May 26, 2009, 3:51 PM — It's thin, sleek, and light, and at least one Macworld editor is eyeballing it with interest. Nevertheless, the Asus Eee PC 1008HA netbook is no MacBook. Asus seems to be spitting out new additions to its netbook line faster than I can count. (Who can forget the Asus Eee PC 1000HE, the Asus Eee PC 1000H 80G XP, and the Asus Eee PC T91? It ain't easy, since all three came out in the past six months or so.)
Nevertheless, the company's designers continue to find ways to refine their machines. The proof is in this new $420 (as of May 26, 2009) netbook.
Under its frosty exterior, the system sports up-to-the-minute netbook innards: an Intel Atom N280 CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Bluetooth, 802.11n, and a three-cell battery (we're still awaiting battery life test results from the PC World Test Center).
The keyboard is 92 percent of full size, with a good layout, and it feels big and comfortable. The buttons were firm and large enough to type on easily. Even the metallic mouse-button bar was reasonably secure--and I especially like Asus's treatment of the touchpad. Instead of using dainty trim or a different material to indicate that you're within the strike zone, this model incorporates tiny bumps. As aresult, the netbook looks as though it has a mild rash. But more to the point, it feels really good. Navigating Web sites was a piece of cake.
To accommodate the 1008HA's thin-and-light design, Asus had to drop a few ports--and in the process it made an interesting design move: In a hidden compartment on the underside of the netbook sits a VGA adapter dongle. When you need it, you simply pop it out and plug it into the mini-USB port on one side of the machine. This clever move retains the functionality while reducing the size, and it minimizes the chance of losing dongles. (Another smart tactic is evident in the Sony VAIO P netbook, which sneaks the VGA dongle onto its power supply...but I digress.) Otherwise, on the 1008HA you'll find the usual retinue of connection options hiding behind flaps: an ethernet hookup, two USB ports, an SD Card reader, and headphone and microphone jacks.
As for the 10.1-inch screen, it looks sufficiently sharp and crisp at its native 1024-by-600-pixel resolution. (You can scale this setting higher in an emulated mode.) Colors pop when you tilt the display at just the right angle--as is the case with most laptops and netbooks. Also typically, the screen's glossy coating will leave you squinting when you try to view it in broad daylight.
How does it perform? What's the final performance score for the 1008HA? We don't have a final answer yet. But stay tuned. As soon as our Test Center wraps up testing, we'll update this review.