Asus Eee 1000H Review

Zertz - 2008-09-26 18:42:34 in Mobile
Category: Mobile
Reviewed by: Zertz   
Reviewed on: October 13, 2008
Asus
Price: 476.00

Introduction:

It is clear computers are taking more and more space in our lives, but the way we use them has changed drastically. They used to be exclusively used by the wealthiest industries and took up hundreds of square feet as well as weighed more than you could ever imagine. Now, most of us have at least a desktop computer, but even though it is much smaller than its predecessors, it is still way too big to carry. With everyone wanting access to their email, stock or favorite website on the go, laptops are increasing in market share while continuously decreasing in size. That has led to ultra portables like the Lenovo X300 and Macbook Air, but those are quite expensive and definitely not targeted at a mainstream audience.

Fortunately for the consumer, almost a year ago now, Asus came up with something that would revolutionize the notebook market - the Eee PC. The 700 was the company's first attempt in that newly born market. It featured a tiny 7 inch screen which was, for many people, way too small and often considered as a kid notebook since the keyboard was ridiculously small. The form factor created much interest, a full featured computer in a form factor comparable to a tablet. In the meantime, Asus was preparing something else for us. Shortly after, the Eee 900 and 1000 appeared. Those ones were equipped with 8.9 and 10 inch screens, repectively, and a bigger chassis that enabled them to squeeze a larger keyboard much better suited for everyone. Then came the plethora of models, four of the original 7 inch, five 900s and three 1000s. All are more or less similar, some using the Celeron processor while others opted for Atom, others swapping the traditional hard disk drive for a solid state drive.

With other manufacturers seeing how much success Asus was having with its new line of sub-notebooks, or netbooks as Intel decided they should be called, many, or most now, jumped on the bandwagon and started designing their own. There's so much choice now, it is confusing to attempt to choose the right one. Although HP's Mini Note 2133 came out first, it is more aimed toward business users, so MSI's Wind was the first one to offer some real opposition against the Asus EeePC. Unfortunately, the Wind's availability was, and still is, limited so it never caught up. Other big names include Acer, Lenovo, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and many others. All of them use very similar configurations, but one thing that is identical across all the manufacturers is the platform and its processor – Atom.

Let's now see what this platform has to offer.

Introduction:

The Intel Atom processor is based on the Core microarchitecture, itself based on the Dothan core, also more commonly known as Pentium-M. It has been reworked with power consumption in mind, leading to reduced cache, no more 64-bit instructions and less processing power. The differential between idle and load power usage had to be as low as possible and it had to have, at peak load, no more than a 2W thermal design power
(TDP). Thus, Atom was born. A single core, in-order, processor, equipped with HyperThreading, which was first introduced back in 2002 with the Netburst microarchitecture. That translates to 47 millions transistors built on a 45 nanometer process making a tiny 26 square millimeters die. In comparison, the latest dual core Wolfdale processors need over 400 million transistors to perform like they do. Atom features a mere 32KB of level 1 cache while level 2 gets a whopping 512KB. Again, not much compared to desktop processors, but enough for what it's meant for.

All those small numbers, everything is relative of course, end up consuming less than a single Watt under idle conditions and 2.5W under full load. To put things into perspective, the most frugal ultra low voltage (ULV) Core 2 Solo processor has a TDP of 5.5W and costs about four times as much as the Atom. So how come that little processor so cheap? One of the reasons is that Intel manages to extract about 2500 Atoms from a single 300 mm wafer. Of course, those tiny chips are nowhere near as powerful as Core 2s, but the question is – do you really need all that processing power from a portable computer?

While the Atom's power consumption is nothing short of impressive, the same cannot be said about the chipset it is paired with. The aging 945GSE northbridge, which includes a memory controller and an integrated graphic processor, gets the job done, although now without a sweat and at the cost of relatively high power consumption, standing at 6W. The southbridge is the ICH7M, which, in this case, mainly takes care of the storage devices and then passes the information to the northbridge. The whole platform has a TDP of 11.8W, so that's just under 12W for a processor, a northbridge and a southbridge. With a platform refresh coming before the end of this year, the chipset's power consumption will drop dramatically.

