I landed on this site. Thanks for making my experience even better. I actually had an occasion where I really needed and nothing would make it come up when I was on that page. Nowwwwwwwww, IT IS under my control!!!!

    If you are thinking netbook, think Asus. Other than the higher end computers where I worked, this is the best computer I have ever used. And by today’s standards, this puts the old Dell desktops we used to shame.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Peggy –

    Thanks for commenting, and glad you love your Asus; we’re still very happy with ours!

    [Reply]

  12. Michael W. says:

    Thanks to your insidious article (ok, articles, my closet is full of travel bags too) I’ve gone through 4 netbooks (gave one to a cousin in Thailand, returned two, kept one) and have a few comments:

    1. XP runs incredibly faster than Vista on the typical 10.1″ screen nb’s due to their lower rez and hence lower graphics demands (on both the main processor and the graphics chip). Stick with XP even if it condemns you to a 10.1″ screen under MSFT’s and Intel’s current licensing limitations. Also note, this is also the only configuration supporting the fine Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

    The 10.1 inch, $300 (prices came down!) Acer Aspire One ran faster with XP even though it had only half the system memory of the Gateway 11.6″ – despite the Gateway being pumped up with an AMD Athlon chip and Radeon low end graphics chip – because Vista imposed such a performance penalty on the Gatewy. Rumors are Win7 is faster than Vista but still not as fast as XP.

    2. The 11.6″ inch screen on my second Aspire One delivered stunning, easy to read webpages – but it was coupled with a SLOWER Atom processor and even WEAKER graphics chip than came on the 10.1″ Aspire One – why? – partially to save battery power, but mainly to sidestep MSFT/Intel’s efforts to keep netbooks from chewing up mini laptop sales, by crippling the approved parameters for netbooks. This one wouldn’t even run Hulu IN browser LOW rez so I returned it.

    Supposedly the new HP Mini 311 with the long-anticipated Nvidia Ion graphics processor will output 1080 video to HDMI – BUT I’d take that with a grain of salt. Most on-line video isn’t coded in MPEG 4 or H.264 which takes advantage of a graphics chip like this – they are still relying on Flash which relies on the Atom hip to handle video, not the graphics chip (although Flash has been upgraded to Flash 10 which DOES offload processing work to a video chip – guess what – Hulu, ABC, CBS, etc. don’t support it yet – I downloaded Flash 10 and the GMA 500 video chip in my returned Aspire One should have worked together, but didn’t. Maybe next year.

    Finally – there are true dual core Atoms available, at no significant price increase. Once again, due to MSFT/Intel’s desire to impose their idea of market segmentation, they are NOT currently available in cheap netbooks – as a PC Jr. “cripple the low end” decision to save higher end sales, not due to pricing issues or technological limits.

    You could say I’m a little mad at MSFT/Intel right now, and applaud Acer via Gateway for at least trying with their 11.6″ AMD/Radeon powered netbook – it’s almost workable – we are keeping it – but desperately needs Win7. With XP it would PROBABLY rock. (MSFT won’t allow XP on a netbook with these higher chip…

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    After scouring Amazon I found an Acer Aspire One AOD250 with 10.1 screen, N280 Atom (which has the faster memory bus than the N270 – both run the processor at similar speeds, 1.66 vs. 1.6 respectively, but the memory speed affects video quality), 1 gb system memory, 250 gb hard drive, and Win7.

    Putting this out for Win7 with only 1gb seemed absurd, so I ordered it with a 2 gb memory chip even though one reviewer says Win7 in this Starter version runs fine on 1 gb.

    Amazon, unlike Costco, won’t accept returns (unless broken), so I’m hoping I made a good choice. I paid $28 for overnight shipping, actually a very low charge compared to other vendors.

    I’ll let you know if this semi-throwback (lower rez screen than 11.6″ models) with Win7 will run my Hulu tv, at least in standard rez in-browser, without any stutter or chop; I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Under XP, reviewers say the N270/N280 Atoms with the GMA 950 WILL run streaming video, so here’s hoping.

    I will probably also partition the harddrive so it can dual boot into Win7 or Ubuntu Netbook Remix – I want to experiment with Linux too, and 9.10 is coming out today.

