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Asus Eee PC 1101HA review

Verdict

The biggest Seashell yet is gloriously designed, but not quite so impressive under the hood

Review Date: 16 Jul 2009

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £307 (£353 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

The launch of the first pioneering netbook from Asus may seem eons ago, but the Taiwanese manufacturer has kept busy since then. The most recent addition to the huge Eee PC roster has been the Seashell series, which ditches the clunky, angular designs of old for curvier, slimmer profiles. This latest model, the 1101HA, is the biggest yet, boasting an 11.6in screen.

First impressions, as with the rest of Asus' Seashell netbooks, are good. The glossy black finish covers the entire unit and looks sleek, albeit not as mature as the matte finish on the 12in Samsung NC20. The gentle curves of the lid and base are a vast step forward from the old boxy Eees.

Build quality is also high. The flex in the screen isn't excessive and the base, despite its new, slimmed-down dimensions, is firm and feels able to withstand a few knocks. We'd have no qualms about keeping it in a bag, although you might want more protection than the thin neoprene sleeve provided.

The keyboard is a highlight, with the larger chassis allowing for bigger keys that are far easier to hit than those on the average 9in or 10in machine. It's well designed too: a double-height Return key, large backspace button and no unusual layout choices mean it's easy to get up to speed. The typing action is good and, although the keys don't feel as clicky and positive as those on the Samsung NC20, their soft and responsive action still makes for comfortable typing.

Below the keyboard is a good-sized trackpad that features the dimpled design recently introduced by Asus. It's large and responsive and, while lacking any scrolling or multi-touch functions, easy to use - and the chrome-effect rocker button that sits below the trackpad is comfortable, too. Our only minor complaint is that, with the trackpad sitting flush with the wristrest, the subtle dimples don't do enough to distinguish between the two.

The screen is another highlight, with its native resolution of 1,366 x 768 putting it up there with the Sony VAIO Mini W-series and the more expensive version of Dell's Mini 10. Quality is good, too, with accurate colours, sharp detail and the common netbook grain kept to a minimum. However, we did find the range of decent viewing angles narrow and the glossy screen distracting under the bright lights of the PC Pro Labs.

Inside, the latest Eee follows the standard netbook blueprint, packing an Intel Atom processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM and a 160GB hard disk. The CPU in question is the 1.33GHz Z250, which we've only previously seen in a trio of machines - Dell's Mini 10 and Mini 12 and the misfiring Sony VAIO P-series - and its reputation for being one of the weaker Atom CPUs is borne out here.

Indeed, while Windows XP ran without complaint, our benchmarks didn't - Photoshop simply wouldn't run on the 1101HA. The benchmarks that did run properly, though, suggested an overall result of around 0.34 - slower than the 0.4 of the VIA-powered Samsung NC20 and the 0.44 scored by the Samsung NC10, with its more conventional Atom N270.

Elsewhere, there's little to surprise. Intel's integrated GMA 500 graphics aren't up to any serious gaming, and connectivity is handled by draft-n wireless and 10/100 Ethernet. The usual selection of ports and sockets are scattered around the machine, with a trio of USB ports joined by an Ethernet socket, D-SUB output, a pair of audio jacks and a card reader.

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