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Asus' Eee PC 1005PE
On our first walk down the Pine Trail, we're joined by Asus' Eee PC 1005PE netbook. This little 10" system is slated to hit shelves on January 4 with a suggested retail price of $379, which puts it right in the middle of the netbook market. These days, it's not uncommon to see basic Atom-based netbooks available for around $300. More expensive premium models, such as Asus' Ion-equipped Eee PC 1201N, run closer to $500.

The 1005PE is a fairly straightforward implementation of the Pine Trail platform. You just get the basics here: an Atom N450 CPU and NM10 Express chipset. Asus is looking into adding a Broadcomm HD video decoder to the mix, but that feature didn't make the cut for this particular model.

Processor Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz
Memory 1GB DDR2-667 (1 DIMM)
Chipset Intel NM10 Express
Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
Display 10" TFT with WSVGA (1024x600) resolution and LED backlight
Storage Seagate Momentus 5400.6 250GB 2.5" 5,400-RPM hard drive
Audio Stereo HD audio via Realtek codec
Port 1 VGA
3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via Atheros AR8132 controller
1 analog line/headphone output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 MMC/SDHC
Communications 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Atheros AR9285
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Input devices ~85% of full size keyboard
Synaptics touchpad with multi-touch scrolling, gestures
Internal microphone
Camera 0.3 megapixel webcam
Dimensions 10.3" x 7" x 1-1.4" (262 mm x 178 mm x 25.9-36.5 mm)
Weight 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)
Battery 6-cell Li-Ion 63Wh

At least Asus hasn't skimped elsewhere. The 1005PE comes smartly equipped with 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even Gigabit Ethernet. A webcam's included, too, but the system ships with only a gig of memory by default.

Obviously, the Eee PC's spec sheet isn't something you're going to drool over. This is a sub-$400 netbook, after all. A more appropriate response might be surprise that Asus has squeezed all this hardware and a six-cell battery into a system with such Gary Coleman-esque proportions. Acer's thin-and-light 13.3" Aspire Timeline looks absolutely massive in comparison:

Well, until you get to the thickness, anyway. The Eee PC is mostly petite, but also a little stocky, sort of like an Olympic gymnast. From a practical perspective, I'd rather have a smaller footprint than a thinner profile. I've never understood the fascination with ultra-thin designs, perhaps because I've yet to encounter a real-world scenario where extreme thinness would have been of any real benefit. I have, however, come across numerous bags, satchels, and purses that can't accommodate even a svelte 13.3" notebook, but will easily engulf a 10" netbook like the 1005PE.

The Eee PC's shallow depth will also be appreciated by anyone south of business class on a modern airline. My 1000HA has similar dimensions to the 1005PE, and I've never had a problem opening it up a cramped coach cabin. In my experience, the Eee's relatively short screen leaves just enough clearance to survive a violently reclined seat back, too.

If you've been following our notebook coverage here at TR, you know we're not particular fans of glossy plastics. Sure, the Eee PC's shine looks great on the shelf and in carefully buffed product pictures. Spend a little time actually touching the finish, though, and you'll leave behind an unsightly mess of fingerprints and smudges.

Asus doesn't offer a matte finish option for the 1005PE, but two shades of shine will be available in North America: black and the dark, almost-Nightcrawler blue pictured above. Asus will be making white and pink versions of the 1005PE, too, but it doesn't look like those models will make their way stateside.