ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Arrives Boasting a New Keyboard and Intel Atom N280 Processor

ASUS announced yesterday the upcoming availability of its its new $399 Eee PC 1000HE, and lo and behold this morning the netbook stork dropped off the newest addition to the Eee family. Sorry Vana White, but adding the "E" to the Eee PC 1000H turns out to be more than just buying a vowel; not only does the newest Eee, as we discovered at CES, have a brand new keyboard but also the newer Intel Atom N280 processor and a higher capacity six-cell battery.

We will be publishing our full review of the Eee PC 1000HE next week which will include benchmarks and battery life scores, but here are our first impressions of the new features and a hands-on video.

Similar Chassis with Slimmer Bottom

The Eee PC 1000HE has a similar chassis to the 1000H. Both have the same black glossy lid and port placement. The 1000HE, however, has worked its glutes to get rid of the unseemly battery bulge found on its older brother's backside. The system's battery  is now flush with the chassis, giving it a much slimmer profile. However, at  10.3 x 7.4 x 1.4  inches,  the 1000HE is still chunky in comparison to other 10-inch netbooks.

Keyboard Makeover

The difference between the keyboards on the Eee PC 1000H and the 1000HE is like night and day. Firstly the keys on the chiclet-style 1000HE keyboard feel sturdier. And because it uses an island layout,  there is no flex to the panel which was the downfall of the Eee PC 1000H. Overall, the manufacturing quality on the 1000HE keyboard is just better.

The placement of the keys has also been revamped. We have complained in each of our ASUS Eee PC reviews about the placement of the Shift key to the right of the up arrow. ASUS must have been listening to us  (and  the rest of the reviewers) as they have finally pulled the Shift key in to the left of the up arrow now.

We were able to score 83 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs online typing test with the 1000HE (we scored 75 words per minute when we took the same test on our desktop computer).

New Intel Atom Processor

The other major change for the 1000HE is its Intel Atom 1.66GHz N280 processor which strays from the typical 1.6GHz N270 processor we have seen in most netbooks to hit the market in the past few months.The N280 processor has a slightly faster clock speed but the Bus Frequency is now 167MHz, as opposed to the N270's 133MHz.

Our first impressions indicate that there is no noticeable improvement in every day performance. We didn't notice the system booting any faster or programs opening any more quickly.

Though we haven't put the new Eee through our range of benchmarks,we did run GeekBench on both systems. The Eee PC 1000H notched a score of 871 (888 for processor integer performance and 748 on processor floating point performance). The Eee PC 1000HE scored 38 points higher with a score of 909 (931 for processor integer performance and 780 on processor floating point performance).

Nevertheless, playing the same 1080p high-definition clip of dolphins on both the 1000HE and 1000H was choppy. Some Nvidia Ion action would surely solve that!

Early Verdict

The keyboard on the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE is what we have been hoping to see from the netbook leader for months now and gives it an edge in the now very crowded market. While we aren't convinced that the new Intel Atom N280 processor adds much in terms of performance value, we are looking forward to running more benchmarks and testing the standard 8700mAH 6-cell battery, which ASUS' claims will notch over 8 hours of battery life. Stay tuned for our full review.