Asus Eee PC 1008HA "Seashell" Review

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User Experience

Considering that style is definitely a part of the overall user experience, we're thrilled to say that Asus' Eee PC 1008HA excels in this area. Unlike all the other "me-too" netbooks out there, this one is actually fun to carry around. It's unique, it's pretty and it's exceptionally small, thin and light. Add all of that together, and you already start off on a good foot. Asus has done a great job of making a solid first impression, and while we would've appreciated a few more ports, we aren't upset by the amount of connectors.

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As for actual usage, what can we really say? It's hardly different than any other netbook we've had the pleasure of using. Windows XP? Check. An Atom CPU? Check. 1GB of DDR2 RAM? Check. A 160GB hard drive? Check. A 10.1" display? You bet. Mind you, we understand that a lot of this has everything to do with Microsoft's Windows XP-Netbook limits, but don't expect the 1008HA to outperform the other guys just because it looks faster.

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Indeed, we found it to be exactly as responsive and potent as the Eee PC 1000HE, which includes the exact same 1.66GHz N280 processor, 1GB of memory and 160GB 5400RPM hard drive. As we mentioned in that review, this setup is plenty powerful to plow 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 extra-glossy display was a thorn in our side; we much prefer matte panels (as on the OCZ Neutrino), and we caught ourselves becoming distracted on a number of occasions by reflections when computing in brightly-lit rooms. As expected, the glossy panel severely impairs your view in direct sunlight, which is a real shame considering how perfect it is for coffee shop-sitters. Outside of that, however, the panel was impressive. Colors were bright, sharp and vivid, and brightness levels were absolutely passable. As with most netbooks, the speakers weren't anything to write home about, but they were fine for Windows alerts and the occasional jazz tune when in a pinch.

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The trackpad was a real standout here, with the multi-touch capabilities really winning us over. Considering just how small and cramped one's workspace is on a netbook, you need every competitive advantage you can get. The ability to zoom with your fingers and customize clicking commands is a really huge benefit here, and this fact alone would encourage us to recommend this netbook over any other one without a gesture-enabled trackpad. It makes a serious difference in productivity while at work, and there's simply no excuse for other PC makers to leave this critical inclusion out. The keyboard was enjoyable to type on, if not a touch cramped. After awhile, you adjust to the 92% full-size layout, but as we hinted at earlier, it's still not ideal for long typing sessions. Though, we should point out the full size right Shift key -- thanks, Asus!

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Not long after launching here in the US, Asus issued a minor BIOS update that supposedly enhances Wi-Fi performance. We tested before and after, and saw fantastic performance in both instances, so we suppose the update may not actually trigger a boost for everyone. We can't help but lament the fact that such a gorgeous machine is burdened with Intel's sluggish GMA 950 graphics chipset. This fact prevents the Eee PC 1008HA from being a serious contender in the multimedia notebook world, as users will have trouble even with heavy 720p files. It'll handle the average DVD and SD video clip fine, but high-def aficionados should steer clear in order to avoid disappointment.

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