Asus Eee PC 1008HA "Seashell" Review
Without question, this is the most beautifully designed Eee PC to date. It's just one inch thick, it's elegant, and even the paint selected for this model is of higher quality than what we've seen on competing devices. It's still a netbook at heart, but you can definitely tell this one was designed for those who care about style and how their machine looks. In fact, it's somewhat hard to believe that a notebook this stylish is priced at just $429. Sure, it's equipped with only the basics within, but we honestly expected Asus to charge a slightly higher premium than it has for the engineering work that went into this.
The new chassis is being deemed "Seashell," and it's finished in a special scratch-resistant "Infusion" coat. In order to accomplish a seamless overall look, Asus also added curved panels over the I/O ports, and even the AC adapter and input port have been shrunk in order to make things look more flush. Within, you'll find a keyboard that's 92% full-size along with an interesting dimple-laden trackpad that supports multi-touch gestures (just like the 1000HE). We can't applaud Asus enough for including this; we're still baffled by how many new notebooks ship without a multi-touch trackpad, and this relatively affordable netbook includes it. That said, it's still not a full blown multi-touch pad, as scrolling up/down still works only with a single finger on the right side of the pad. Still, it's better than most netbooks trackpads, so we'll take it.
Naturally, a design such as this will include compromises. First off, there are only two USB 2.0 sockets. Additionally, there is no DisplayPort, HDMI or ExpressCard slot. The only video output is a VGA socket, but it's not your typical connector; in order to fit the port on a machine this thin, Asus had to use a proprietary output that turns to VGA via a dongle. Certainly not the most convenient, but at least it's there. Also, Asus did manage to include an Ethernet jack by redesigning the port to expand downward when a cable is inserted. If you'll recall, Apple's similarly thin MacBook Air has no Ethernet port and relies solely on Wi-Fi or WWAN to get connected.
As with many other Asus machines, this one too includes its Super Hybrid Engine, which enables one-click access to changing power profiles based on your immediate needs. Also, 10GB of online-accessible Eee Storage accompanies the standard fare 160GB hard drive, though it's only free to access for 18 months. Afterwards, you'll be paying some of that hosting bill. All in all, the Eee PC 1008HA is rather short on ports, but it's not bad for what we'd consider an "ultrathin" notebook. A pair of USB 2.0 sockets, a modified VGA output, a 4-in-1 multi-format card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, audio in / out and an AC input are all that you will find, but that's certainly satisfactory on a machine this slim.
The 10.1" WSVGA+ display is as glossy as ever, which is pretty standard for a netbook these days. In fact, the whole machine was glossy, and it didn't take long for our fingerprints to mar the otherwise fabulous finish. Its keyboard was as to be expected; the 92% full-size aspect is fine for short bursts, but it definitely feels cramped when typing for long periods of time.