Don't forget that this is a first generation platform, so everything isn't perfect and Intel is most likely aware of those issues. With dual core boards (actually a pair of Atoms on a single chip) making their way to retail outlets as we speak and the new chipset nearly ready for mass production, it's safe to expect lower overall power consumption, especially from the northbridge. The integrated graphic processing unit should also receive a decent performance bump.

Now that we know a bit more about the hardware, let's move on to today's main point of interest: the Asus Eee 1000H.

Closer look:

Let’s start with the Eee’s 1000H packaging. The box it is packaged in has a sturdy feel to it, a good thing considering there’s a computer in it. Notice that ''Eee'' now stands for Easy – Excellent – Exciting instead of the original Easy to learn, work and play. Apparently, it is an "excellent mobile internet device" and provides "exciting multimedia enjoyment." I'm a little doubtful about the multimedia claim, but I'll keep that for the testing phase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Once the seal is broken and the box opened up, you are welcomed by the Eee resting inside a cloth-like bag. The netbook sits on a cardboard shell that provides extra protection against shipping damage. When I first took it out of the box, I realized how small it really was since I had never seen one outside of pictures.

  

 

Digging further into the box, I found a sleeve, a very welcomed addition for protecting the netbook when carrying it around. Under that, there is the usual stuff, a 6 cell battery, AC adapter, user manual, warranty card and a support DVD. There is also a piece of cloth included to get those fingerprints off the glossy surface.

  

 

Now that we've went through all that, let's take a look at the pièce de résistance!

Closer look:

Here it is, the biggest Eee PC on the market, the 1000H. As you can see, it a glossy black, or "Fine Ebony" as Asus calls it. Asus also makes them in red, green and pearl white, although this color I'm looking at today is the most widespread. Right below are the mandatory profile shots, this netbook is about an inch thick with the lid closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

When it comes to outputs, this one has more than you would think from something so small. On the right side there’s a single Ethernet and USB port along with a microphone input and a sound output.

 

 

Now to the left side. There is a VGA output, two more USB ports and a SD, SDHC and MMC compatible memory card reader.

 

 

Let's take a look under the lid now.

Closer look:

That's how big a 10 inch screen looks like! This one is LED backlit, allowing for a brighter image, equivalent or longer battery life compared to regular CCFL lit LCDs while also being, albeit not much, thinner and lighter. For more information, CNET has an interesting article on the subject. It features the same 1024x600 resolution of its sibling, the 900. So it's basically a stretched 8.9 inch screen. The 1.3 megapixels webcam stands on the top part of the bezel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The keyboard is 92% of the size of a regular keyboard, thanks to the 1000's bigger housing. It occupies nearly the full 10.5 inch width. Here's a penny on a key to give you a better idea how big, or should I say how small, the keys are. The touch pad is small, but makes good use of the available space. I will be commenting on both the keyboard and touchpad further in the article so hang on tight.

 

 

There are five buttons right above the keyboard. The first one on left turns the display off and the second one cycles through three available screen resolutions, 800x600, 1024x600 (the native resolution) and 1024x768. The third and fourth buttons can be customized, but are, by default, set to cycle power modes and launch Skype. Finally, the one on the far right is the power button.

 

 

On the bottom right are four LEDs indicating the Eee's current status. The first one indicates whether it is on, off and flashes when it is in standby mode, second one shows AC power/battery status, third is hard disk drive seeking and the last one displays whether WiFi/BlueTooth is either turned on or not.

 

 

Let's take a peek inside now!

Closer look:

Prior to attempting any of this, please turn on the netbook to make sure everything works. Many of us are familiar with tinkering inside computers, but laptop interiors are way more crowded and manufacturers usually don't like having their units opened. Although Asus, unlike most other manufacturers, doesn't mind users upgrading their Eees, so doing it does not instantly break the warranty. The Eee is incredibly easy to crack open and upgrade, simply take off both screws and lift the cover. Mine did take applying some force to the clips the first time, though common sense applies here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this panel off, you can clearly see how cramped everything is in there. Fortunately, both upgradeable components – hard drive and memory – are very easily accessed. Removing a SO-DIMM stick is similar to a regular desktop DIMM, simply push both clips outward and tilt up the memory, not too much of course, and pull it out.

