What a difference a better keyboard makes. On paper the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE ($399) is nearly identical to its predecessor, the 1000H. It has the same attractive, high-gloss chassis, the same 10-inch, LED-backlit display, and the same 1GB of RAM and 160GB hard drive. However, the revamped keyboard, which finally puts the right Shift key where it belongs, makes a world of difference in terms of usability for touch typists. Plus, the 1000HE lasts over 7 hours on a charge and has a slightly faster processor than competing mini-notebooks. This is a very good netbook for an attractive price.
Compared with other netbooks, the Eee PC 1000HE has a premium look and feel. It continues to sport a glossy black casing (also available in blue) offset by classy silver hinges. The display bezel now has a glossy finish, too. This netbook picks up fingerprints quickly, but we have no complaints about the overall aesthetics. The cursive Eee logo on the lid is still a nice touch.
Although the build quality is solid, the 1000HE is heavier and chunkier than many competing netbooks, weighing in at 3.2 pounds and measuring 1.4 inches at its thickest point. Both the latest Acer Aspire One and Samsung NC10 weigh 2.8 pounds each and are thinner, at 1.3 inches and 1.2 inches, respectively. The 1000HE is by no means difficult to carry, but there’s no mistaking its relative heft.
From front to back, the right side of this netbook houses a 4-in-1 memory card reader, two USB ports, and a VGA port for connecting the 1000HE to an external display. A headphone and microphone jack, the third USB port, and the Ethernet port and Kensington lock slot line the left side. You won’t find any ports or slots on the front or back of the system.
ASUS has streamlined the design of the 1000 series by removing the bulge on the bottom of the system, resulting in a smoother and slimmer look. The best part is that the easy-access panel for replacing the hard drive and upgrading the RAM to 2GB (if you so choose) is still intact. Other netbooks, like the MSI Wind U120, are not upgrade-friendly.
Keyboard and Touchpad
One of the biggest complaints we’ve had about the Eee PC line is that the keyboards are poorly designed, with the biggest offense being a misplaced right Shift key. On the 1000H we also noted that the keyboard exhibited some flex and was a bit noisy. Thankfully, ASUS has dutifully addressed both issues with the 1000HE.
This netbook sports a Chiclet-style keyboard that ASUS claims is 92 percent of full-size. It’s the same kind of flat, isolated layout you’ll find on systems such as the Apple MacBook and several Sony VAIOs, and it’s a huge improvement over previous Eee PC keyboards. The right Shift key is exactly where it should be: to the left of the Up arrow (though a bit smaller than we’d like). The overall feel of the keyboard on the 1000HE was nice and firm, and we had no problems typing at a brisk pace without looking down.
Above the keyboard on the left side you’ll find four narrow, silver buttons. The first two blank the screen and toggle between four display resolution settings, and the latter two are customizable. By default these two buttons launch the Super Hybrid Engine feature (for cycling through power profiles) and Skype, respectively.
The 1000HE borrows the same touchpad and mouse buttons from the 1000H, which is a good thing. This touchpad is positively huge compared to those of other netbooks, and its nice textured made it easy to control the cursor. As with other Eee PCs, the touchpad also supports multitouch gestures; on our tests, the machine was a bit slow to respond when we attempted to rotate and zoom photos with two fingers.
Even though the silver touchpad buttons are a bit stiff, the dedicated left and right buttons are a plus, and they’re considerably larger than what you’ll find on competing netbooks.
Display, Audio, and Webcam
The Eee PC 1000HE features a 10-inch matte display with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. The LED-backlit panel was bright and crisp while playing an episode of House on Hulu.com, with good horizontal and vertical viewing angles.
As mentioned above, you can easily toggle between multiple resolutions with the press of a button. Choices include 1024 x 768, 1024 x 768 Compress (so you can see the taskbar), and 800 x 600 (a good option for playing games).
To test the speakers on the 1000HE, we streamed “Troublemaker” by Weezer and “Read my Mind” by The Killers on Slacker at full blast. Despite being underneath the system, this machine delivered pretty good volume without sounding harsh.
Using the 1.3-megapixel webcam and dual-array microphone, we made video calls to a few Skype contacts (Skype is preinstalled but you’ll likely want to update to the latest version). Other callers said the picture was clear, colors were accurate, and sound was crisp in both directions.
