Asus’ commitment to its Eee PC line has been nothing short of relentless. Barely a week goes by when we don’t report on a slightly tweaked iteration of the machine that kicked off the whole netbook revolution.
So it could be easy to dismiss the latest edition, the Eee PC 1008HA, known also as the Seashell, as just another attempt to claw back the lead from netbook rivals Acer.
But that would be doing the Seashell a disservice. It’s the hottest Eee PC we’ve laid hands on – not since the pricey but luscious Eee PC S101 have we seen a netbook that could truly become our laptop of choice.
Much has been made of the slimline 1in thick body, which tips the scales at a mere 1.1kg, and in the hand it doesn’t disappoint.
Obvious style comparisons will be drawn with specced up, ‘anti-netbooks’ like the MacBook Air and Dell Adamo. While the Seashell clearly can’t rival those design classics in terms of sheer grunt, it makes a darn good case for being a cheap alternative in these financially frisky times.
The spec sheet reads like every other netbook you’ve seen in the past year. There’s the obligatory Intel N280 Atom processor, perfectly capable of handling basic programmes and intense web browsing sessions, two USBs, 1GB RAM, VGA, Ethernet, 160GB hard-drive and Bluetooth. All pretty standard.
The 10.1in screen is now standard across the entire Eee range, although the Seashell’s glossy version means glare is ever present, a real pain when snacking on video.
Still, on the plus side, it does mean that the keyboard, 92 per cent the size of a standard pad, isn’t cramped and uncomfortable to use. That means no more messages and memos littered with spelling mistakes a five year old would be embarrassed to make.
In a similar vein, the bobbled trackpad is a neat and interesting take on the mouse. The dimples mean it’s incredibly accurate and its resistive style means you feel you’re in control of the cursor, rather than finding yourself clicking on menus you neither need nor understand.
The single button for right and left clicking may seem like a gimmick, but it lends the machine a pared down look and caused us no issues on test.
There are, though, some nagging concerns that give other netbooks the edge over the Seashell. There’s no built in 3G, so if you want mobile broadband, one of your precious USB ports will have to house an ungainly dongle. Not cool when you’ve got a netbook as sharp as the Seashell.
Also, you can’t remove the battery. While this in itself is an annoyance, we found the 3 cell battery lasted 4 hours while we trawled the web and did some blogging using the bundled Microsoft Works programme.
If this is a deal breaker for you, Asus will be offering a cheaper model, the 1005HA, with a removable battery which its says will last a mega nine hours. Sadly, you will have to compromise on the svelte look to get a whole working day out of this newer netbook.
At £379, the 1008HA is by no means the cheapest, or even the most tech heavy netbook available. But other than Asus’ very own Eee PC S101, we think there’s no netbook better when it comes to mixing style, design and solid performance. If you can’t afford that Dell Adamo you’ve been craving, this is a worthy budget alternative.