 

 

Swapping the hard drive for a larger one or one of those solid state drives is easily done as well, as it is a standard 2.5 inch SATA device. Getting it out is done by removing the three screws off the disk's tray. Sharp eyes will notice one of them is missing on my unit. Then, the drive can be pulled forward to disconnect it and reveal the regular SATA connection, do not pull it upward until the connector is fully released or you will damage it.

 

 

There isn't much more to see in there that is user upgradeable so let's turn this little guy on and see what it has to offer.

Closer look:

Before booting into the operating system, let's just take a quick tour around the BIOS. The first page is, as usual, where the date and time can be adjusted. The Onboard Device Configuration page, found under the Advanced tab, is where you can choose enable or disable, in order to improve battery life, various onboard device like WiFi and Bluetooth. The other pages are pretty much space holders so I won't be going over them. Time to save and exit and boot into the operating system.

 

 

This version comes with Windows XP preinstalled and quite a bit of software, but no resource hungry and annoying trial bloatware. Everything that is installed makes sense and could be useful to some extent for most people. There are a few open source programs, from StarOffice, based on OpenOffice, to Mozilla's Firefox. Microsoft Works, the whole Windows Live suite, Skype and Adobe Reader come preinstalled as well.

There is also Asus' proprietary Eee software EeePC Tray Utility, SuperHybridEngine, EeeInstantKey and ASUSUpdate. Tray Utility lets you enable and disable wireless, Bluetooth and the webcam in order to save energy. SuperHybridEngine is the software that does the power management control. It can be set to auto, power saving, high performance or super high performance mode. Each one varies in time for the screen to shut off, standby and turn off the hard disk. EeeInstantKey is the small piece of software to change the program the third and fourth buttons above the keyboard will launch when pressed.

I don't like when there's a ton of software installed that I won't ever use, and I'm sure I'm not only one, so the first thing I did was go ahead and remove all the software that I found unnecessary. This is what I ended up with. Saved about 60MB of memory usage when idle and the desktop feels much lighter and loads quicker as well. I have all I need right there without any superfluous icons. Except that "My Bluetooth Places" that I can't seem to be able to hide without uninstalling Bluetooth software.

 

 

Let's move on to the testing phase.

Specifications:

Operating System Genuine Windows® XP Home
Display 10"
Intel CPU & Chipset Intel® Atom N270
Memory 1GB (Genuine Windows® XP Home)*
Wireless Data Network WLAN: 802.11n Bluetooth: YES
Hybrid Storage 80GB / 160GB HDD 10GB Eee Storage *Eee Storage service is complimentary for the first 18 months. Please register account information for 6 months extension(depend on country)
Camera 1.3M Pixel
Audio Dolby Sound Room Certified (only support on XP OS) Stereo speaker Digital Array Mic
Battery XP: 7 hrs* LX: 6 hrs* *Operation lifetime subject to product model, normal usage conditions and configurations.
Weight 1.45kg
Infusion Red, Green, Pearl White, Fine Ebony

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

*The one reviewed here is equipped with 2GB

Testing:

Obviously, since netbooks aren't meant to run heavy applications and demanding games, my testing will be different than what you usually see in our reviews. I will be comparing the Eee 1000H's performance to a run of the mill desktop computer in basic applications like internet browsing and word processing. Battery life will also be tested as it is a very important aspect to consider when purchasing a laptop.

Testing System #1

Testing System #2

 

 

 

Battery life:

This is one of the most, if not the most, important factor to consider when shopping for a portable computer. For this test, I enabled every single onboard device, set the brightness to its maximum and disabled all the power saving options. It was left idling at the desktop for the whole time with the wireless connection used as a bridge so there was constant traffic going through the network adaptors. Using Windows XP, Asus' Eee 1000H managed to stay awake for over four hours, four hours and twenty five minutes to be exact. Turning to Ubuntu, things don't shine as much. The open source alternative can only manage three hours and forty-six minutes. It's still pretty good and longer than an average laptop, but it clearly is inferior to Windows in that category. Of course, battery life will vary depending upon your usage, but that four hour figure can easily be extended by quite a margin once you disable some peripherals, especially WiFi and Bluetooth. Another efficient way to improve your uptime is to leave power saving features on like they will be in a normal usage pattern and decrease screen brightness.

