For the past year I’ve been disappointed in the Averatec laptop computer I purchased back in 2005. It was slow to boot up with its dawdling hard drive, ran so hot that it repeatedly shut itself off, and burned up two batteries until they wouldn’t hold a charge. To top it off, its 802.11b/g wireless reception in hotels was simply awful.
I’ve been putting up with the darn thing, hoping that I might be able to replace it with an Apple laptop. But Apple’s new laptop computers released last week are priced out of my league. So I decided to give a netbook a try.
Netbooks are a new category of tiny laptop computers, made practical by Intel’s new Atom microprocessor. ASUS led the way last year with their Eee PC 701. Although crippled by a slow pre-Atom processor, tiny 7″ screen, and miniscule keyboard, its lowball price created a new category. Since then ASUS has expanded the line and a slew of other vendors have entered the netbook game.
I’ve been eyeballing netbook reviews for months and finally opted for the ASUS Eee PC 1000H. It cost well under $500 from buy.com and features:
- 10.2 inch 1024×600 display
- 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor
- 1 GB RAM
- 160 GB of hard drive space
- 802.11n and Bluetooth wireless networking
- 3 USB 2.0 ports, MMC/SD (HC) card reader, VGA port
- Windows XP Home Edition
- 6-cell battery
I opted for the 10″ machine over a 9″ because reviewers found the keyboards on the 9″ machines too cramped. I couldn’t find any netbooks in Tulsa to get some hands-on time to judge for myself, so it was a relief to find that the keyboard on my 10″ machine is big enough for comfortable touch typing. I wouldn’t want to go any smaller. The 10″ netbook size nicely fills the niche between my desktop machine’s 20″ monitor and my iPhone; it is perfect for surfing the internet on the couch.
The machine’s fan is quiet and, unlike my Averatec, the computer runs cool enough to comfortably set it on my lap. I wish the display were a more standard 1024×768, but the slight vertical cramping is not a deal-killer. There’s a mode to compress a 1024×768 image onto the display, but its artifacts are pretty ugly. One nice compensation for the increased need for scrolling is that the touchpad is multitouch – I can swipe two fingers down it simultaneously to scroll a window.
The battery life has been excellent – I got 5 hours of use on the first charge, even though I ran the unit in overclocked mode (pumping the processor up to 1.8 GHz) for awhile. There are convenient buttons to switch screen modes and adjust the system clock from 1.2 to 1.6 to 1.8 GHz.
A very pleasant surprise was finding that I could still watch the Netflix Watch Instantly video stream using my wireless router’s 802.11g connection. I kept the ASUS 1000H in its 1.8 GHz mode and piped the VGA output to my HDTV with a little VGA-to-component converter I bought a couple of years back. The playback was actually much steadier than what I got previously on the Averatec.
One potential problem is the lack of a CD/DVD optical drive. But it was easy to work around that – I just mapped a CD drive on my desktop machine onto the ASUS via Windows File and Printer Sharing and my 802.11g wireless router. This worked fine for installing WordPerfect (yes, it lives!) and Microsoft Office (Word is awful, but I do like Excel and tolerate PowerPoint). The machine comes bundled with StarOffice and Skype, but I haven’t given them a whirl. It also has some bundled antivirus program – if they ever want to charge me for it I’ll probably switch over to AVG Free.
So I’m very pleased with the ASUS Eee PC 1000H. I plan to use it as my laptop for years to come and look forward to taking it on the road with me along with my iPhone and Kindle. With these three gizmos I’m finding computing more fun and useful than ever.