There's good battery life, and then there's leave-the-power-brick-at-home battery life. The ASUS Eee PC 1005PE ($379) is one of the first netbooks to hit the market with Intel's new Atom N450 processor and NM10 chipset, code named Pine Trail, which promises a 20 percent decrease in average power consumption. And ASUS makes the most of the chip; this 2.8-pound machine lasts over 10.5 hours on a charge. While very similar to the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA, a system we praised for its style, this sequel offers better endurance, a bigger 250GB hard drive, and a better keyboard. Plus, ASUS includes a nifty software bundle. We have some nitpicks about the design--and you shouldn't expect a marked performance improvement--but overall this netbook is a very good choice.
From the outside, the 1005PE looks the same as the 1005HA; both are members of ASUS' Seashell family. Though less svelte than the inch-thick 1008HA, the 1005HA pulls from the same gene pool with its curved panels and sharp look. Gone, however, is the uniform body of the 1008HA; no plastic covers the edges or hides the ports. Its glossy dark blue lid (also available in black, pink, and white) is covered in a scratch-resistant Infusion finish. The look is sleek, but you'll have to be willing to put up with fingerprint smudges.
The 1005PE is thicker than the ultraslim 1008HA. It measures 10.2 x 6.9 x 1.4 inches, compared to 10.3 x 7.0 x 1.0 inches. The 1005HA is also a bit thicker than the Toshiba mini NB205 (1.3 inches), but has the same thickness as the older Eee PC 1000HE. The 2.8-pound 1005PE didn't put any strain on our shoulder, even with the charger (which brings the entire package up to 3.4 pounds).
Generally, the 1005PE kept its cool. After viewing a video at full screen on Hulu for 15 minutes, the temperature between the G and H keys reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The touchpad was a temperate 90 degrees, and the center of the underside got as hot as 95 degrees; the bottom near the exhaust vent reached a rather hot 102 degrees. (We consider temperatures above 95 degrees unpleasant, and above 100 degrees extremely unpleasant.)
Keyboard and Touchpad
For the 1005PE, ASUS opted for an island-style keyboard, similar to that on the Eee PC 1201N. While the keys may seem smaller than those on the 1005HA and 1008HA--both of which have a more traditional layout--we found the 1005PE easy and comfortable to type on. However, ASUS took a slight step back, as unlike every other netbook since the Eee PC 1000HE, the right Shift key is shrunken, and not directly below the Enter key. We give the Toshiba mini NB205's keyboard a slight edge in terms of size and comfort.
The 2.5 x 1.5-inch pad touchpad, similar to that on the 1005HE, blends in with the system's deck and is covered with small braille-like dots. Unlike some netbooks, the pad had very little friction, and navigating the desktop didn't require much backtracking. As with other Eee PCs, the touchpad also supports multitouch gestures; using two fingers to pinch and zoom in on a Web page in Internet Explorer was easy, and the image quickly rendered in its new size.
ASUS equipped the 1005PE with a single mouse button. Unlike some netbooks we've used, this implementation was comfortable for making selections. However, we still prefer the Toshiba mini NB205's larger touchpad and dedicated right and left buttons.
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Display and Audio
The 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel LED-backlit display on the 1005PE allows Web pages and windows to fit to size on the screen. A streaming clip of Scrubs from Hulu looked smooth, and colors were bright. Horizontal viewing angles were good, but to get the best picture you need to tilt the screen back about 30 degrees. When the display is at a right angle the image washes out.
From afar, the 0.8-inch thick glossy black bezel (which was a little larger than we prefer) looked as if the screen was flush with the frame; up close, however, you could clearly make out the raised frame.
The speakers, located at the bottom front edge of the 1005PE, allowed us to hear songs loud and clear from across the room. Kings of Leon's "Sex On Fire" came through powerfully with little to no distortion. Run-DMC's "Christmas In Hollis" was on the tinny side, but the speakers sounded better than most netbooks.
Ports and Webcam
On the left side of the 1005PE is a USB and VGA port. On the right side are a 3-in-1 memory card reader, an Ethernet port, two USB ports, and headphone and microphone jacks.
Above the display, a 1.3-megapixel webcam provided clear images in a Skype video chat. A friend saw little motion blur when we waved quickly and made out details on our face.
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Click to enlargeConfigured with the new 1.66-GHz Atom N450 processor, the 1005PE offered similar performance to netbooks equipped with Atom's last-generation processors. This Windows 7 Starter Edition system scored 1,410 on PCMark05, which is about 90 points below the category average.
When compared to other Windows 7 Starter netbooks with older Atom processors, the 1005PE ran in the middle of the pack, beating out the Samsung N140 (1,357) but falling behind the Samsung N130 (1,514). The HP Mini 311, which has an Intel Atom N270 chip and Windows 7 Premium, managed 1,917. The 1005PE scored 918 on Geekbench, which is 85 points higher than the netbook average.
Overall, the Eee PC 1005PE held up well when performing everyday computing tasks. Conducting video calls over Skype while surfing the the Web with multiple tabs open didn't cause any system hang-ups. Most applications, like WordPad and Internet Explorer, opened within 3 seconds.
On our LAPTOP Transfer Test, in which we copy a 4.97GB mixed-media folder, the Eee PC 1005PE notched a score of 26.4 MBps, which is 11.0 MBps faster than the category average, and 4.2 MBps faster than the 1008HA.
Graphics and Video Performance
The Intel GMA 3150 integrated graphics chip delivered a score of 155 on 3DMark06, which was in line with the category average. A downloaded high-definition 720p video clip played back smoothly with no hiccups.
While you can stream Hulu at full screen on the 1005PE and other Atom N450 netbooks, we don't recommend it; the video stuttered, and the audio was slightly out of sync with the picture. If you want to watch flash content at full screen, get a netbook equipped with either an Nvidia Ion graphics chip (like the HP Mini 311) or one with Broadcom's video accelerator (like the HP Mini 110 and other upcoming systems). Likewise, save gaming for those other systems: the 1005PE managed just 14 frames per second in World of Warcraft--and that was with the resolution set to 800 x 600 and effects on default.
We also transcoded a 5:05 MPEG-4 video clip (114MB) to the AVI format using HandBrake; the Eee PC 1005PE completed the task in 28 minutes and 52 seconds, about a minute and a half longer than the 1005HA, but 50 seconds faster than the category average.
Stellar Battery Life
The Eee PC 1005HA already had very good battery life at 8 hours and 57 minutes, but the 1005PE beats that endurance by a considerable margin, clocking in at a stellar 10:36. That's one of the longest runtimes we've seen, and all the more impressive considering that the only other netbook with a longer runtime, the MSI Wind U110 (12:28), had a bulky nine-cell battery.
Other Windows 7 notebooks don't come close: the Toshiba mini NB205-N330BL lasted 8:51, and the Nokia Booklet 3G got 8:24 on Wi-Fi. Like the battery on the 1005HA, the 1005PE's can be removed or replaced.
The Eee PC 1005PE's 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card provided a solid connection for working on the Web. While its throughput of 24.7 Mbps at 15 feet was comfortably above average (20.8 Mbps), at 50 feet it dropped to 16.4 Mbps, which is a shade under the average (17.1 Mbps). Still, streaming videos over YouTube (not at full screen) and listening to music over Pandora was seamless.
Click to enlargeOn the upper left-hand side of the keyboard deck is a silver button that activates Express Gate, ASUS' instant-on OS. This environment has options for the Web, Skype, an instant-messaging client, photos, and online games. The latter opens up the Splashtop Gaming portal, where you can choose from a number of basic titles. The 1005PE booted to the OS in 8 seconds, and, after configuring our wireless settings (a 30-second process), the browser launched in about 20 seconds
Eee Docking Software
More than any other netbook maker yet, ASUS goes the farthest in providing software and utilities that will add to a netbook's utility as a second system. Most of the apps on the 1005PE are accessible through the Eee Docking bar, which is centered along the top of the desktop (though you can change its placement in the Settings menu).
The pull-down dock provides one-click access to four categories of Eee-branded software. The Eee Amuse button contains entertainment options such as ASUS @Vibe, a multimedia portal that contains Internet radio and TV stations; once launched, it has four categories: Music, Game, Radio, and Learning. Music, powered by Aupeo, lists several artists as well as genre stations, and lets you play tracks and create a playlist of favorite tunes. Game features a number of simple action titles, from Alien Shooter to Hamsterball. Radio lets you listen to FM radio stations from around the world.
Eee Sharing contains shortcuts to ASUS WebStorage, which connects you to online backup, and YouCAM, which launches CyberLink's comprehensive webcam software. Eee Xperience leads you to Eee Splendid, a tool for adjusting on-screen colors.
Other options include Data Sync (for syncing files with an external drive), EzMessenger (for transferring files between Eee PC netbooks) and Eee Storage (an online storage system). Eee Xperience also contains Voice Command; this software wasn't loaded on our system, but that should let you open applications with voice prompts.
Lastly, Eee Tools contains a system update utility, font resizing software, LocaleMe (navigation software with search powered by Bing), a link to system settings, and the docking settings menu.
ASUS' standard Super Hybrid Engine software for overclocking or underclocking comes with the netbook, as does a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, Microsoft Works, and Skype. Also included is a trial for Trend Micro Security.
It took 2 hours and 55 minutes to charge the 1005PE's six-cell battery to 100 percent. The system used an average of 33.9 watts while charging, and a total of 5932.5 watts for a final LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating of 9.3--almost one half the average of 16.8. (Lower numbers are better.)
Configuration Options and Warranty
Those interested in increasing the RAM can easily remove the small door on the back of the netbook and add a 2GB stick of RAM. The hard drive isn't easily accessible, but owners of this configuration get 500GB of free online storage for one year. ASUS backs this netbook with a standard one-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free tech support.
In the Eee PC 1005PE-P, ASUS has improved upon its best netbook in multiple ways. For roughly the same price as the earlier version, you're getting a larger hard drive, a sturdier keyboard, over 100 minutes of additional runtime, and more robust software. While Intel's new Atom N450 processor doesn't really improve performance, the extra endurance it provides will certainly be welcome among netbook users. At $379, this netbook is a bargain, undercutting the Toshiba mini NB205 by $20 while lasting longer on a charge. We give the edge to the NB205 because of its more comfortable touchpad and mouse buttons, but the 1005PE is a still a stellar value.