Leave the AC adaptor at home! Blitzing past seven hours with Wi-Fi and reaching nine hours sans wireless, this $900 netbook has battery life to shame notebooks twice the price.
Who said netbooks were toys? Any resemblance between Asus’ original and admittedly Fisher-Price style Eee PC 700 series and the top line Eee PC 1000HE exists in name only.
Screen size, storage, processing power, wireless and battery life have all been boosted in the first year of the netbook’s life, to the point where the 1000HE could steal sales from full-featured notebooks.
For example, how many notebooks deliver 7-9 hours on a single charge for under $1,000? That’s the stand-out feature of the Eee PC 10000HE, thanks to a six-cell battery 8700 mAh battery.
In our most intensive battery-hammering tests – with wireless activated, screen brightness on full and constant read/write of the hard drive – the 1000HE sprinted along for an astonishing 4.5 hours, when most other netbooks we’ve tested give up the ghost at 2-3 hours.
Next we wound the screen brightness back to 60% (not as bad as you might expect, because the LED-backlit panel is incredibly bright to begin with), set Asus’ bundled Super Hybrid Engine utility to the ’Power Saving’ mode, left the 802.11n wireless running and designated the 1000HE as our working machine for the day. Just over seven hours later we got the first alert that battery was at 5%.
Based on that experience, we’d suggest that you could easily get through a full day on a single charge of the 1000HE’s battery. After all, most days include at least two hours of downtime during lunch and some meetings when the netbook wouldn’t be in use. Feel free to toss the 1000HE’s AC adaptor into your bag, anyway – the tiny lightweight charger adds minimal bulk to your travelling kit.
Set the Super Hybrid Engine to ‘power save’ mode and disable wireless – essentially turning the 1000HE into a go-anywhere word processing machine – and you’d make good on Asus’ pledge of 9+ hours non-stop battery life.
The high-capacity battery and Super Hybrid Engine software are the twin cornerstones to the 1000HE’s camel-like capabilities.
The battery (shown above) is packed with 30% greater capacity than the Asus’ previous six-cell 6600 mAh jobs, and twice the capacity of competing six-cell slabs. (The six-cell batteries of the Acer Aspire One and MSI Wind hover around 5200 mAh, Lenovo offers a 4800 mAh six-cell battery for the IdeaPad S10, while HP’s meagre six-cell effort for the Mini 1000 and Mini 2140 is rated at a wimpy 2400 mAh).
Yet there’s no awkward-looking bulge or ‘battery booty’ poking out of the chassis, as the 1000HE was built around a six-cell battery as a standard component rather than an after-market add-on, so it’s neatly integrated into the design. The battery itself is a lithium-ion pack only a fraction larger than the four-cell bundle of Dell’s Mini 9. Like many netbooks it occupies the central void of the hinge between chassis and display,
The Super Hybrid Engine attacks things from the other end, allowing users to vary the Atom’s clock speed through a series of four pre-set configurations. Each sets a dynamic range of frequencies which the 1000HE can step through depending on the current workload.
The ‘super performance’ setting apparently boosts the N270 processor’s FSB from the native 667MHZ to 700MHz, so the chip can soar up to around 1.8GHz. This is the default when AC power is connected, although it made the 1000HE a little noisier than we’d like because the cooling fan spins that much faster.
Switching back to ‘high performance’ mode quietened things down with the fan dropping into low gear as the Atom fell back to its stock 667MHz bus and 1.6GHz clock speed. In both of the performance profiles the Atom can also spin down to 1GHz as needed.
For maximum battery life, the ‘power saving’ profile drops the bus speed to 500MHz which in turn winds back the N270’s peak speed to 1.25GHz; the chip can also scale back to a mere 750MHz when there’s minimal activity. An ‘Auto’ setting toggles between Power Saving when the 1000HE is running on battery, and High Performance when the AC adapter is plugged in.
