ASUS Eee PC 1005HA Review — Much To Like in this All Day Netbook

1005ha-left-side

For the last six weeks or so, I’ve been using an ASUS Eee PC 1005HA netbook on loan direct from ASUS. This model is one of the top responses I hear to the question, “What’s the best netbook out there right now?” After my usage, I’m inclined to agree, although there are some other comparable models, like the Toshiba NB205 that I purchased. In fact, from a hardware perspective, there’s very little that’s different under the hood between the two devices. In situations like that, it generally comes down to personal preferences and little value-adds such as custom software. Let’s take a closer look at the 1005HA, so you understand what I mean.

The 1005HA comes from the ASUS Seashell design, so it’s meant to be thin. Unlike the 1008 model — another Seashell inspired netbook — this model has a removable battery. To me, that’s a must, but I realize that some folks don’t mind carrying an AC adapter. Here’s how the 1005HA stacks in terms of measurements, look and feel.

Design

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The 1005HA has a noticeable wedge design from front to back. The thinnest point is closest to you, near the trackpad side of the device and is 26mm. The backside of the device is thicker, but still thin at just over 36mm. The battery sits flush in the bottom and back of the netbook, so there’s no bump-out you like you might find on other netbooks. This design does make the 1005HA a little “back heavy,” as I found it tip back with even the slightest pressure on the display. One other thing I’ve noticed that I’m not fond of — the front of the “wedge” is relatively sharp. The top of the screen which comprises part of the front of the unit when closed, for example, has a noticeable sharpness to it. Not as sharp as the under the keyboard of my Palm Pre, but still noticeable. I didn’t try to cut a cake with it — hey’s, it a loaner! — but I’m betting I could. 😉

Aside from that minor quibble, I like the rest of the design. Under the two hinges are two useful buttons: one is the power switch and the other turns the trackpad on and off.

1005ha-top-buttons

As far as the trackpad itself, it’s about average in size for a netbook, meaning it’s a little smaller than I’d like. It’s also flush with the wrist rest, so if it weren’t for the tactile little dots on it, you wouldn’t even know it’s there. The two mouse buttons are really one bar, but can easily be clicked on either site. The bar is also flush with the device base. I think it’s fine, but this could be one of those personal preferences I mentioned earlier.

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The trackpad supports two-fingered multitouch, so you can pinch in or out to expand or contract pics and web pages. Dragging your finger on the right side or the bottom of the touchpad offers smooth scrolling as well, so overall, I do like the functionality of trackpad.

The keyboard is much nicer than earlier ASUS models and offers generous square keys for a netbook. I was never thrilled with the small, misplaced right-Shift key on my original Eee PC, but that problem is resolved with the 1005HA. All in all, the edge-to-edge keyboard is solid for a small device.

Ports and interfaces

1005ha-left-usbThe standard array of ports and interfaces are in the 1005HA. On the left side is the power port, which uses a very small tip. It reminded me of the tips used for Nokia phones, in fact. Next to it is a VGA port and a USB port. The placement of these could use some minor tweaking. I found that if I used a VGA adapter, I could only use a small USB drive or cable in the USB slot. That’s a problem for some of my USB devices like headsets and slightly oversized thumb drives — you can see in the picture that there isn’t much room to spare here. Of course, there are two additional USB ports on the right side, along with jacks for Ethernet, headphones and a microphone. Due to the wedge design, these all tend to be closer to the rear of the device because the front is too thin. It’s not too thin for a card reader though, and that’s where you’ll find one. Above the display is the web-cam.

Since I hit the power port, I should mention that the AC adapter for the 1005HA is one of the smallest and lightest I’ve seen. It measures in around one inch wide and four inches long and slightly under an inch high. I normally don’t like to carry an AC adapter, but this one is light and small. OK, enough about the physical aspects since beauty is only skin deep. Does the 1005HA have any inner beauty?

Under the hood, performance and battery life

As I mentioned, the specs of the 1005HA are drop-dead similar to those of my NB205:

  • 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM (a door with one screw covers the memory slot)
  • Integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics
  • 10.1-inch, glossy LED backlit display offering 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 160GB hard drive (plus 10GB of online storage)
  • 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual array microphone
  • 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR

When compared to my NB205, the 1005HA does come out ahead in a few hardware aspects. The dual array microphone trumps the single mic on the Toshiba. And my Tosh only has a single speaker, which explains why the ASUS model sounds a bit better. I also wish my NB205 supported 802.11n for faster speeds and a wider range too. All in all, these are otherwise comparable.

In terms of performance, I’d be hard pressed to say that I experienced a difference when working with the 1005HA instead of my NB205. That’s not surprising, considering the similar components. In fact, I ran the CrystalMark benchmarks on the 1005HA and they were right in line with the ones I ran on the NB205. The 1005HA scored 31,087 marks as compared to the 29,309 marks from the NB205. Note that I had the 1005HA in “High Performance Mode” solely because the NB205 was in “Full Power” mode. When re-running the test in “Auto Mode”, the 1005HA scored just a wee bit less: 30,005 marks.

I took a look at the results from the 1005HA’s higher score and compared them to those of the NB205. The biggest differences were in the computational and graphics tests, where the 1005HA was higher. Memory and hard drive reads / writes were almost identical. I suspect that the ASUS Super Hybrid Engine has something to do with that, since it can adjust the clock speed of the CPU, and even slightly overclock it.

Of course, overclocking can hit the battery life, so that same Super Hybrid Engine can slow things down to conserve power as well. The 1005HA-PU1x that I have on loan uses a 63Whr power pack and it rivals the run-time I see on my NB205. With it, I can get between eight and nine hours of use with Wi-Fi on and the backlight around 40%. I’m specifically mentioning the PU1X model because there’s also a VU1X and an EU1X version of the 1005HA. There are some minor differences, but the main one is in the included battery. The V1UX comes with a 48Whr battery while the EU1X offers a 23Whr unit. Needless to say, the model with the highest battery capacity is one of the longest running netbooks on the market today.

Custom software

ASUS offers a custom dock feature at the top of the display. Some of the items here are just shortcuts, such as the Eee Downloads for drivers and updates. But there are some useful bits here as well — Data Sync can shoot data to or from other devices on the network. Eee Splendid helps customize your display attributes — contrast, color and such. And Eee Tools offers Parental Controls, a simple font resizer and other settings. All in all, these are nice, but ASUS is a hardware company so don’t expect too much in terms of software.

Likes and dislikes

For around $350 to $380 on the street, there’s a bunch to like in the Eee PC 1005HA:

  • Lightweight (1.27 kilograms) and thin
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Solid boot time — around 50 seconds from off to browsing the web
  • Redesigned keyboard from older models is much more enjoyable to use
  • Custom power setting & CPU clock control increases power efficiency
  • Multitouch trackpad support
  • Small AC adapter
  • Excellent performance for a device in this class

But a few things that I personally find lacking:

  • Trackpad could be bigger and mouse bar could be separate buttons
  • Port layout might frustrate some
  • Front edge is sharp
  • Device is a little back-heavy

Again, these are more “personal preference” dislikes, so you may disagree. I’ve seen the ASUS 1005HA in my local Best Buy, so I highly recommend you spend some quality time with one if you’re interested. You could find my few dislikes to be non-issues, and in that case, you’re going to end up with a solid, excellent little netbook. For my web use, minimal multitasking, occasional use of Microsoft Word and basic media playback, it’s works very well.