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Thursday, 22 April 2010 19:31

Asus Eee PC 1005P - more than just a pretty face

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Almost singlehandedly, Asus created the modern version of the netbook category with their groundbreaking Eee PC. While the first Eee PC was a very basic system that could best be described as adequate when it comes to mobile computing the latest generation of hardware, like the Eee PC 1005P Seashell, have moved ahead in leaps and bounds to deliver a desktop-like computing experience at a reasonable, although not budget, price.

The Eee PC 1005P looks like as much a fashion accessory as a computer. The glossy white case on our review sample, complete with it subtle metallic finish, suggests that the 1005P is about show as well as go. The 1005P also comes in black, blue or pink. The left side of the unit holds the D-SUB port for connecting a VGA display, a USB 2.0 port and Kensington security slot. The right side delivers the 3.5mm mic and speaker jacks, another two USB ports, SD slot and an Ethernet connector.

Unlike most netbooks, that look like a rectangular prism hewn from some synthetic stone, the 1005P's  metallic finish and wedge-shaped profile set it apart from the rest of the very crowded netbook market. With the high-capacity six-cell battery, the 1005P weighs in a 1.27kg. Figure in another 100g or so for the power supply. The front edge of the wedge is just 9mm and it flares out to 36mm at the back. The 26cm by 18cm footprint is about par for the course in this market.

Powering the 1005P is an Intel Atom N450 processor. This is part of Intel's Pineview platform that puts the processor and graphics controller on one chip. As well as reducing the number of parts in the system, simplifying the design and controlling costs, the Pineview platform offers the same performance as the previous N280 series processors while consuming a lot less power. Asus claims that the 1005P can deliver up to 11 hours of use on a single charge of the six-cell, 4500 mAh battery

Our own battery test, which involved looping a high definition WMV movie in fullscreen from a full charge until power down revealed that the 1005P could run for almost six hours. That was with the Bluetooth 2.1 radio on and 802.11n active. In the real world, we were able to comfortably get through a working day using the 1005P. As with all battery tests, you mileage may vary depending on how heavily you use the WLAN and Bluetooth.

The 10.1-inch LED display ran at 1024 by 600. This is a fairly typical resolution for this form factor. The glossy finish on the display really made images stand out although we'd still prefer the option of a matte finish as the reflection was quite annoying in some settings.

One of the biggest compromises all netbook owners make is with the keyboard and pointing device. The 1005P's keyboard did feel a little cramped but that's normal for netbooks. The touched is almost invisible as it's completely integrated into the wrist rest. It has a slightly more textured feel and can only be seen if you look at the touchpad from an angle. The single button is reminiscent of Apple's previous generation of notebooks although with the 1005P the left and right ends of the button act as left and right mouse buttons.


The touchpad uses gestures for some common actions. For example, dragging two fingers down the touchpad delivers vertical scrolling. You can also use a similar gesture for horizontal scrolling and twisting two fingers on the touchpad rotates an object on the screen.

Typing was reasonably comfortable with the keys offering nice feel and response. We didn't feel that we needed to bash the keys while touch typing. However, we did notice a slight bow in the keyboard with the central keys being slightly raised when compared to the other keys. This didn't seem to be a design feature.

Interestingly, the 1005P has two power buttons. The one on the right boots the device to Windows 7 Starter Edition. This is the most basic version of Windows and is adequate for netbooks although it lacks the ability to easily change the wallpaper and other visual elements. The power button on the left launches Express Gate. This is a fast-booting Linux distribution that provides you with a web browser, email, instant messaging and some games in just a few seconds - far faster than a full Windows boot.

The default set of applications, including Microsoft Works for productivity, Trend Micro for security, Skype and a few others leaves about 200 GB free from the 250GB hard drive on our test unit. You can optionally order the 1005P with 160GB or 320GB depending on your needs. Our test unit was partitioned into a 100GB partition for the operating system and applications with the rest set aside for data. This is a wise arrangement that most PC makers should contemplate so that customer data isn;t lost should the operating system have to be reinstalled.

Applications launched in reasonable time although the 1005P is not going to trouble ubernerds when it comes to performance. It's hard to make to a categoric statement but we'd say that that the 1005P is similar, in real world use to a two or three year old computer running Windows 7. We'd expect a noticeable speed bump by boosting the default helping of 1GB of DDR2 memory with a second stick of RAM.

As is typical of the netbook form factor, there's a small camera integrated into the bezel as well as a microphone and speakers so that you can easily make video calls using Skype or your preferred instant messaging software.

Let's face it, despite the good looks and solid performance, the Eee PC 1005P Seashell is just another netbook in a very busy market. Given that there's not a lot to differentiate the 1005P from other netbooks, a significant part of the buying decision will come down to price. The 1005P has an RRP of $499 making it one of the better value netbooks on the market.

 


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