Our tests were conducted on a 1000HE fitted with Intel’s Atom N270 processor, but if we can score an N280 model we’ll repeat these tests and bring you an update on how the more power-efficient processor (total power consumption drops from the N270’s 2.5 watts to an even 2 watts) stands up to the same battery tests. Even a measly 5% boost in battery life under the N280 would result in close to an extra half an hour at the 1000HE’s most parsimonious ‘power saving’ settings
Out of the box, the 1000HE’s most noticeable trait is the familiar chiclet-style keyboard as seen throughout Apple’s MacBook laptop line, where each key stands proud through the top deck rather than being part of a single assembly.
Asus’ claims this to be 92% as large as a full-size keyboard. If that figure sounds familiar, it’s because this is the same magic number trumpeted by HP and Dell for their respective 10 inch netbooks.
The slight space between each key, along with a revision of the standard Eee PC keyboard layout due to the larger footprint of the 10 inch netbook, delivers a substantial improvement in speed and accuracy.
(That said, the strike area of the individual keys is a little smaller due to this separation. We were also surprised at the high degree of flex under the keyboard. Indeed, the entire chassis didn’t feel as ‘tight’ as we’d like – it came across as a little too ‘plastic’, an image not helped by the glossy black finish and an inlaid speckle pattern like a fine dusting of glitter that extends to the keys and in our opinion detracts from the netbook, although it might appeal to some consumer segments.)
The 1000HE’s larger footprint frees up a little more space at the right of the space bar, which is where the keyboards of smaller netbooks come to grief. The Control and Right Shift keys are slightly enlarged and properly positioned, with the Right Shift key is now where it belongs, to the left of the Up arrow, while a second Fn modifier key makes it easier to stab the arrow keys for page up and page down.
The ‘multitouch trackpad’ is another bragging point for the 1000HE. Like the keyboard, the trackpad movements will be familiar to MacBook (and iPhone) users. There are double- and triple- finger taps to emulate secondary mouse buttons, two-finger swipes to scroll vertically or horizontally and three-finger swipes to summon Windows Explorer or the task switcher. Pinch and expand your fingers to zoom in or out, rotate an image by moving your fingers in a circle, and so on.
The trackpad itself is generously large by netbook standards, and it needs to be for all that finger-work. Yet we found the trackpad was twitchy, sometimes slow to respond and definitely low on sensitivity, as often as not seeming to confuse some finger movements.
The backlit LED display is exceptionally bright, and at the highest setting we found it needed to be wound back a notch for comfortable viewing. One of the screen settings is a ‘compressed’ 1024 x 768 pixels for viewing larger applications and still being able to see the Start Menu, Task Bar and even the OK and Cancel buttons at the bottom of an overly large dialog box.
The array of ports is pretty standard for a netbook: Ethernet, USB and audio on the left side...
... with the memory card reader, two more USB ports plus VGA output and DC power on the right
Storage is courtesy of a snappy Seagate 5400.5 (5400 rpm) series 160GB drive, not the slower 4200 rpm drives found on some netbooks. A single large panel on the underbelly of the 1000HE provides easy access to the hard drive and RAM, although the latter is restricted to a single slot fitted with a 1GB wafer.
The 1000HE is definitely upgrade-friendly, although there's just a single RAM slot which comes filled with a 1GB wafer
The 160GB hard drive is supplemented by a 10GB allocation on Asus’ Eee Storage online service, the combo of which Asus touts as ‘170GB of Hybrid Storage’. Eee Storage integrates into Windows Explorer with support for drag and drop operations plus private and shared folders.
We had to download the new Eee Storage 2.0 software, which refused to run until we also fetched and installed Windows .NET Framework 2.0 (which we’d expect to have already been installed as part of the Windows XP SP3 OS). Asus needs to clean up this process, rather than present hurdles to buyers.
Asus also throws a few other utilities into the mix. The Boot Booster hastens start-up time to less than ten seconds, while InstantKey software lets you assign applications to two user-assigned keys which sit above the first bunch of Function keys.
Alas, the 1000HE isn't the thinnest or lightest 10 inch netbook on the block
Finally, with a profile that’s 1.4 inches at its thickest point, the 1000HE is a tad chunkier than you’d expect from a netbook. Ditto for the 1.45 kg weight compared to HP’s Mini 1000 (1.13 kg), the HP Mini 2140 and Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (both 1.2 kg) and Dell’s forthcoming Inspiron Mini 10 (1.3 kg).