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Asus' Eee PC 1000 40G netbook

Transcending the original

Manufacturer Asus
Model Eee PC 1000 40G
Price (Street)
Availability Now

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 PC—an 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 netbook—or even notebook—purchase.

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.

Asus looks intent to impress on the aesthetics front with the Eee PC 1000, which will be available in a number of colors, including a shiny black pictured above. The decidedly upscale high-gloss finish looks great in pictures, although that's only because I polished it up to remove unsightly fingerprints and smudges. Those accumulate rather quickly, given that a netbook is the sort of device that's typically handled a lot. Asus would have been better off with a matte or flat finish here, trading showroom shine for a cleaner look in day-to-day usage.

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 things—or at least it shouldn't be, unless you have a particularly spindly constitution—but 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
Storage 8GB solid-state drive
32GB internal SDHC card
Audio Stereo HD audio via Realtek ALC6628 codec
Ports 3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100 Ethernet
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 SDHC
Communications 802.11n Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 2.0
Input devices 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)
Weight 2.9lbs (1.3kg)
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 it—the 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.