Asus EEE PC 1005HA Seashell Netbook Review

Asus released the 1005HA at the beginning of July and there are two versions on the market; the cheaper one, which we tested, cost as little as £264 which is significantly less than its original suggested retail price.

The netbook is part of the Seashell family and shares some of the features of the original Seashell netbook, the 1008HA which was launched back in May this year and which we reviewed back in June.

There's the familiar smooth curves with a glossy, white plastic finish (the laptop is also available in black, pink, blue). The 1005HA feels sturdy, reasonably well built and as some would say, reassuringly heavy. There's a bulge at the back of laptop where the battery is; this elevates the laptop's keyboard slightly and makes it easier to type (at an angle).

The 1005HA shows how mature Netbooks have become; granted their prices have increased significantly from the first version, but simultaneously, their specifications have been improved. The 1005HA shares most of the specs of the 1008HA (as with 90 percent of netbooks on the market).

There's the Intel Atom N270 processor running at 1.6GHz, the Intel i945GSE chipset with the onboard GMA950 graphics, 1GB RAM which you have to replace if you want to upgrade to 2GB, a 160GB hard disk drive (you can swap it for something bigger), a 10.1-inch LED Backlight display that can display 1024x600 pixels.

Asus has thrown in 802.11b/g/n WiFi connectivity, three USB ports (1 on the left, 2 on the right), a VGA port on the left, a card reader, audio ports and a LAN plug on the right. The back is left blank.

There's also a slot for a SIM card hidden behind the battery but this is unused for now. Bluetooth is optional on both models apparently. The EEE PC 1005HA also comes with a fan to cool the processor when doing heavy tasks. However, not once did the processor kick in when we performed our standard series of tests and it stayed reasonably cool.

The more expensive version of the 1005HA comes with the N280 processor, a 6-cell 63Wh Li-Ion battery with an estimated battery life of 10.5 hours, a glossy rather than a matte screen. The only other difference is in the webcam resolution - 1.3-megapixel, 4 times more than the cheaper one.

The battery life on our model is a 48wh Li-Ion battery that can deliver up to 8.5 hours, more than the 6 hours on the 1008HA. In our test, Asus's claims about the long battery life were founded, provided that you use the laptop with maximum power saving scheme (very low brightness, no Wifi, no sound).

A bigger battery means that the 1005HA is heavier than the 1008HA although not as massive as the 1000 series. It weighs in at 1.27Kg, slightly more than the 1.1Kg the 1008HA shows on the scale. Almost all recent netbooks have roughly the same surface area (262mm x 178mm), but the 1005HA is thicker than the 1008HA (18~25.7mm vs 25.9mm~ 36.5mm).

The screen on the 1005HA is a 10-inch matte model which we prefer to the glossy version found on the 1008HA. We would have surely preferred if the netbook could have packed a 12-inch screen with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels, matching the Apple Macbook Air. There's ample space given the thickness of the black frame surrounding the display which at its widest reaches 24mm - almost one inch.

There are 16 steps in the 1005HA screen brightness scale which means that users should be able to fine tune the level of brightness to suit their environment. Working on the fourth step is adequate in normal lighting conditions. There's also a pair of microphones and speakers that are more than adequate for daily music.

The netbook's keyboard is perfectly fine for a device of this size - a standard 92 percent full size. We remain convinced that more stylish chiclet keyboards are the way forward but until then the layout presented by Asus on the 1005HA should do the job. The keys do not seem to have much "return" though making them "hard" for some.

Like the keyboard, playing with the touchpad is a rather personal and subjective experience. It supports multitouch gestures but we found it quite difficult to use and is nowhere as comfortable as using an iPhone for example. There's a single large silvery bar which combines both right and left buttons. Other reviewers have found the "pimpled finish" attractive and the touchpad "responsive".

The 1005HA comes with Windows XP SP3 and is certainly one of the last of its breed to come with it. Expect a slew of notebooks to feature Windows 7 Starter by the end of October.

In normal usage, the netbook was as responsive as any other we tested before. Asus bundled an application called Super Hybrid Engine (which essentially alters the speed of the processor depending on the load thereby saving power), Microsoft Works 9.0 and a 60-day trial version of Office 2007.

CPUID showed that the processor ran at 640Mhz in power saving mode (during which we were streaming music). SpeedFan put the temperature of the processor core at 33 degrees.

Asus provides with an online storage space - the EEE Storage - of 10GB, complimentary for the first 18 months after which you'd probably need to look elsewhere if you don't want to pay.

At the end of the day, the 1005HA is a slightly different version of the 1008HA which happens to be much cheaper. It comes with the same configuration and while it is still thicker than the original 1008HA, it still is a huge improvement over normal laptops. It is available from Dixons in black for £264.97 including free standard delivery.

Any suggestions for the next version of the EEE PC? Well get more RAM, Windows 7, an Edge to Edge screen, a smudge free finish (the current one is a fingerprint magnet), a better touchpad, a more powerful processor, better graphics subsystem, microSD (rather than SD), a power charger (like for mobile phones) and a proper sleeve.