Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell Review

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User Experience and Comparison to 1008HA

As we've outlined briefly already, Asus' Eee PC 1005HA isn't all that different than the Eee PC 1008HA that shipped to America earlier this month. Their specification lista are almost exactly the same. In fact, let's run down the list of identical parts just to show you how alike these are internally. Both the 1008HA and 1005HA are equipped with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N280 processor, 1GB of DDR2 memory, a 1.3MP webcam, a 160GB hard drive, 10GB of Internet-accessible Eee Storage, a 10.1" (1024x600) LED backlit display, Wi-Fi,  (at least) two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, audio in/out, a VGA port and a multi-format card reader. Sure, the VGA port is a little different on the 1008HA, but it serves the same purpose.

As for notable differences, the 1005HA lacks the covered ports seen on the 1008HA. All of the side sockets are completely uncovered on the 1005HA, and the VGA port is a standard socket that doesn't require a dongle to use. As mentioned, the 1005HA is a bit thicker than the 1008HA, with depths measuring 1.4" and 1", respectively. Also, the 1008HA ships with a sealed, non-removable (at least by the end user) battery, while the 1005HA has a battery that can be removed--a big deal for those who need to carry extra batteries for long-haul trips. Finally, there is one extra USB 2.0 port on the 1005HA, bringing its total to 3.

The battery in the 1005HA is rated to last far longer than the "6 hour" battery in the 1008HA. As with the Eee PC 1000HE, which offered greatly improved battery life over the Eee PC 1000H, the 1005HA is definitely the "Seashell" to get if longevity is paramount, particularly because you can extend things by carrying extra batteries. Asus rates the removable battery in the 1005HA at 10.5 hours under ideal circumstances, and we'll be taking a look at the accuracy of said claim a little later on.

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As for the overall user experience, we found ourselves thinking that we were back on the 1008HA once more. Performance wise, everything felt similarly snappy, and for good reason. Every major hardware component in the 1008HA is also in the 1005HA, including the CPU, RAM and hard drive (right down to matching 5400RPM spindle speeds). We won't rehash everything we already mentioned about the user experience in our Eee PC 1008HA evaluation, but we will speak about the subtle changes that make the usability slightly different here.

First and foremost, the 1005HA feels a bit less sexy after using it and the 1008HA. For those who have yet to be spoiled by the thinness of the 1008HA, you may not feel that 1.4" (at its thickest point) is too thick. For us, the added depth and weight did make this feel more like a portable work machine and less like a fashion accessory. And yes, that's a good thing if you're hoping to get work done. Asus uncovered the ports in order to make port swapping easier for on-the-go professionals, and it boosted battery life to keep you working longer without needing a recharge. Obviously, the changes here were in the interest of the business traveler and those who are looking for a netbook with a nice blend of style and performance.

Indeed, we much preferred the uncovered ports. It was much easier to insert and swap USB flash drives, plug in our headphones and connect an external monitor on the 1005HA compared to the 1008HA. Put simply, the ports on the 1005HA are designed to be used often; the ports on the 1008HA are designed to be accessed infrequently. Keep that distinction in mind when deciding which of the two "Seashell" netbooks are most suited for you.

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Our typing and mousing experience was the same here as on the 1008HA. The trackpad was above average for a netbook (though full-fledged multi-touch capabilities were sorely missing), and the keyboard is about as good as it gets for a machine this small. We wouldn't want to type for long periods of time here, but it's certainly large enough that you won't be constantly correcting mistakes due to the keys being exceptionally tiny or placed oddly.

As we mentioned in the 1008HA review, this setup is plenty powerful to cruise through basic, everyday tasks. Office duties, emailing, Web browsing and PowerPoint making are all very do-able here, as they should be. The only time we found the machine really strained was when we fired up a 720p / 1080p media clip, and based on that, we concluded that 3D gaming would absolutely not be possible on the underpowered GMA 950 graphics set. For basic computing chores, however, WinXP was adequately responsive and fan noise never became a serious issue. Sadly, it seems that very fact enabled the machine to get quite hot after a few hours of normal use. Sensitive legs, be warned!

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The super-glossy display looked the same here as on the 1008HA. In other words, we wish it was matte, but it looks fantastic when not used in direct or partial sunlight. If you plan on using this more outside than inside, you may want to consider OCZ Technology's Neutrino, which ships with a rare matte panel over the more popular glossy LCD.

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We'll also mirror our feelings here on the integrated GMA 950 graphics set. This sluggish set is no match for 1080i/p material, and even some 720p content is too much for it to handle. Sadly, this GPU forces users to forget about using the 1005HA for even light-duty gaming and mildly intensive multimedia chores. Even a weak discrete CPU or a hybrid GPU system would've greatly improved things here.

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