Boot time:

This test will be comparing the time each operating system takes from a cold start to a fully useable desktop. Those times are calculated by filming the computer while it is booting so precision is within 2 seconds. The final time is achieved by averaging three consecutive boots into each operating system. In order to give you a better idea I recorded a third score which is my desktop computer equipped with a much more powerful Intel E8400 processor. Once again, Windows XP comes out as the winner, booting a whole 24 seconds or over 40% faster than its Linux counterpart. However, that extra waiting time gives the user a very functional and friendly interface, superior to Windows in my opinion, especially with a netbook's reduced screen resolution.

Hard drive speed:

Here, I will be comparing read speed and access time of the Eee's Seagate Momentus 5400.3 to my desktop's drive. I took both the average read speed and access time from SiSoftware's Sandra 2009 benchmark suite. As you can see from the graph below, the Eee's drive lags quite a bit. However, access time is slightly better, which is most likely due to the physically smaller platters of the 2.5 inch drive. For those who may be interested in a real world situation, installing Visual Studio 2008 from an ISO file (3.4GB) placed on the hard drive took exactly an hour.

Now that we're through with the facts and know what this machine is capable of, read on to see how it does for every day use.

Testing:

The 1000, as its name kind of suggests, is a 10 inch LED backlit display, which at maximum brightness, can compete with desktop monitors without a hitch, but will, of course, eat up the battery at a much higher rate. Minimum brightness is way too dark for any kind of use, except if you want to save those last few battery minutes, although putting it into standby mode will achieve much better results. For taking notes and web browsing, which is what I did the most along with some Visual Studio here and there, 60% was a good spot between ease of view and battery savings. The two pictures below show minimum and maximum brightness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main advantage of this Eee over the smaller 7 and 9 inches Eees isn't really the screen size since the resolution remains unchanged, but the chassis' size. That extra inch makes the keyboard that much bigger, which is by far more comfortable and easier to type on. However, don't expect to be typing just as fast as you do on your desktop right away, it takes some time to get used to it – a few hours did it for me while others will switch back and forth between this one and their desktop's seamlessly. As far as the layout goes, well you have to make some sacrifices when you're designing something that small. The left side is perfectly fine, with the keys simply scaled down a bit. However, as you can see, there’s alot of stuff on the right side. Especially the lower part – the control key is at the right place but it is awfully small, but there are well positioned and full sized arrows. The most annoying key, especially for touch typists, is shift – it is not only small but also out of reach. That's pretty much the only issue I've had with the keyboard layout. Home/End and Page Up/Down are secondary (function) keys integrated on the arrows, which I really liked instead of having them up top like you often see. For its size, I think the Eee's keyboard is hard to beat.

 

 

The touchpad is a little small, it could have been wider, but you can't really complain about height since it uses all that's available. The functionality it provides is awesome and totally makes up for its size. Once I (fellow reviewer Steve (hardnrg) actually), figured out the multi touch feature, as there isn't much about it in the manual, both buttons suddenly became almost entirely useless. Here's a rundown of the available gestures.

A quick double tap (tap and then tap again without releasing your finger from the pad) will do as if you were holding the left button, so you can drag icons, scroll bars and select text without having to click. Tapping with two fingers at once replaces the middle button so you can easily open a link in a new tab while browsing, although Control + click works well for that too. So a single finger tap replaces a left click, two finger tap does middle and, yes, tapping with three fingers at once right clicks. Finally, dragging two fingers across the pad lets you scroll in any direction. Once you get used to those simple gestures, believe me, you will very seldom use the buttons to click or navigate.

Let's keep moving.

Testing:

As far as weight goes, the Eee 1000H is definitely not a threat to other netbooks around. In fact, equipped with a 6 cell battery like the one reviewed here, it is pretty much the heaviest one of the bunch at 3.2 pounds. I didn't see that as a problem since the form factor easily makes up for it and it is still much lighter than laptops selling at a comparable price. I always carry it in my backpack and it really doesn't make a big difference. So even though it's not the lightest, this Eee, or any netbook for that matter, is perfect for using in class since it's roughly as big, or should I say small, as a sheet of paper. We have relatively small desks at my college, but I still had plenty of place to have all my usual stuff laying around.

