The Asus Eee PC 1008HA is the thinnest and lightest netbook with a 10 inch display that Asus has released to date. In fact, it’s one of the thinnest and lightest 10 inch netbook from any company at the moment.
Asus broke the mold used for its earlier netbooks to create the Eee PC 1008hA. While the Asus Eee PC 700, 900, and early 1000 series laptops all shared similar keyboards, batteries, and other design elements, the 1008HA is the first of the company’s new “Seashell” style netbooks, so-called because the design is said to have been inspired by seashells. Personally, I think it looks more like a laptop than a seashell, but there’s no denying that the new keyboard and super-slim case design are a big step up from earlier models.
But Asus did make some compromises with this machine. While it boasts a 5 to 6 hour battery, that battery is not removable. If it dies and needs to be replaced, you’ll have to send the whole computer back to Asus for repair. And there’s no room in the slim case for a full sized VGA port, so Asus had to create an odd little adapter. Overall, I think many users will be willing to put up with those compromises to use this little computer. But others may want to hold out for the slightly bigger and heavier Asus Eee PC 1005HA which will be available soon — with a user removable battery.
The unit reviewed here has a 1.66GHz Intel Atom CPU, 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, 802.b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth. It runs Windows XP. This unit is black, but the netbook is also available in white. The Eee PC 1008HA is available from Amazon for under $410.
The first thing you’ll notice about this netbook is just how small it is.
That’s also the second and third thing you’ll notice. While the netbook may be a little wider and longer than some 7 or 9 inch mini-laptops, it’s less than an inch thick all the way around, making it thinner than any other 10 inch model with the possible exception of the HP Mini 1000. But since the Eee PC 1008HA is thinner in the front than in the back, it looks thinner than the HP netbooks — at least until you put the two netbooks next to one another.
At just 2.4 pounds, the Eee PC 1008HA is also quite light, which is a welcome change from earlier Asus netbooks. At 3.2 pounds, the Eee PC 1000H was one of the heaviest netbooks with a 10 inch display and 6 cell battery. By shaving almost an entire pound off the weight, Asus has now designed one of the lightest. Don’t get me wrong, either netbook is significantly easier to lug around in a bag all day than a 6 pounds laptop with a 15 inch screen. But every ounce makes a difference, and this netbook is definitely easier to carry around.
In order to keep the case both slim and tidy looking, Asus made a few interesting design choices. First, instead of a full sized VGA port, there’s a proprietary display port that requires an adapter. Fortunately you don’t need to go out and purchase the adapter separately as you did with the original HP Mini 1000.
Instead, the adapter ships with the computer and fits comfortably into a small compartment on the bottom of the computer. It’s a bit annoying to have to pull out the adapter to plug in an external monitor, but honestly, how often do you expect to use an external display with a netbook anyway?
Asus also chose to cover up most of the ports on the sides of the computer with plastic covers. From a distance, this makes the netbook look like it has almost no ports at all, but the flimsy bits of plastic connecting the covers to the case feel like they’re bound to break within a year or so of regular use. If you’re careful, that may not happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people who regularly plug in USB peripherals or headphones find themselves with a missing port cover eventually.
Underneath the unit, you’ll notice there are no access panels for upgrading the RAM, hard drive, or other components. All you’ll find is the VGA adapter. There’s also no way to remove the battery. While Asus says the battery should be good for several years and provide 5 or more hours of run time, if your battery does die you’ll have to send it back to Asus and pay about $129 for a replacement.
Asus eliminated the user customizable buttons at the top of the keyboard that the company had used for earlier netbooks. I don’t really miss them. They were too thin and a little awkward to press. And it was easy to forget what program I’d mapped to which button. Instead, the Eee PC 1008HA has two buttons in the upper left corner for toggling the wireless and touchpad on and off. And on the right is the power button. In the middle you’ll find a few status LEDs for battery, hard drive activity, wireless, and CAPS lock.
Speaking of LEDs, there’s a big one hanging out at the bottom of the display. When the lid is closed and the computer is in sleep mode, a bright blue light will flash. It’s bright enough that I’ve found that if I’m using the computer before bed I either want to shut it all the way down or take it into another room before I can fall asleep.
Keyboard and Touchpad
For the first year that Asus was making netbooks, it included the same keyboard layout on each. The keys were slightly concave and there was a small shift key on the right side of the screen awkwardly placed to the right of the up arrow, causing many touch typists to complain that they constantly wound up moving the cursor up a row when they meant to capitalize a letter.
In January, Asus began to show off new models including the Asus Eee PC 1000HE with a new “chiclet” style keyboard that had a larger right shift key that was placed to the left of the up arrow. The keys were flat, but evenly spaced so that many users, myself included, found it slightly easier to type.
The Eee PC 1008HA has a brand new keyboard with an even larger right shift key that’s located above the up arrow instead of to the side. In order to accomplish this, Asus shrunk the up and down arrow keys. I’m not a big fan of the smaller arrow keys, which also double as PgUp and PgDn keys when you hit the Fn key, but they don’t take that long to get used to.
The keys are also flat, but designed a little differently from the chiclet keyboards. Instead of having a little moat around each key which debris could easily fall into, Asus redesigned the keys so that there’s less space between them. The surface area is similar to the chiclet keyboard, so your fingers will feel a little space between each key, but there’s a little shelf under each key which should help keep dirt and dust from collecting.
