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Video playback
Our next batch of tests highlights the 1005PE's video playback performance. The chart below includes approximate CPU utilization percentages gleaned from the Windows 7 Task Manager alongside subjective impressions of actual playback. I used Windows Media Player to handle all playback tests and Firefox for our windowed YouTube tests.

Battery Wall power
CPU utilization Result CPU utilization Result
Star Trek QuickTime 480p 45-85% Perfect 27-65% Perfect
Star Trek QuickTime 720p 85-100% Some dropped frames, loss of A/V sync 60-100% Smooth
Hot Fuzz QuickTime 1080p ~100% Slideshow 80-100% Frequent dropped frames, loss of A/V sync
DivX PAL SD 35-62% Perfect 32-47% Perfect
YouTube SD windowed 33-56% Perfect 27-48% Perfect
720p YouTube HD windowed 96-99% Slideshow 88-97% Slideshow

Even when running on battery, the 1005PE has no problems perfectly playing back standard-definition video content. Even a 480p Stark Trek QuickTime trailer played back flawlessly. However, bumping the trailer up to 720p resulted in dropped frames and the occasional loss of A/V sync when the the Eee PC was running on battery power. With the 1005PE cranked up to a full 1.66GHz on wall power, 720p playback was smooth and watchable, although not perfect.

The Eee PC choked on the 1080p Hot Fuzz trailer, even when connected to a wall socket. This is what happens when you don't have HD video decoding hardware to assist a low-cost CPU like the Atom.

Flash video playback has long been one of the Atom platform's greatest weaknesses, and Pine Trail hasn't improved the situation. Our 720p YouTube HD test clip was little more than a slideshow on the Eee PC. Standard-def YouTube videos played back smoothly, at least, but with nearly 50% CPU utilization when running on socket power. Without advanced video decoding logic, the GMA 3150 won't be able to take advantage of the video playback acceleration built into new Flash betas, either.

Performance in the real world
Intel's latest Atom platform doesn't have the horsepower to keep up with proper notebook processors in benchmarks. It doesn't handle HD video playback particularly gracefully, either. So what can it do? The basics: web surfing, email, instant messaging, Skype, SD video playback, and office document manipulation.

Even those simple tasks have some caveats attached. Web surfing is relatively snappy most of the time, but Flash-heavy sites will quickly bog down the Eee PC, especially when multiple tabs are involved. You should probably stay away from multitasking, as well. Running an IM application alongside a browser is doable, but you don't want to have too much going on, especially given the screen resolution.

Our Eee PC came loaded with Windows 7 Starter x86, and the OS feels just right for the platform. Starter lacks the eye-candy effects you'll find in full versions of Windows, but it seems just as responsive as XP did on my old 1000HA.

The Windows 7 taskbar does take up valuable desktop real estate, though. You can drag it over to the screen's left edge to free up additional vertical pixels, but that tends to truncate web sites designed for a display with 1024 horizontal pixels. More often than not, I found myself simply putting the browser in full-screen mode, like so:

Yes, that's much better. 1024x600 is still a squeeze, but web pages are a lot easier to read when you're using all of the available pixels. Unfortunately, there's no way to expand the 1005PE's display resolution without connecting an auxiliary monitor.

You can, however, overclock the processor, if only slightly. Asus' SuperHybridEngine application offers a super-high-performance mode that pushes the front-side bus up to 171MHz, resulting in a CPU clock speed of 1.71GHz. The extra oomph might help when playing back video that isn't quite smooth at stock speeds, but it doesn't make Windows feel more responsive. You're going to need a lot more than an extra 50MHz to make the Atom feel better than just fast enough.