Asus has been cranking out Eee PCs like a sexed-up hare squeezes out baby bunnies. It’s been a bewildering clutch of netbooks: We’ve seen the 900, 901, 1000, 1000HA and 1000BK003 so far. But the latest one we tested, the 1002HA, actually seems like it might be the pick of the litter.
Asus has done the 1.6-GHz Atom processor before, so that’s nothing new in this model, but the 160-GB hard drive is. With a lot more room for storing your stuff, this Eee makes a big step toward being a useful computing tool for those who don’t need an optical drive and just want a more portable PC. RAM’s still a meager 1 GB, but you can feel free to pop off the back panel and add some more.
Probably the biggest difference from earlier models is the styling. Asus opts for a black-and-charcoal theme with a brushed-metal veneer, though you can still go with the pearl-white casing (with the slightly different 1000H model) if you want your PC to look like a toy. Despite its frail looks, the Eee is squat and sturdy, with a strong set of hinges and a solid, quiet keyboard. And despite limited real estate on the sides and back, the Eee fits in three USBs, audio ports, VG, ethernet and an SD slot (sorry, baud buffs, the modem is extinct).
The Eee’s problems are nothing new. Though the screen’s now 10 inches, you can now bump the resolution up to 1024 x 768 it’s a “virtual resolution” that is larger than the laptop’s screen (unless you’re hooked up to a display). Two mouse buttons would be nice, as the single rocker-style button set is tough to use. However, there’s an upside: Asus now uses MultiTouch-type technology for two-fingered scrolling, just like a MacBook.
Performance is netbook standard: doddering business performance, no gaming ability, but a respectable 3 hours of battery life. This still can’t stand up to the better-designed MSI-Wind, and it may be worth your while to wait for the upcoming MSI X320 and its 15-hour battery life. But if you are dead-set on an Eee, this $500 number is the one to get — until the next one comes out in t-minus 5, 4, 3 …