The netbook also has a new touchpad, which fits absolutely flush with the palm rest. But it’s easy to detect the edges of the touchpad with your fingers without looking because the touchpad has a textured, bumpy surface. It takes a little while to get use to the feeling, but the touchpad is fairly responsive.
There’s a single button below the touchpad, with a rocker in the middle, letting you easily make right and left clicks. I’m not generally a fan of using a single button when two will do, but this particular button seems to work quite well, and I have to admit that it does look nicer than two distinct buttons would.
The touchpad supports multitouch gestures for zooming in and out of photos and web pages in certain applications. But unlike the touchpad on the Asus Eee PC 1000HE, there’s also a section on the right side of the touchpad that lets you scroll up and down using a single finger.
Graphics and Display
When I posted a few pictures of the Eee PC 1008HA last week, one reader commented that it was nice of Asus to throw in a free mirror with the netbook. And indeed, the Eee PC 1008HA has a glossy screen, unlike the matte displays included in earlier Asus netbooks. In fact, the whole computer is shiny, including the glossy plastic lid and even the shiny plastic around the keyboard and palm rest. The only part of the netbook that’s not shiny is the keyboard itself.
So what does that mean? It means that you’re not going to want to use this netbook outdoors in a bright and sunny setting. You can crank the backlight all the way up to make the screen somewhat readable, but you’re probably going to doom yourself to looking at your own face while you type or surf the web.
That said, indirect sunlight isn’t that bad. I’m actually typing this section of the review while sitting in the windows seat of a train on a cloudy day, and while I can see my reflection in the screen, I’, also having no trouble seeing the display with the backlight turned almost all the way down. If I turn the screen brigthness up, my reflection goes away.
The netbook has a 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display. Asus includes an EeePC Tray utility that makes it possible to use a virtual display resolution of 1024 x 768 in one of two ways. You can either scroll up and down to adjust the screen to see the extra 168 vertical pixels, or you can use software to trick the computer into thinking it has a 1024 x 768 pixel display and squash some of those pixels together. The result isn’t pretty, but it may help you run some programs that have a minimum screen resolution higher than 1024 x 600.
The Eee PC 1008HA has an Intel Atom N280 CPU and integrated 945GSE graphics. It’s not going to win any awards for graphics or video performance, but it performs common tasks like watching web video from sites like YouTube and Hulu reasonably well. Standard definition Hulu videos look fine in full screen mode on the netbook, but will look choppy if you try plugging in a higher resolution external monitor. You should also be able to play 720p videos in H.264, WMV, or other formats relatively smoothly, but don’t expect this machine to handle 1080p video very well.
The computer’s Intel Atom N280 CPU is a little faster than the Atom N270 chip found in many earlier netbooks. It’s defined as a 1.66GHz processor, but using the Asus Super Hybrid Engine you can set the CPU to run at 1.25GHz, 1.66GHz, or 1.75GHz. This allows you to save energy when you want to extend the computer’s battery life, or give your PC a little speed boost when you need it.
Between the computer’s Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM, I had no problem multitasking, with two web browsers and multiple tabs open while I edited photos using the light weight image editor Irfanview. I’ve found you can even do some light audio or video editing on an Atom-powered machine, as long as you don’t expect audio or video compression or rendering jobs to go quickly.
As mentioned above, the Eee PC 1008HA battery is not removable. If it dies you’ll need to send the computer back to Asus for repair. And if you want to use an extended third party battery, you’re out of luck (unless you’re cool with an external battery pack that plugs into the power port).
Fortunately, the built in battery is pretty good and many users will find that they don’t need a higher capacity battery. In day to day use, I was regularly able to get between 5 and 6 hours of run time with the WiFi, on, Bluetooth, off, and backlight near the medium setting. At one point, I used the netbook for a few hours with the WiFI off while writing this review, and Windows estimated that the battery could run for between 6.5 and 7 hours, but I didn’t put this estimate to the test.
I also ran the same Battery Eater Pro test on the Eee PC 1008HA that I’ve used in other reviews. This test is designed to put a constant strain on the CPU until the battery runs all the way down, so it’s a test of the minimum battery performance, not the maximum. The netbook lasted for about 3 hours and 50 minutes when running Battery Eater under classic mode, which means that’s about how much run time you would get if you were, say, watching videos continuously.
Asus includes the same package of software with the Eee PC 1008HA that you can find on other Asus netbooks. That includes the Super Hybrid Engine for toggling the CPU clock speed, EeePC Tray utility for adjusting the screen resolution, and a tool for updating the system BIOS.
Asus also bundles a free trial version of Microsoft Office, but you’ll have to pony up some cash if you want to continue using this software after the trial expires.
The Asus Eee PC 1008HA is an excellent little laptop. Asus managed to produce a machine that’s both smaller and lighter than the Eee PC 1000HE, but which still gets excellent battery life and offers the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from an Atom powered netbook.
But the fact that the battery cannot be replaced or upgraded could put off some users. There are also no access panels for upgrading the RAM or hard drive, which means you’ll have to completely disassemble the computer if you want to perform any upgrades or modifications yourself.
For those reasons, this netbook isn’t going to appeal to everybody. Fortunately, Asus plans to release the Eee PC 1005HA soon, which will feature a similar keyboard and case design, but which will be a little thicker, heavier, and have a user replaceable battery. If you’re looking for thin and light, the 1008HA might be the way to go. If you’re looking for a computer that you can more easily modify or repair, you might want to hold out for the 1005HA.
You can read more about the Asus Eee PC 1008HA in the Liliputing Product Database, where you can also compare it with other netbooks.