    I almost bought a new “white” Macbook, just upgraded by Apple, but I really am spoiled by 2.8 pound netbooks and a 5 pounder, even one with netbook-style battery life from Apple, won’t cut it.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael: the Federal Government thanks you for your efforts on behalf of our economy. Wow! Let me know how you like it! We are still happy with our Asus, although it generally is used for net surfing. Mrs. Hacks is slowly cataloging all the available real estate in the Southeastern U.S. Subtle, yes?

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    LOL. Mrs. Verbose is about to buy land in a Thai village – with an adjacent rice paddy. I hope this is not a harbinger of a netbook free future for me.

  13. Colleen says:

    Any updates on the netbook’s performance as of now? I’m looking into buying one of these, but I’m really skeptical. Netbooks! :)

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Colleen,

    We love our Asus. It boots and shuts down quickly. We’ve had no issues with it whatsoever, and it’s used several times each day. Later units have improved specs as well, but prices remain in the $300 to $400 range for reasonably well equipped machines. Perhaps Michael W. can comment – he has much more experience in this area than do I.

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    The current Asus version – there are so many models and versions – that I would recommend is the 1001p with the 160 gb harddrive and 6 cell battery:

    http://www.amazon.com/Asus-100.....038;sr=8-1

    As of the date of this blog, just $287 from Amazon, a great deal – prices have come down, despite the upgrade to Windows 7 and the new Intel Atom N450 chip. The N450 is slightly faster, Win 7 slightly slower (but Win7 is really quite a good performer, the net result is similar performance to the model Kevin reviewed). On the linked model, the case is fingerprint resistant, the screen is matte (better visibility than glossy), and a respected geek blog, Anandtech, just declared it their editor’s choice in netbooks:

    http://anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=3770

    Win7 runs fine of the stock 1gb, but if you want to upgrade, memory is easily accessible through a screw-off panel. Adding or exchanging other parts is not as easy, so if you are a hobbyist the HP Mini 211 or Acer ao532h are better starting points.

    The Starter edition of Windows 7 is pretty full featured and easier to use (and more virus resistant) than Windows XP. There is no artificial limitation on the number of apps you can run under Starter; the only visible “cripping” is the inability to change the background screen.

    There are a few tweaks you can do to speed up operations, but the most important is to replace the trial version of McAfee antivirus with one of two free programs: Microsoft Security Essentials, which is unobtrusive; or Avira Free, which is a little (but not much) leaner, but annoys with a start up “beg” screen.

    You can view Hulu at 360p but not in full-screen mode; you can view YouTube via the HTML5 beta program in full-screen mode. DVD quality video is possible via VLC (“video lan control”) which can play your converted DVD’s. If you purchase an external DVD, you can play DVD’s.

    If you want 480p in-browser or full-screen, you need to wait for the Ion 2 or Broadcom Crystal HD notebook models, out in 2-5 months. Figure an additional $80 in costs. Don’t count on 720p unless you get a higher res screen or use an external monitor.

    If you would like some tips on how to “prep” a new netbook – in particular this model – post a reply comment and I will put a list together. Since the netbooks have relatively low horsepower, they benefit greatly from a careful set-up.

    [Reply]

    Victor T. Reply:

    Michael,

    The primer on netbook set-up would be very helpful! Thanks in advance for your time in writing it for the Practical Hacks community,

    Vic

    Michael W. Reply:

    Ok, I’ll work on it tonight!

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael, why not post about it? It’s a big enough topic. kc

  14. Michael W. says:

    Ok, but an article will take a little longer … I’ll start working on it!

    [Reply]

    Judd S. Reply:

    Michael,

    Has your netbook “prep” article or tips ever been published? I just purchased a Gateway LT21 and would like to clean off the “bloat-ware” and optimize the security programs before I start using it regularly.

    Thanks for your efforts!

    [Reply]

    Michael W. Reply:

    The main thing to do is to un-install the factory antivirus program and install Microsoft Security Essentials instead. Since antivirus programs run in the background you want something efficient like MSE or Avira on a lightly powered netbook.

    You can turn off auto indexing, but incremental indexing is not inefficient so eventually the auto indexing slowdown self-corrects.

    Finally, just open the uninstall program box and see if there is anything you won’t ever use (MS Word? Works? bloated video program which you can reinstall later anyway?).

    I recommend VLC as your video player, but the Microsoft media player is good too.

    [Reply]

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