by Rob Williams on June 29, 2009 in Mobile
With an incredible number of netbooks available on the market, how does one compete? With ASUS and their 1008HA (Seashell), the simple answer is to make not a faster notebook, but a feature-rich netbook with a better design. The 1008HA delivers on both counts, with the best netbook design we’ve seen to date and other bonuses on the software front.
I’ve mentioned on our pages in the past that I’m not much of a netbook guy. It’s not that I don’t understand their appeal or uses, but rather the fact that I just can’t seem to “get used” to them. I don’t have big hands, but I still manage to fumble over the keyboard. Then there’s the limiting resolution (1024×600), but that’s self-explanatory. I do seem to be in the minority, though, as netbook growth isn’t slowing down, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who owns one and isn’t satisfied overall.
As a non-netbook user, I didn’t know what kind of conclusions I’d be making on the final page of this review, but I have to say, the 1008HA really impressed me. It’s not perfect by any means, but there are so many pluses, that I feel inclined to award it one of our Editor’s Choice awards (and I have).
Let’s start with the keyboard. I mentioned that I tend to fumble all over them on netbooks, and this one isn’t that much different, although what helps are the full-size shift keys. Rather than the right Shift button size be on par with the letter keys, the one found here is about 2.5x larger, making hitting it far, far easier.
What impressed me most seems simple… the design. Sure, anyone can refine a netbook chassis a wee bit to make it look sexier and cleaner, but ASUS took things to the next level here. There are some trade-offs, but I’ll touch on those in a moment. Plain and simple, the Seashell features the cleanest design of any netbook out there. Everything from the glossy paint to even the Eee logo looks perfect, and even though I didn’t like it at first, the seashell shape is a winner.
What I like most about the Seashell is the fact that ASUS tried to keep things simple, and as clean as possible. You don’t see connectors on the sides like you do other netbooks, thanks to the small doors, and that really does add a lot to the appeal. The downside is that each time you want to plug in a mouse or any other USB device, you’ll have to go through the hassle of popping open the door and closing it again afterwards, but this may prove to be a worthwhile trade-off for some.
The other downsides are a little harsher. Because of the goal to keep the cleanest design possible, users lose the ability to upgrade their battery and memory, and although I’m not certain, I don’t believe the hard drive is upgradable either. If you look again at the back of the unit, there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to prop it open, and that’s the simple reason that the user will lack upgradability.
If looks are more important to you than upgradability, then none of this will matter. But here’s the kicker. This ultra-clean design costs a premium, and at ~$420, the 1008HA costs $30 more than the $390 1005HA. To make matters worse, the 1005HA has a few perks the 1008HA doesn’t, such as upgradability for the HDD, memory and also includes a removable battery. It doesn’t end there, either. The 1005HA also packs a 6-cell battery, so ASUS promises 10+ hours of battery-life.
But none of this matters a great deal, because both models target a different audience – one strictly for looks, and one for looks and upgradability (and ultimate battery-life). I do feel, though, that since the 1005HA packs a wicked battery upgrade, the 1008HA shouldn’t be so expensive. In my opinion, the sweet design of the 1008HA would be on par with the perk of the larger battery of the 1005HA, but ASUS must not agree.
That issue doesn’t take me down off the high that the 1008HA put me on though, because despite the cost premium and the 3-cell battery, it’s still one heck of a sweet netbook. If offers some innovative features such as the hidden VGA dongle and also the hidden ports, and the cleanest design of a netbook anywhere. Even the 1005HA can’t compete in that regard (that model’s ports are all exposed, and the model is also thicker).
In my personal tests, I used the 1008HA over the course of two days on battery-power, doing everything from web-surfing, to listening to music, to more web-surfing and also typing up some of this article. In all the time combined, the Eee PC lasted just under the projected 6-hour mark (I hit 5h 50m), so I’m quite impressed there. Note that I used the “Power Saver” function, which didn’t decrease the display’s brightness, but did downclock the processor.
In all that time, I never felt the unit was getting too warm, even when using it in my lap. This is no doubt in thanks to the modest processor, but even while watching video on YouTube and stressing the CPU, it didn’t once heat up to an uncomfortable level. Where performance is concerned, you can’t expect that much from a netbook, but the 1GB of RAM coupled with the processor should be sufficient for most needs.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the 1008HA, and though it has a few drawbacks, it’s the best-looking netbook available (in my opinion) and lacks nothing (aside from upgradable storage and memory). If you like the design of the Seashell but aren’t that fussy, then I highly recommend you take a look at the 1005HA. It doesn’t look quite as clean, but the other perks (among a lower price) make it almost unbeatable.
- Superb design and aesthetics.
- Near-full-sized keyboard.
- Speedy processor (for a netbook, ~1.70GHz during full load).
- 6+ hours of battery-life.
- Crisp, bright LED-backlit display.
- 10GB online storage space is a nice touch.
- Online backup software is useful and works well.
- Minimal traces of “bloatware”.
- Non-removable battery.
- Non-upgradable memory.
- Touchpad a little rough on finger tips after long use.
- Should include 2GB of RAM, given it’s non-user-upgradable.
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA Seashell
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