The tiny Atom processor is definitely not as fast as a modern dual or quad core, but for office use it's just fine. As the benchmarks show, loading XP doesn't take much longer than usual since booting is more about the hard disk's speed than anything. The stock 5400 RPM Seagate drive does a fine job while using minimal power. Loading applications was surprisingly fast, I realized how overkill our computers are for anything other than gaming. Did I mention gaming? Forget about that on a netbook. The GMA950 graphic processor is way too slow for any kind of modern game. Both Half Life 2 and Counterstrike: Source were barely playable even at the lowest settings, however, to my surprise, Unreal Tournament played magnificently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As previously mentioned, this particular model came with Windows XP preloaded, but having jumped on the open source train lately I had to try a Linux based operating system. The first distribution that came to my mind was Ubuntu since it's the most popular and is very well supported. After some research, I stumbled upon an Eee specific version of Ubuntu with all the drivers preinstalled and a reworked user interface. Since the Eee does not have an optical drive and I don't have an external one on hand, I copied a live version onto my USB flash drive and then did the full hard drive install from there. A few clicks and a restart later I found myself ready to start tinkering around, even though there actually wasn't anything special to do to get it going. Wireless, LAN, sound, USB and even the touchpad all worked fine out of the box. I did encounter an issue with reading and writing to my FAT32 flash drive, it wouldn't mount it automatically so I had to install it through the terminal.

 

 

In case Linux isn't your thing and Windows XP Home Edition just doesn't cut it for you, it is fairly easy to install XP Professional via USB assuming you have a spare key. Using Pro instead of Home allows you to connect to domains, for example, in corporate or academic environments. Installing Vista is also a possibility, with various success stories posted over the Internet, but this has not been tested by me. As you are probably aware, the lone gigabyte of RAM that comes with the Eee will certainly struggle to provide a good Vista experience.

Choosing between an open-source system like Linux over Windows is very much based on personal preference, both will provide a similar experience, whether it is for browsing or word processing. As it was noted in the battery life portion of testing, XP does have quite an edge over Ubuntu in that regard, which is quite important for those long days at school, at work or on the road. Especially if you're like me and only carry the bare minimum – the netbook and your books. Even though the power adaptor is remarkably small and light, it's still nice not to have to lug it around.

Every good thing comes to an end, so let's conclude this.

Conclusion:

Asus makes a bunch of great products and the 1000H, part of the Eee line of computers, is no exception to this rule. One thing the company clearly needs to do is to make it easier for the consumer to choose between its own models. The number of models released under that branding is ridiculous, especially since most are virtually identical. That aside, Asus does face some stiff competition in that relatively young market, which has grown insanely quick within a year. This particular model is definitely amongst the top contenders. Its glossy black color makes it a good looking unit, although fingerprints tend to love leaving souvenirs on the surface.

Of course, looks aren't everything, the small form factor is a great asset and it still feels quite solid to the touch. The LED backlit display could really use some more pixels, especially vertically, something like 1154x768 might sound odd but it would be an awesome addition to the 10 inch screen. That would give it some extra real estate I often missed, especially when I was trying to code with Visual Studio. Speaking of VS, it did run surprisingly well although it was very hard to work with due to the limited resolution. Fortunately, I found the keyboard to be very easy to type on, as a matter of fact, most of this article was written on it.

When I got this, I wasn't expecting much from a performance stand point – Atom is no Core 2 – but it got everything I needed done in a timely manner while using much less power. Loading web and office applications only took a few more not so precious seconds of my time. The hard disk is no solid state drive, only the "plain" 1000 is granted a 32 gigabyte one paired with 8GB of onboard memory and at a much higher price. The absence of an optical drive was sometimes annoying, but you can't really blame Asus for that, there is simply not enough room to squeeze even the slimmest one anywhere. Please note that since Microsoft removed its rule limiting XP equipped netbooks to 80GB the latest models come with a 160GB hard disk drives instead.

Overall, the Asus Eee 1000H is an awesome little laptop, definitely a must for students who take a lot of notes and are in need of an affordable ultra portable. Thanks to its long battery life, this one will also please business users or anyone who often travels out of reach of AC power. Since there are numerous Eee users, support from the community is great, all sorts of operating systems can be run on it and even hardware modifications are available, like replacing the display with a touchscreen or adding 3G support.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: