If there’s one problem plaguing just about every netbook out on the market right now, it’s that cheap, toy-like feel. Manufacturers just can’t seem to escape it when they’re having their devices manufactured thousands of miles away in factories that seemingly just switched over just last month from building olive-green plastic army men. Asus attempted to remedy the netbook’s image problem with the high-end S101, but price followed suit, and the $800 price tag made us question whether you call it a netbook at all. The Eee 1002HA stands as a compromise between the two, adopting the luxurious look of the latter within the price range ($429 MSRP) of a true netbook.
Features and Design
How do you make a $429 laptop feel like one that costs about double? Asus turned to metal cladding. Both the back of the lid and the wrist rest below the keyboard have been veneered in brushed aluminum, which is tinted in a gunmetal shade Asus calls “argent gray.” Though a few strips of cold metal can’t mimic the rock-solid feel of say, Apple’s latest MacBooks, they do a respectable job toughening up the portions of the laptop likely to see some of the most wear and tear. The illusion can be ruined, though, by checking out the plastic underbelly of the notebook, or in the case of our particular review model, seeing the aluminum lift up above the touchpad, where the adhesive seemed to be giving out a bit.
On the performance front, the Eee closely follows the S101 in terms of specs, but foregoes the pricier 30GB solid-state drive in favor of a cheaper and more capacious 160GB standard drive. That also bumps up weight and depth to a degree, but both changes are modest (compare 2.7 pounds to 2.4, and 25mm maximum thickness to 27.8mm.) For anyone looking to do anything more than lightweight travel computing, the extra amount of hard drive space will almost certainly justify the difference.
Inside, the 1002HA sports the same 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip that most other netbooks have, as well as 1GB of RAM. It comes pre-installed with Windows XP.
Ports and Connectivity
The 1002HA offers a fairly typical set of inputs and outputs, including three USB ports, audio jacks for headphones and a microphone, an Ethernet jack, and a VGA output. There’s also a card reader on the back that handles SD/MMC and MS-PRO cards.
Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi are both built in, the latter of which can be turned on and off with a keyboard shortcut, rather than with a more traditional hardwired switched.
Booting the 1002HA from a dead state into Windows took just a hair over 30 seconds, and with only the default software installed, we had a browser window open in 40 seconds. That’s downright stunning performance, especially compared to some of the brick-like gaming notebooks we’ve evaluated that take well over a minute to kick awake. It’s especially convenient for travel, since we felt comfortable turning it off (and saving battery power) still knowing it would be operational at a moment’s notice, rather than leaving it suckling watts on standby even when squirreled away in a case.
After booting into Windows, the 1002HA kept up with most of the tasks we through at it without much complaint. Surfing, especially, felt smooth and unhindered, and we were able to pop open the included office apps almost instantly. It goes without saying that it’s no gaming rig, but for run-of-the-mill office chores, it delivers what most users will need.
The 10.2-inch LED-backlit screen on the 1002HA offers a mixed bag. On one hand, it offers a much wider viewing angle than the LCD on MSI’s comparable U100 Wind, but on the other, it also suffers from so-so brightness and limited color reproduction. We managed to get by with it for surfing and writing, but definitely missed the superior brightness and vibrancy of a real notebook for viewing graphics.
Asus Eee 1002HA
Asus claims the 4200mAh battery in the 1002HA delivers five hours of run time, but we found that to be a fairly optimistic portrayal of what you might be able to get with the screen dimmed all the way and only a modest amount of processor use – like when typing a paper in the dark. Under more typical conditions, with the screen cranked to full brightness and Wi-Fi on for surfing, we were able to get about three hours and 20 minutes out of the machine. That’s so-so for a netbook – enough for a movie or some light surfing in the airport, but it’s no “all day work machine.”
Interacting with the 1002HA is about as comfortable as you can get on a notebook in this size class. Asus has managed to make the keyboard 92 percent of the size of a real, full-size one, and the touchpad has also been expanded to fill as much of the space below the keyboard as possible. The single rocker button that serves as both a right and left click has also been improved from the original Eee models, which were notoriously hard to depress. (Though the choice of faux chrome on this one had us question why Asus’ designers would want the single most-touched piece of the computer to be coated in reflective, fingerprint-collecting plastic.)
The included 1.3 megapixel is also a nice step up from the bare minimum VGA models that usually make it to netbooks. It captured liquid video with respectable detail, and color balance right out of the box, making an ideal companion to Skype.
Software & Accessories
Asus keeps the software load relatively light for this particular Eee, which the snappy boot time is a testament to. For the most part, we found the preinstalled programs like Skype, Adobe Reader and StarOffice (a free Microsoft Office alternative) relatively useful, although we questioned including WinDVD on a notebook with no optical drive. Fortunately, it’s completely devoid of any “free offers,” or any of the promotional garbage that some other vendors are prone to loading computers with.
The Eee 1002HA comes with only a few accompanying items in its clean black box: the typical power brick and charger, a driver disc, manual and a zippered sleeve. Because netbooks don’t typically fit very well in notebook cases designed for full-size notebooks, the velvety cover makes an especially nice addition for travel, allowing the Eee to be tossed into a backpack or luggage with other goodies without getting scraped up. The power brick is also mercifully small – no bigger than your full-size pack of Juicy Fruit – and has a useful blue LED to indicate when it’s powered.
Asus Eee 1002HA
Asus has almost certainly hit the mark in its effort to offer a notebook that delivers more mature, refined styling in a package that’s still competitive with more basic netbooks. Though the 1002HA does command a price slightly higher than your run-of-the-mill netbook, Asus justifies it with better hardware (like a 160GB hard drive) as much as it does in the style department, making details like aluminum trim feel like an accompaniment to a better machine, not just a meaningless tack-on. With many retailers now offering at or around the all-important $400 mark, it remains one of the best-equipped and most stylish netbooks at that price point.
- Aluminum trim adds style, refinement
- Large hard drive
- Comfortable keyboard, touchpad
- Few preinstalled programs
- Included protective sleeve
- Compact power brick
- Plastic chassis still shines through
- Dim, somewhat dull screen
- Slight price premium
- So-so battery life