Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
As a computer maker, Asus is best known for its Eee PC Netbooks, which were arguably the first and most important minilaptops for the mainstream market. The basic plastic design of the Eee PC hasn't changed much over the past few generations, giving the series a look and feel in line with its entry-level prices, as seen in the rounded plastic bodies of the Eee PC 1001 and 1005 models (there have been a couple of one-off exceptions, such as a Karim Rashid edition).
Moving the model number up to the Eee PC 1018, Asus has taken the Netbook chassis back to the drawing board, coming up with a new design that's thin, sturdy, and attractive while only bumping the asking price up to $349 (from the typical $299 Netbook entry point).
Under the brushed-metal exterior, however, is still the same Intel Atom N450 Netbook we've seen throughout 2010, with the same anemic performance (but impressive battery life). As long as you don't expect the internal components to match the flash of the new external body, the Eee PC 1018 is probably our new favorite nonpremium Netbook.
|Price as reviewed||$349|
|Processor||1.66GHz Intel Atom N450|
|Memory||1GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 3150 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.3 x 7.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.5/3.0 pounds|
The very thin, totally flat lid is the best visual feature on the Eee PC 1018. The back of the lid is clad in brushed metal, with a subtle chromed Asus logo in the middle. The lower half of the chassis has a similar brushed metal wrist rest, with textured black plastic on the bottom surface. The overall effect looks much thinner, and more upscale than previous Eee PC models, and the mostly metal construction feels solid and sturdy.
Asus keeps the standard Eee PC keyboard, with flat-topped, widely spaced island-style keys. Typing on it is mostly trouble-free (for a Netbook), but we remain annoyed by the shrunken right Shift key, which makes touch typing difficult if you're used to a bigger Shift key.
The touch pad is much improved over previous Eee PC touch pads. It's larger, with a demarcated scroll zone along the right edge (you can also use a two-finger multitouch scroll gesture, but it's less reliable). A single button bar below the pad takes the place of left and right mouse buttons--we strongly prefer a pair of separate mouse buttons, but the single bar in this case is at least wide enough to use comfortably, with a textured surface.
The 10.1-inch display has the same 1,024x600-pixel native resolution as nearly all nonpremium Netbooks. At this price, it's still acceptable, but starting at only $50 more, there are several 10 and 11-inch Netbooks available with 1,366x768-pixel displays. Interestingly, the 0.3-megapixel Webcam above the screen has a very low-tech on/off switch. A small slider above the camera lens physically moves a cover over the lens.
|Asus Eee PC 1018PB||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Though the collection of ports and connections on the Asus Eee PC 1018 is pretty standard, the slim design of the body requires some tricky engineering. The Ethernet cable jack is half hidden behind a hinged flap that swings open to accommodate the wide Cat 5 cable plug. Similarly, the AC adapter plug is also very tiny (although the cord and power brick are normal size).
Despite the redesigned exterior, the internal components in the Eee PC 1018 are going to be very familiar to anyone who has checked out a Netbook during 2010. There's a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive.
Predictably the system's performance is right in line with what you'd expect from this standard set of components. The Eee PC 1018 is fine for basic Internet surfing, office productivity, and even watching streaming Web video (your mileage may vary with some HD video streams).