It’s nearly impossible to walk through an airport or coffee shop without seeing an Eee PC. That’s in part because there is a confusing array of overlapping Netbooks that all carry the Asus Eee PC name, despite having different components, prices, and even screen sizes. For $329, the retail-only 1005PEB-RRED01S hits all the major notes, including Intel’s current Atom N450 CPU.
Compared with other retail N450 Netbooks we’ve seen, the Eee PC costs a little less, but savvy online shoppers can find largely identical configurations (such as the Eee PC 1001P) for as little as $299, if they’re willing to trade a little hard drive space.
That said, the three retail Netbooks we’re looking at in our spring 2010 retail laptop review roundup are all priced within $30 of each other, and have largely similar specs. Between these three, it’s mostly a matter of trying them out in person and going for the design and keyboard/touch pad combo that works best for you. (Ours isn’t a binding opinion, but of this group, we generally thought the Samsung NP-N210-JA02US had the best touch pad and the Asus 1005PEB had the best keyboard, leaving the Dell iM1012-687OBK slightly behind.)
If you were in a retail store today and saw all three of the Netbooks compared here side by side, we’d give a slight edge to the Asus 1005PEB, thanks to its lower price, good battery life, and decent keyboard.
Price as reviewed $329
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N450
Memory 1GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive 250GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel NM10
Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Starter
Dimensions (WD) 10.3 x 7.0 inches
Height 0.80-1.36 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.8/3.4 pounds
The design of this Eee PC 1005PEB is very similar to that of the Asus Eee PC 1005PE we looked at back in December 2009, which was the first Intel Atom N450 Netbook we reviewed. With a slight taper toward the front lip and gently rounded edges on the lid, it’s a fairly sleek, mainstream-looking system. Instead of the typical glossy black, this specific version has a matte burgundy chassis, which, if nothing else, is a break from the usual. We’ve also seen blue and black versions of the same system.
The flat-topped, widely spaced keys on the keyboard are a little different from older Eee PC models, which have flat keys, but which are packed closely together. Typing was relatively easy, but watch out for the slightly smaller-than-usual right shift key, which can be a deal-breaker for some touch typists.
The touch pad is the same small one we’ve seen on every 1005-series Eee PC, built right into the wrist rest and demarcated by a rectangle of tiny raised dots. Combined with a thin rocker bar for the left and right mouse buttons, it’s not our favorite. In comparison, the Samsung NP-N210 has a more traditional, slightly recessed touch pad, with more distinct left and right mouse buttons.
The 1005PEB is stuck with a 1,024×600-pixel screen, while all 11- and 12-inch Netbooks and even some 10-inch models are moving to 1,366×768-pixel displays. Though certainly usable, it feels cramped, especially when scrolling down long Web pages or office documents.
Of the three Netbooks in this part of our spring 2010 retail laptop review roundup, both the Asus and Samsung models had 802.11n Wi-Fi, which the Dell Mini 10 lacked. All three were missing Bluetooth–which can be forgivable in a $299 Netbook, but at $329 or $359, it’s less so.
All three systems feature the current Netbook standard–Intel’s 1.66GHz Atom N450–which has great advantages over older Atom chips in terms of power efficiency. As we expected, the actual performance differences between the systems were so small as to be statistically insignificant, and each will give you a perfectly fine experience, as long as you keep our standard Netbook admonitions in mind. These systems are all fine for basic Web surfing, e-mail, and light multimedia playback. But any real attempt at multitasking will slow the single-core CPUs right down.
The system’s battery life is where the new Atom platform really shines. Asus has always had some of the longest-lived Netbooks, and this 1005PEB ran for 6 hours and 42 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. The Dell actually ran a minute longer, but the Samsung was behind by more than 30 minutes. That all seems impressive, until you note that similar Eee PC models have run past 8 hours on the same test.