Just one year ago, there was no such thing as a netbook. The word simply didn't exist. Today, however, everyone and their contract manufacturer seems to have at least one of a new breed of diminutive portables available for sale or looming just over the horizon. This explosion of interest in what was formerly the budget subnotebook space all started with Asus' Eee PCan unlikely hero saddled with a low-resolution 7" screen, a cramped keyboard comfortable only for munchkin fingers, limited storage capacity, an underclocked Celeron processor, and average battery life.
My, how things have changed.
Today's netbook market is littered with much more capable devices powered by Intel's slick new Atom processor. Screens have gotten bigger, too, bringing with them not only higher display resolutions, but enough space for larger keyboards that can easily accommodate adult hands and high-speed typing. Storage capacity has also risen to the occasion, and battery life and connectivity options have expanded. The netbook has quickly grown up before our eyes.
I quite liked the first Eee PC, but despite its infectious novelty and honest-to-goodness utility, what is now known as the 700 series is hampered by too many limitations to be a viable notebook replacement for most folks. Asus' new Eee PC 1000 40G, however, is another beast entirely. Perhaps the most mature of this latest crop of netbooks, the 40G sports a 1.6GHz Atom processor, a 10" screen with 1024x600 display resolution, a 91% keyboard, 40GB of solid-state storage, and a six-cell battery. Of course, the Eee PC's form factor has grown to host this new goodness, and so has its price. Read on to see whether the result strikes a good enough balance between value, functionality, and portability to make you reconsider your next netbookor even notebookpurchase.
Glossing it up
The first Eee PC had all the stark whiteness of a Mac. I don't particularly like the clinical dental equipment look, but I can at least appreciate Apple's distinct sense of simplistic style. Style, however, seemed to be completely absent from the original Eee PC, which was just, well, white.
Looks don't count for much, of course, or at least they shouldn't. However, HP's gorgeous Mini-Note proves that relatively inexpensive netbooks can be sleek and sexy, and that's not a bad thing.While the Eee PC 1000's glossy coat transcends the low-rent aesthetics of the original, Asus' latest netbook has put on a little weight. Tipping the scales at just under 3lbs (1.33kg), the 1000 is nearly a full pound heavier than the original. A pound isn't much in the grand scheme of thingsor at least it shouldn't be, unless you have a particularly spindly constitutionbut with the extra weight also comes a larger form factor.
The Eee PC 1000 measures 10.5 x 7.5 x 1.5" (266 x 191 x 38mm), with its thickest point made up by a battery bulge that's only a couple of inches deep. The rest of the system is closer to 1.2 inches thick. Above, you can see the system pictured with one of those old-fashioned audio CDs for perspective. As you can see, even at more than 10 inches across, the largest Eee PC is still quite small.Although the Eee PC 1000 is an inch wider and deeper than the original, it's still much smaller than my 14" Dell notebook. Notice how the Eee's widescreen format yields a much shallower footprint than the Dell's standard aspect ratio. That really comes in handy when traveling in coach, where you can open the Eee without fear that its screen will be crushed when the obnoxious tourist in front of you decides to recline for a nap without warning.
|Processor||Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz|
|Memory||1GB DDR2-533 (1 DIMM)|
|North bridge||Intel 945GSE|
|South bridge||Intel ICH7M|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950|
|Display||10.2" TFT with SWGA (1024x600) resolution and LED backlight|
8GB solid-state drive
32GB internal SDHC card
|Audio||Stereo HD audio via Realtek ALC6628 codec|
3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100 Ethernet
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
|Expansion slots||1 SDHC|
91% horizontal/86% vertical keyboard
Trackpad with two-finger scrolling
|Camera||1.3 megapixel webcam|
|Dimensions||10.5 x 7.5 x 1.5" (266 x 191 x 38mm)|
|Battery||6-cell Li-Ion 6600mAh|
Under the hood, the 1000 is equipped with the netbook processor du jour, Intel's Atom N270 1.6GHz. We reviewed the Atom earlier this month, finding it to be a little slower than VIA's Nano processor (which has yet to appear in a netbook), but still quick enough for basic tasks, with great power efficiency to boot.
The Atom's Achilles' heel is actually the 945GSE chipset that Asus pairs with it here. Or rather, that Intel pairs with itthe chip giant has yet to release a core logic counterpart for the Atom that lives up to the processor's frugal power consumption. The 945GSE chipset is otherwise adequate, although its integrated GMA 950 graphics processor doesn't pack much pixel processing potential. More importantly, it lacks HD video decode acceleration, which when combined with the Atom's relatively limited horsepower, effectively limits video playback to standard definition resolutions.
On the storage front, the Eee PC 1000 40G model we're looking at today comes with 40GB of solid-state capacity. This configuration is also equipped with a Xandros-based Linux install, and it carries a $699 suggested retail price. Detractors will surely point out that you can buy all sorts of much faster full-sized notebooks for less, but keep in mind that those systems can't hold a candle to the Eee's portability or battery life. Asus also offers an Eee PC 1000H with identical Atom internals to the 40G for just $549. This system ditches solid-state storage in favor of an 80GB mechanical hard drive, and Asus throws in a copy of Windows XP for good measure.
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