Though notebook manufacturers have managed to make netbooks ultra portable by shrinking down just about everything and doing away with nonessentials like optical drives, one aspect of being small has also been the Achilles Heel of the netbook: battery life. With batteries practically the size of pack of Twix, most conventional netbooks are lucky to limp three hours before zonking out, making them less than useful for the away-from-home computing their size has been tailored for. Asus does away with that small-battery mentality on the Eee 1000HE, which has been specially built for endurance computing away from the wall socket – 9.5 hours, according to Asus. But can this tiny little netbook hold up to that promise? And does the bulky new battery impair its function as a netbook?
Features and Design
From its unassuming black exterior, you won’t find much to indicate this Eee might be any different from the slew of other netbooks out there. Asus’ “Infusion Technology” actually embeds color in the plastic chassis, rather than as a painted on finish that can flake off. The lid on our model resembled plain old gloss black over a glittery-looking automotive undercoat, but it takes just the right lighting to bring it out, and fingerprints are more prone to obscuring it anyway, after a bit of handling. You can also order the 1000HE in pearl white, blue, gold, pink and silver. We did like the sturdy hinges, though, as well as the aluminum trim around the trackpad, an area that sees a lot of wear and tear.
In order to milk a full work day out of an otherwise ordinary netbook, Asus expanded the notebook equivalent of the gas tank: the battery. This particular model gets a 8700mAh model, which is, by contrast, more than double the capacity of the 4200mAh battery in the Eee 1002HA we reviewed recently. It shows in size, too. While an ordinary netbook has a battery that sits relatively flush in the rear, the 1000HE’s battery curves up to fill the space between the screen hinges, creating the appearance of a full-length hinge from what is actually a chunk of li-ion battery. This clever design move hides the extra bulk nicely. Though it feels slightly heavier in your hands than a run-of-the-mill netbook, you likely won’t notice the extra weight in a backpack or bag (it weighs 3.2 pounds compared to 2.65 on a more conventional Eee).
The rest of the hardware load is par for the course for a netbook. That includes a spacious 160GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, integrated Intel graphics, and a 10-inch screen. Like most netbooks, an Intel Atom processor hums away at the center of this machine, but the N280 version in this machine has a faster 667MHz front-side bus than the typical N270 version you’re used to seeing in netbooks.
Ports and Connectivity
The 1000HE offers pretty much the same set of inputs and outputs you’ll find on any given netbook, 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 right side that handles SD/MMC and MS-PRO cards. As far as wireless connectivity, the 1000HE supports Bluetooth 2.0 as well as 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi.
Our 1000HE booted into Windows XP Home in about 32 seconds flat, which about average for netbooks with specialized hardware and lean operating systems like this. As usual with Asus netbooks, we were pleasantly surprised with the relatively sparse selection of preinstalled software, which includes Skype, Adobe Reader and StarOffice (a free Microsoft Office alternative). We still wonder who’s using the preinstalled copy of WinDVD on a notebook with no optical drive, though. Asus does keep its Eee netbooks free of annoyances like free offers from AOL and trialware.
Though the N280 processor should theoretically make this machine faster than its predecessors, you would be hard pressed to notice it under everyday use. It has a faster front-side bus, but total processor speed only moves from 1600MHz to 1667MHz, so you’re not dealing with much of drastic speed boost. If anything, battery life should be the real benefactor, since the N280 allegedly sips 20 percent less power than the N270.
That doesn’t mean it’s not quick, though. Whether you want to watch movie trailers, surf the Web or type the next Great American Novel, the 1000HE will comply. And though the screen size and limited RAM will prevent you from piling up too many windows, it moves briskly between them. If anything, it’s greatest performance hindrance turns up when transferring files, as the 5400RPM hard drive doesn’t quite scream performance.
Compared to the rather anemic screen on the Eee 1002HA, we found the 1000HE screen quite a bit more versatile. Colors looked more vibrant, black on white text popped more, and max brightness seemed brighter – especially on whites, which didn’t look as dingy and dull as they did on the 1002HA. Viewing angle remained so-so, a common caveat on netbooks.
The 1000HE uses a chiclet-style keyboard, which lends it a more modern look, but doesn’t really improve the typing experience. Like on the latest Macbooks, we found them to be spongier feeling and less responsive than the traditional-key equivalent. Though we didn’t love the feel, we can’t honestly claim to have issues typing with it, since it’s width makes it about as usable as any other netbook keyboard.The trackpad, though small like all netbook trackpads, feels responsive and navigates around the 10.2-inch screen without difficulty. The left and right mouse buttons require quite a bit of pressure to click, but the extra tension makes it tougher to misclick and makes the action feel more affirmative, too, making it a bit of a tradeoff.
The included 1.3 megapixel makes 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.
To test the 1000HE’s claim to “one day computing,” we put it to ultimate endurance test: pumping out content at the CTIA show in Las Vegas. We spent hours with it in standby on the floor, popped it open and shut to dash off content, and used Wi-Fi every chance we got. And it took it all in stride. Even though our use was intermittent, we can confidently say that this machine will handle a day’s work for most people. Whenever we needed the 1000HE, it had plenty of juice left. That’s far more than we can say for the Lenovo X61 we used under the same conditions, which needed a trip to the wall every chance we got.
In terms of numbers, you can expect 6.5 hours or so of life with the screen lit up in all its glory and Wi-Fi on (pretty typical conditions for surfing in an airport, etc.). That’s not 9.5 hours as Asus claims, but the company obtained those numbers with the screen at 40 percent brightness and Wi-Fi off. For most people, that’s not a very realistic or fulfilling way to compute. However, even when we used those settings, we were still about an hour shy of the 9.5 -hour mark. We won’t ding the company’s carefully exaggerated marketing numbers, though, because at the end of the day, it’s close, and the real-world performance still towers above what most netbooks are able to achieve.
As a somewhat obvious pitfall to having such a large capacity, you’ll have to remember to plug this beast in to charge at night, because it takes its time filling up.
The Eee 1000HE comes with only a few accompanying items: 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, this 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. However, we get the feeling Asus uses the same bag across a range of models, because this one had a rather baggy fit. The power brick is mercifully small – no bigger than your full-size pack of Juicy Fruit – and has a useful blue LED to indicate when it’s powered.
Priced at what used to be de facto netbook starting price of $400, it would be hard not to recommend the 1000HE against many comparably priced netbooks, considering the raw practicality of having a machine that will run this long. However, like a lot of practical things, it’s not the sexiest in the lot, either. We much preferred the aluminum-clad 1002HA for showing off around the office. But dump us on a trade show floor again and we would pick this model, every time. If you need a netbook that can keep up with you all day long, the Asus Eee 1000HE makes a lot of sense.
- Extremely long battery life
- Bright, high-contrast screen
- Large hard drive
- Clean Windows install
- Included protective sleeve
- Compact power brick
- Bland styling
- Chiclet-style keyboard