Good screen, even better keyboard
Talk of Atom's inability to play back HD content may be a concern for desktop systems like the Eee Box B202, but it's less of a problem for netbooks given their smaller displays. The Eee PC 1000's 10.2" screen is actually quite big for a mini-notebook, but its resolution tops out at only 1024x600.
Asus' decision to go with a 10.2" panel on 1000 series is particularly interesting given that the company recently released an Eee PC 900 series with 8.9" displays. Both screens share the same WSVGA resolution, with the 10.2" delivering a lower dot pitch that folks with poor eyesight may prefer for reading text. Asus intends to offer consumers as much choice as possible in the netbook space, so expect to see 8.9" and 10.2" Eee PCs continue to coexist.
The screen itself is CCFL-backlit, and it looks just a little brighter than that of the Eee PC 700 series. There is, however, the faintest of blue tinges to the display (this effect is greatly exaggerated in the picture above because I'm lousy at taking screen, er, shots).Continuing to improve on its forebear, the Eee PC 1000 ditches its predecessor's thick bezel speakers in favor of a thinner frame around the screen. The screen's matte finish hasn't changed, though, and I couldn't be happier. We recently reviewed HP's Mini-Note, which features a glossy display, and I found reflectivity to be a serious problem under normal lighting conditions. Reflections aren't a problem with the Eee screen's flat finish, although it's worth noting that matte displays generally look a little grainer than their glossy counterparts.
Up above the 1000's screen you'll find a 1.3 megapixel webcam. The integrated camera is nothing special, but it's well-integrated with the Eee's pre-installed Skype client.
Below the screen lies the Eee's spacious keyboard, which does away with one of the original's more damning limitations. The first Eee PC's keyboard measures 144 mm between the outer boundaries of the A and L keys and 40 mm between the top and bottom edges of the T and V keys, making it 83% of the horizontal and 69% of the vertical footprint of the "full size" keyboard on my 14" Dell laptop (the Dell's keyboard is actually slightly larger than the only non-ergo desktop keyboard I have in the lab, which is a bargain bin special that's always felt a little small). According to my measurements, the Eee PC 1000 keyboard's horizontal footprint has grown to 91% of full size, while its vertical span is up to 86% of the real deal. That's a big improvement, and it makes all the difference in the world.The Eee PC 1000's keys aren't quite as big as we saw with HP's Mini-Note (which has the best netbook keyboard we've used to date), but the effective key spacing is very similar, and that's what matters. On the 40G, even my stumpy digits have no problems cranking out relatively typo-free text at close to 100 words per minute. Thank you, compulsory grade eight typing class.
There are a few problems with the new Eee's keyboard, though. For whatever reason, it seems to have a tendency to double-tap every so often. A more serious problem, however, is the placement of the up arrow key, which sits exactly where the right shift key should be. Even when typing slowly on the Eee, I constantly found myself hitting the up arrow instead of right shifta typo that isn't easy to recover from with a quick backspace.Asus has prioritized here, trading proper right shift placement for a traditional directional pad layout. As a writer, that annoys me. A lot. But if you don't do a lot of typing or don't particularly care for capitalization, it might not be an issue at all. The proper directional key layout is certainly nice if you plan on using the Eee as a basic gaming platform; it would make a pretty sweet little MAME machine.
The 40G's right shift placement is an unfortunate quirk for what is otherwise a great keyboard. I found the Eee's key feedback to be surprisingly positive for such a small system, with just enough travel and a solid overall feel. Of the few netbooks I've sampled thus far, the Eee PC 1000 is second only to the HP Mini-Note in keyboard quality.The only other gripe I really have with the Eee PC's keyboard is that it doesn't have an "eraser-head" pointing device. This ThinkPad throwback is a personal favorite of mine, and it's tragically under-used.
I'm not usually a fan of touchpads, but the one Asus includes with the Eee PC 1000 is pretty good. The tracking surface is nice and smooth, and there's limited multi-touch functionality for two-finger horizontal and vertical scrolling. Two-finger scrolling works well here, since there's little touchpad real estate for a dedicated horizontal or vertical scrolling bar. The touchpad interface also shows a greyed-out option for circular scrolling that Asus says will be unlocked with a future driver update.