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At the helm
Although a few netbook models have bucked the trend here and there, the genre has largely been limited to 9-10" screens with WSVGA display resolutions. The Eee PC 1005PE sticks with the status quo, sporting a 10" LED-backlit display with 1024x600 pixels.

The low display resolution is by far the screen's biggest problem. 1024x600 doesn't give you much desktop real estate to work with, and you're going to end up doing a heck of a lot of scrolling while surfing the web. That said, I'm not sure a higher 1366x768 resolution would work well in a 10" display. The resulting DPI might be too high to allow folks with poor eyesight to read text comfortably.

At least the few pixels the screen does serve up look pretty good. The display's glossy coating isn't as reflective as some I've used, and its colors are clearer and crisper than those produced by my 1000HA's LCD, whose matte finish imparts a subtle grain to any on-screen image.

As is typical for notebook and netbook displays at the budget end of the spectrum, the Eee PC's screen looks much better dead-on than it does from an angle. There's enough room to adjust the display's tilt to match most reasonable vertical lines of sight, but you'll have to sit right in front of the system to avoid the dull, washed out colors that take over the screen when it's viewed from the left or right.

Be careful adjusting the screen's tilt, though. The bezel is glossy black plastic, and you don't want a mess of smudges and streaks ringing the display.

The Eee PC's diminutive dimensions aren't large enough to accommodate a full-size keyboard, but Asus has done a good job with the area available. There are no real layout quirks, and unlike my 1000HA, the right-shift key is in the, er, right place. Asus has even squeezed in a full-height directional pad, although the keys are a little narrow to make room for a wider right-shift key.

Total keyboard area Alpha keys
Width Height Area Width Height Rough area
Size 252 mm 92 mm 23,184 mm² 155 mm 47 mm 7,285 mm²
Versus full size 88% 84% 73% 90% 82% 74%

I have probably the worst hands for typing on a netbook: massive palms, stubby fingers, and an aggressive typing style that's more forceful than graceful. The 1005PE's keyboard is somewhere between 82 and 90% of full size, depending on whether you're just looking at the alpha keys or the unit as a whole. You'd think would be a nightmare for my meat paws, yet somehow it's not.

The keyboard does feel cramped, but that's been true of all the 10" netbooks I've used. Despite the keyboard's small footprint, I can still get up to full speed without incurring too many typos. Typing at speed is reasonably comfortable, too, I suspect because the keys themselves feel quite good.

Yup, this is another chiclet-style design. The combination of textured key caps and clearly defined edges and gaps makes it easy to keep one's hands hovering over the home row, even when hammering away at close to 100 words per minute. Some flex is visible, especially when applying enthusiastic force to a keystroke, but the keyboard doesn't feel mushy as a whole. In fact, key travel feels a little weightier most, providing excellent tactile feedback for the violent staccato that is my typing style.

The last couple of Asus notebooks we've reviewed have featured dimpled touchpad surfaces that provided great feedback but lousy tracking. Recessed dimples have given way to Braille-like protrusions for the 1005PE's touchpad, and I quite like the change. The nubbins still let your fingers know when they're on the touchpad, but they don't impede smooth tracking like the old dimples. That said, the touchpad surface is still quite small, making it difficult to settle on a sensitivity that delivers quick tracking and good precision.

Asus is responsible for the touchpad's surface, but the internals are provided by Synaptics, whose drivers are packed with multi-touch goodness. Users can choose between dedicated zones or a two-finger approach to horizontal and vertical scrolling. Pinch zooming and pivot rotating are also supported, as are three-finger flicks. Adjustable tap zones in each corner can even be configured to perform various functions, such as minimizing or maximizing a window, firing up a search, or launching an application.