Asus Eee PC 1000HE Netbook Evaluation

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A Closer Look At Optimizations

Some may feel that Asus has done itself both a disservice and a favor by creating so many variations within its Eee family of netbooks. On one hand, it's great that there are so many choices to fit so many needs. On the other, the average consumer would have to dedicate hours to sifting through each model in order to determine what minor changes were worth having or worth glossing over. We tend to prefer the customize-to-order model that PC vendors such as Lenovo, Dell, HP and Apple have adopted, as that keeps the amount of model names to a minimum while still providing the option to mix in different components from those listed in the base configuration.

That aside, we figured it prudent to break down the minutiae in order to highlight the changes between this Eee PC 1000HE and the awfully similar Eee PC 1000H that we reviewed last fall. We'll start off by going over what hasn't changed. For starters, Windows XP Home is still the pre-installed operating system, and 1GB of DDR2 RAM (in a single RAM slot) is still all the memory you'll get from the factory. The new machine also retains the 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi radio and Bluetooth 2.0 module, both of which can be switched on / off independently via a simple Function button press or via the taskbar. The same 1.3 megapixel webcam is there, as is the trio of USB 2.0 ports, VGA output and audio in / out ports. Both machines also tip the scales at a very manageable 3.2 pounds, and in most regards, the well appointed, classy exterior is the same we found on the 1000H.

     

Now, for the differences. Here's where things get interesting.  You see, Asus in large part is marketing this machine as just a longer lasting version of the 1000H. And for the everyday netbook buyer, maybe that's all the justification they'd need to select the 1000HE. But when we began to break things down spec by spec, we realized that Asus did a phenomenal job in tweaking this machine in a litany of small, but very appreciated ways. Granted, most of these changes are important only to the technology enthusiast, but we can't help but applaud Asus for not just slapping a bigger battery in here and calling it a day.

Fit and Finish:
Right out of the gate, you'll notice a few substantial design changes upon either flipping the netbook over or opening it up. Underneath, the once bulky (and rather unsightly) hard drive / RAM cover has been replaced with a smoother, more tightly integrated panel. Upon cracking open the lid, keen eyes will recognize that the once matte LCD bezel has been replaced with a glossy one, while the new "Chiclet" style keyboard should stand out to just about anyone. Rather than having all of the keys bumping up against one another as on the 1000H, this new style looks awfully similar to the keyboards on Apple's new line of MacBook machines. It gives each key a bit of "breathing room," if you will, and just generally makes typing a lot more fluid. A quick point on the bezel -- we felt the 1000H had too much gloss as it was, so needless to say, we were a touch disappointed to see reflections of all sorts surrounding our display when opening this machine up for the first time. It's subjective, sure, but was there really a problem with the matte bezel?

Internal Component Selection:

At any rate, another minor (and unpublished) change that we can't help but remark upon is the complete lack of stickers. We lamented the inclusion of palm rest stickers on the 1000H, and this time, Asus has listened to our cries by keeping things clean and uncluttered, even removing the sticky labels from the underside. A nice touch, indeed. Moving beyond aesthetics, the first notable change from the 1000H to the 1000HE is the central processing unit. The 1.6GHz Atom N270 has been replaced with a 1.66GHz Atom N280, which provides an obvious
(however slight) speed increase and a jump from 533MHz to 667MHz on the front side bus. Unfortunately, the new CPU is paired up with Intel's older 945GSE chipset, which is still different from the 945GME in the 1000H. That said, we would've loved for Asus to pair this CPU up with Intel's GN40 chipset instead, which provides a 720p hardware-based video decoder. As it stands, the N280 + 945GSE combination only amounts to minor performance improvements.

Also, the 1000HE doubles up on the hard drive space by including a 160GB drive, which turns out to be the Seagate Momentus 5400.5, complete with 8MB of cache, a 5400RPM spindle speed and a SATA interface. In addition, Asus adds in 10GB of online Eee Storage, which is complimentary for the first 18 months. Among the more minor tweaks are a multi-format card reader that accepts a larger variety of cards (SD, SDHC, Memory Stick and MS-PRO versus just SD, SDHC and MMC in the 1000H), a pre-loaded Skype VoIP calling application and an "array" microphone.

     

High Level Usage Experience:
We'll get to the facts and figures in a bit, but you're probably wondering just how well this unit performed in everyday situations. Truth is, it performed just about as well as every other Atom-based netbook out there. On the surface, it's hard to recognize that there are speedier components within, but when we fired up a 720p movie trailer to see how it would handle intense loads, we were pleasantly surprised with the results. The machine managed to churn through with barely a stutter, and when the same trailer was viewed in 480p, everything was perfectly smooth. Oh, and since you're just dying to know what happened when we tried out the 1080p clip, let's just say you wouldn't want to watch it for long and frankly 1080p is overkill for a 10" screen-based netbook anyway.

The 1000HE handled Office tasks, Web browsing and other non-graphically intense tasks with ease, though -- as with the 1000H -- it showed its weakness when attempting to play modern 3D games at levels above the lowest possible settings. Our advice? Don't buy a netbook for gaming -- you wouldn't buy a Mini Cooper for mountain climbing, would you? We did notice the occasional bit of lag when switching between Firefox tabs, but that eased up with we closed a few of the dozen tabs we had open. Like we said, performance is apt to be hit-or-miss when things get intense, but if you're really buying a netbook to do things it was intended for, you'll be more than happy with the responsiveness and handling of the Asus Eee PC 1000HE.


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