Asus is perhaps best known for virtually creating the Netbook phenomenon with its line of inexpensive Eee PCs. The company has subsequently done a good job of refining and expanding on the Netbook experience, with systems such as the slim Eee PC 1005HA and the touch-screen Eee PC T91.
The latest move is to add an 11.6-inch display, which, while not currently a threat to popular 10-inch models, still shows a lot of promise for Netbooks becoming ever more useful to mainstream laptop users.
Asus' take on an 11.6-inch Netbook retains the slim, attractive styling of the 10-inch 1005HA, and wisely upgrades the screen to a higher-resolution 1,366x768 model. Like the first 11-inch Netbook we checked out, the Acer Aspire One 751h, it uses the Z520 version of Intel's Atom processor, instead of the more common (and faster) N270 and N280 CPUs.
In the Acer version, that made the system feel just sluggish enough that we were occasionally tempted to throw it out of a window. In a concession to reality, Asus allows for some overclocking of the CPU (up to 30 percent via the system's BIOS), which brings the performance up to standard Netbook levels. Still, it's an inelegant workaround, and makes us eager to check out 11-inch systems due later this year with more powerful CPUs from Intel and AMD.
|Price as reviewed||$429|
|Processor||1.3GHz Intel Atom Z520|
|Memory||1GB, 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel US15W chipset|
|Graphics||Mobile Intel GMA 500 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows XP|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.3 x 7.7 inches|
|Height||0.9 - 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.0/3.5 pounds|
The design of the 1101HA will seem familiar to anyone who has seen the 10-inch 1005HA version of the Eee PC (one of our favorite Netbooks). There's a tapered front lip, and a gentle slope to the system, making it slightly thicker in the rear. There's still enough room for standard VGA and Ethernet jacks on the sides, but just barely.
Thanks to the slim design and efficient use of space, the 1101 doesn't feel much bulkier than a 10-inch Netbook, which makes it worth a look, if 10-inch screens are just too small, but you still value portability and weight above all else.
The slightly bigger footprint allows for a more traditional keyboard layout, with flat-topped keys that widen slightly at the base. Only the right Shift keys seem to be unnaturally small. Lacking quick-launch or media control buttons (except for a touch pad on/off switch), many of the keys have alternate Fn key functions, the most notable of which is the space bar, which also controls the system's power presets. In the 1101HA, Asus' Super Hybrid Engine power software allows you to overclock the Atom Z520 CPU, which gave us better performance (which is important because the Z-series Atoms are typically slower than their N-series cousins). The amount of overclocking is adjustable in the system BIOS, from 5 percent to 30 percent.
The touch pad is perfectly usable, but the texture on it--made up of tiny raised bumps--isn't everyone's favorite, although it gives good tactile feedback as you move across the touch-pad surface. The single rocker bar that acts as the left and right mouse buttons feels thin and unsubstantial. We prefer separate, and slightly larger, buttons.
The 11.6-inch LED display offers a 1,366x768 native resolution, which is the new standard for both 11-inch Netbooks and a handful of more expensive 10-inch systems (such as the Sony Vaio W). The slightly larger display, coupled with the higher resolution, makes the onscreen experience less claustrophobic, and better suited for navigating larger Web pages or long office docs. It's hard to go back to the lower 1,280x600 resolution of most Netbooks after spending much time with an 11-inch model.
|Asus Eee PC 1101HA||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
The 1101HA offers a fairly standard set of ports and connections, including 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, making for a fairly complete package. If you want built-in mobile broadband hardware, you'll have to look to systems such as the Dell Mini 10.
While most Netbooks have Intel's N270 (or N280) Atom CPUs, both 11-inch Netbooks we've tested so far use the 1.3GHz Z520 version. Generally, the Z-series runs cooler and was intended for handheld mobile Internet devices (sometimes called MIDs). In Netbook use, it can be noticeably slower than the N-series Atoms, and that's unfortunate because any additional performance hurdles are especially annoying for Netbooks, which are already fairly pokey under the best of circumstances. In the Eee PC 1101HA specifically, performance was slower than Netbooks with the Atom N270 and N280 in most of our benchmarks--although it was actually very fast in our iTunes encoding test.
The mitigating factor in the 1101's case is the built-in overclocking, turned on by switching between presets in the included power management software. With overclocking turned on, we saw benchmark scores that were more in line with typical Netbooks. Obviously, overclocking your CPU will have an impact on battery life, and generate more heat, although we didn't run into any stability issues while using the system. You can also underclock the CPU way down to 1.0GHz to improve power consumption, but we can't imagine being able to do anything useful in Windows XP like that.