Asus has been selling the Eee PC 1008HA since this summer, but the company recently launched an updated version loaded up with Windows 7. In addition to the updated operating system, the new model also has the latest Eee PC software from Asus as well as 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. The original model had just 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive.
That’s pretty much it for the differences, so portions of this review will be copied and pasted from my earlier review of the Asus Eee PC 1008HA. But I’ve updated the software and performance sections as well as some other areas. After all, it’s been five months since I reviewed the Windows XP model, and the netbook space looks a bit different than it did at the time I first reviewed the Eee PC 1008HA.
One thing that immediately sets the updated Eee PC 1008HA apart from the crowd is the fact that it’s one of the only netbooks to ship with Windows 7 Home Premium. Most 10 inch netbooks come with the lower priced Windows 7 Starter Edition.
The model featured in this review has a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 CPU, a 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth. It’s available from Amazon for $411.
On paper it’s hard to describe just how small the Asus Eee PC 1008HA is. At less than an inch thick though, it certainly looks and feels smaller than practically any other netbook on the market with a 10 inch display. Sure, it’s a little wider or a little longer than some models.
But in order to find a thinner machine you’d have to look to the Nokia Booklet 3G which has a slower processor and which costs about $200 more (if you buy the Booklet without a subsidy).
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 HP Mini 1000 (another netbook that was just 1 inch thick, but which has now been discontinued).
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, if your battery does die you’ll have to send it back to Asus and pay about $129 for a replacement. And if you want to extend your battery life, you’ll have to purchase an external power pack, because there’s no way to replace the battery with one that’s more powerful.
The Eee PC 1008HA has two buttons above the left corner of the keyboard for toggling the wireless and touchpad on and off. On the right is the power button, and 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
The keyboard is nice and wide and features a large shift key on each side of the netbook. Gone are the tiny shift keys awkwardly placed on the right side of the screen.
But I’m not in love with the arrow keys on the Eee PC 1008HA and other Asus Eee PC Seashell-series netbooks. The left and right keys, which double up as Home and End keys when you hit the Fn button, are fine. But the up/down and PgUp/PgDn buttons are ridiculously small. It takes a little while to get used to these buttons before you can hit them without looking.
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.
When I posted some of the first pictures of the Eee PC 1008HA, 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. 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.
That 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 brightness 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.
Since Microsoft released Windows 7 in October, most netbooks have shipped with Windows 7 Starter Edition. This version of Microsoft’s latest operating system features a number of limitations. For example, you can’t change the desktop background, use Windows Media Center, or Windows Aero effects.
But the Asus Eee PC 1008HA comes with Windows 7 Home Premium, which includes these features and others. And it runs just as well on this netbook as Windows 7 Starter runs on other netbooks.
That is to say, it takes a few seconds longer to boot than Windows XP, but overall the computer feels fairly responsive when running Windows 7. That said, the computer does feel a tiny bit more sluggish when multitasking than I remember the Windows XP version feeling.
Still, given the choice between Windows 7 Starter and Windows 7 Home Premium, I’m always going to go with the latter. You don’t realize how useful little things like being able to see live previews of running applications from the taskbar can be until you’re stuck with an operating system that looks virtually identical, but which lacks these features.
Asus also loads its usual suite of netbook applications on the Eee PC 1008HA. That includes the Super Hybrid Engine, which lets you overclock or underclock the CPU. In Power Saving mode, the CPU runs at 1.25GHz. High performance mode brings the clock speed up to 1.66GHz, while Super Performance overclocks the processor to 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.
There’s also a utility to resize the system fonts, Eee Splendid, which lets you adjust settings for video playback or for your LCD display generally, and Dr. Eee, a sort of widget engine that lets you dock gadgets to the side of your desktop including a weather app, currency converter, and Skype shortcut.
You also get the Eee Dock utility which gives you quick access to various Asus software by mousing over the top of your screen.
Truth be told, most of these utilities just add clutter to your desktop and I think most users will end up disabling them. But if you’re a happy Eee Dock or Dr. Eee user, feel free to tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.
