Quest For Netbook Nirvana: Asus Eee PC 1000HE

eee pc nirvana.jpgConsidering Asus pretty much kicked off the entire netbook craze with their original Eee PC, you'd expect the 1000HE to be far superior to all netbooks that have come before it. And for the most part, it is.The 1000HE is another 10-inch netbook running Windows XP, although this is one of the earliest netbooks with the N280 Atom processor. Its other claim to fame is the six-cell battery, which I can happily say gave me more juice from a single charge than I had any right to expect. The trade off, obviously, is the added bulk - but it's not so bad you can't carry this thing easily.

For the $899 RRP, there was an expectancy on my part that this would be a pretty special netbook experience, more than just the battery life advantages and faster processor. I wasn't a massive fan of the review unit's glossy white finish, but perhaps the black finish would suit my sense of style a bit better. The Macbook-like individual keys, although slightly smaller (92% of full size) than a regular keyboard, were still comfortable to type on. The screen, at 1024 x 600 wasn't exactly high-res, but allowed me to avoid complications like I had with the HP Mini 2140.

And that's a lesson it looks like Asus has learned well. Above the keyboard are 4 shortcut buttons, one of which acts as a shortcut to change the display resolution, which I imagine would counter those low-res difficulties quickly and easily. Another shortcut button offers the much more common ability to switch between performance and battery life, while yet another launches Skype.

The trackpad is an area of mixed joy and heartbreak. Being a long-time Mac user, the ability to scroll by using two fingers on the trackpad was like rediscovering religion. Until weird things kept happening, like a zoom box popping up or accidentally brushing three fingers and having new browser windows opening. Considering the smallish nature of the trackpad itself, I almost felt like Asus was trying to do too much with its multitouch functions, when it would have been better to just keep it simple.

I was, however, happy with the inclusion of Eee Storage - a feature which may or may not be new to the 1000HE (it's probably not) but which offers Eee owners 10GB of free online storage with software that automates backups and manages your online data. Which isn't bad at all for a cheap little netbook.

The charging brick for the 1000HE isn't too bad - Asus have certainly shrunk it down in comparison to most standard bricks - but it's still no challenger to Dell's brickless cable. Three USB ports, ethernet, mic, headphone and SD card slots mean there's no real concerns about connectivity either.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed using the 1000HE, especially in terms of performance. However the plain white styling and the small multitouch trackpad that tried to do too much means that while it's closer than ever to attaining Nirvana, it's still not there yet. Fingers crossed we'll reach the summit soon.

[Netbook Nirvana reviews]