The Eee PC 1000HE is the first netbook we’ve tested to feature Intel’s new 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N280 processor. In addition to sporting a slightly higher clock speed than the 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 found on most mini-notebooks, this CPU benefits from a higher frontside bus speed of 667 MHz (vs. 533 MHz for the N270). This CPU makes a difference, but it’s not dramatic.
When we ran PCMark05 (which measures total system performance for Windows XP), the netbook notched a score of 1,588. That’s well above the category average of 1,382 but only 50 points better than what the older 1000H turned in. Overall performance was pretty snappy, and we had no problems streaming video at full screen or working with multiple applications open simultaneously.
We were impressed with the swift boot time of the 1000HE. It started Windows XP in just 37 seconds, nearly 20 seconds below the netbook average.
Hard Drive and Graphics Performance
On our LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy a 4.97GB folder of mixed media, the Eee PC 1000HE notched a score of 14.6 MBps, which is above the category average of 13.8 MBps but behind the front-running 10-inch Acer Aspire One (17.7 MBps).
Graphics performance was below average for the netbook category, with the 1000HE mustering a meager score of 558 on 3DMark03 and 66 on 3DMark06. You’ll want to stick with casual games on this netbook.
The N280 processor supports a new chipset from Intel, the GN40, which has a hardware-based high-definition video decoder that promises enhanced playback of 720p HD content. However, ASUS chose to use the existing 945GSE chipset. And we don’t blame them given that the Eee PC 1000HE itself doesn’t have a 720p display. Plus, the 945GSE chipset displays 720p content just fine when you use an external monitor.
We output a sample 720p video from Microsoft’s WMV HD Content Showcase—a two-minute clip called “Super Speedway”—to a 32-inch Samsung HDTV and set the resolution to 1360 x 768. Playback was smooth, and we could easily make out reflections in the racing cars and even drivers’ helmets.
Battery Life and Wireless
All-day unplugged computing should be no problem with the 1000HE. The system’s new lithium ion battery, with an impressive 8700-mAh capacity, lasted 7 hours and 8 minutes. This runtime is not quite as long as the HP Mini 2140 (7:19). However, the 1000HE does offer more endurance than competing netbooks equipped with six-cell batteries, such as the Samsung NC10 (6:34) and MSI Wind U120 (4:28). And its runtime is well above the netbook average of 4:27.
The 1000HE’s strong wireless signal makes it a good surfing companion. On our tests, it offered above average data rates from both 15 (20.7 Mbps) and 50 feet (17.6 Mbps) from our access point. This netbook also includes Bluetooth connectivity, good for making wireless Skype calls or using your cell phone as a wireless modem.
Software and Warranty
In addition to ASUS’ own Super Hybrid Engine software for overclocking or underclocking the 1000HE, the system comes with the StarOffice productivity suite (a good Microsoft Office alternative) and Skype. In addition, you get 10GB of free online storage. ASUS backs the netbook with a standard one-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free tech support.
With the Eee PC 1000HE, ASUS offers one of the best values in netbooks around. This system features a vastly improved keyboard, and its trackpad and touch buttons are better than most systems in its class. Although the processor doesn’t add much in the way of performance, we’ll take it. More important, the 1000HE lasts more than 7 hours on a charge.
In the field of 10-inch netbooks, the $399 Eee PC 1000HE offers the best combination of value, performance, and endurance on the market today. For those with a bit more cash to spend, we prefer the lighter designs and better keyboards of the more expensive Samsung NC10 and HP Mini 2140. Those who care more about price than battery life may be attracted to the $349, 10-inch Acer Aspire One, which also weighs less than the 1000HE, but lasts nearly 3 hours less than the Asus. The bottom line is that consumers who want the most bang for the buck will find the 1000HE an ideal choice.
Editor's Note 2/24/09: We have upgraded our rating of the Asus Eee PC 1000HE to include an Editor's Choice recommendation, based on our updated test results of this netbook’s nearest competitor, the 10-inch Acer Aspire One. That $349 system’s production-level 4400-mAh battery lasted just 4 hours and 24 minutes. The $399 Eee PC 1000HE, with its 7:08 of endurance, clearly stands out as the best netbook value under $400.