The computer also comes with a free trial of Microsoft Office 2007, Trend Micro Internet Security, and a full version of Microsoft Works.
The Asus Eee PC 1008HA has a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor and integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics. That’s pretty much the same hardware you get with almost any netbook purchased in 2009. But the laptop does have 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, which is a little more memory and storage than you typically get.
I recently started running a standard set of benchmarks on new computers simulating some of the tasks that you’re likely to do in every day life. These including transcoding audio and video files, copying files and folders, and zipping a large number of files.
Not surprisingly, I’ve discovered that most notebooks with faster Intel CULV processors outperform your average netbook. But the Asus Eee PC 1008HA isn’t exactly useless when it comes to these tasks. Here’s a chart showing what happened when I tried performing each of these tasks on the Eee PC 1008HA:
I don’t happen to have an Eee PC 1008HA with Windows XP handy, but if any of my readers does, I’d be very interested in knowing how it scores on my benchmark tests. They’re publicly available for download. Just make sure to read the instructions on the original benchmark post and one of these days I’ll get around to creating a text file with the instructions and re-uploading the benchmarks with it.
Here’s a brief explanation of the benchmarks:
- Video transcode: Converting a 4:34 video file using the XViD codec using VirtualDub
- Audio transcode: Converting 13:24 WAV file to MP3 using WinLAME
- File copy: Copying a 478MB folder filled with 2186 files
- File zip: Zipping that same folder using 7-zip
I’m always a little surprised at how quickly an Intel Atom powered netbook can handle tasks like transcoding audio that I would have thought would have been beyond their reach. As you can see, transcoding even a short video file can take a pretty long time though. I wouldn’t recommend using the Asus Eee PC 1008HA (or any other netbook) for editing your wedding video.
The laptop gets a relatively low Windows Index score of just 2.1 This is due to the low power Intel Atom processor and underwhelming performance of the GMA 950 graphics chipset. But as you can see from the screenshot above and the file copy/zip tests, the RAM and hard drive are pretty solid.
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).
While the Windows XP model of the Asus Eee PC 1008Ha was able to get over 5 hours of battery life, the Windows 7 version doesn’t even come close. In Power Saving Mode, I got about 4 hours and 20 minutes of run time while surfing the web over WiFi.
With High Performance mode enabled and the CPU running at 1.66GHz, the battery died after just 3 hours and 55 minutes.
I checked with Asus, and it doesn’t appear that the new model has a lower capacity. This means that Windows 7 is using more power than Windows XP. It’s possible that you could prolong battery life by disabling some of the animations and graphic effects in Windows 7. But I’ve noticed that even netbooks running the pared down Windows 7 Starter Edition which doesn’t have all the fancy effects found in Windows 7 Home Premium get less battery life than their Windows XP counterparts.
Using Battery Eater Pro, a test that puts constant strain on the CPU until the battery dries up, the Asus Eee PC 1008HA with Windows 7 ran for just about 3 hours. The Windows XP version lasted for 3 hours and 50 minutes using the same test.
The Asus Eee PC 1008HA with Windows 7 may have more RAM and hard drive space than the Windows XP model. But it gets an hour or two less battery life, which is disappointing, especially since the battery is not user-replaceable.
It’s possible that this may be addressed by future software updates, but right now you have a choice to make if you’re interested in this slim and light netbook: Do you want a model with the latest Windows operating system, or do you want one that has a 5+ hour battery?
Fortunately the Windows XP model is still available at a number of retail outlets. So you really do have a choice. And now that there’s a new model out, you can often find a good deal on the Windows XP model. For instance, Amazon sells it for as low as $345.
If you’re OK with the relatively low (for a netbook) battery life, you’d be hard pressed to find a 10 inch netbook that’s as slim and light as the Eee PC 1008HA. But if you want a higher capacity, user replaceable battery, or a netbook that doesn’t require you to use an adapter to plug in a monitor, you might want to check out the Eee PC 1005HA, which is a bit thicker and heavier, but which has a much higher capacity battery that can be easily replaced.