Most Netbooks are built around providing maximum value--packing a standard set of low-power components into a cheap plastic shell designed to attract price-sensitive consumers. We've seen a handful of more design-focused Netbooks, but a fancier outer chassis doesn't mean that much without upgraded performance. We'd be hard-pressed to imagine too many Netbook buyers paying a significant premium for a prettier Netbook that was otherwise identical to the baseline $299 models.
Asus smartly adds a few upgrades to its very attractive Eee PC 1008P, with a unique body credited to industrial designer Karim Rashid. The 1008P has 2GB of RAM, double the typical amount, and a large 320GB hard drive, along with Windows 7 Home Premium, instead of Win 7 Starter. But, do those (very welcome) upgrades justify the price jump to $499, when a 1GB/160GB HHD/Win 7 Starter Netbook shouldn't really cost any more than $299?
Missing options that might have helped it across the line include Nvidia's Ion GPU, Broadcom's HD video accelerator chip, or--most importantly--a higher-resolution 1,366x768-pixel display. At 1,024x600 pixels, it's hard to see this as a premium Netbook.
That said, the extra RAM is something we're always looking for in Netbooks, and the overall design is probably the coolest we've seen on one of these systems. If you can live with the lower-resolution display, and can find the 1008P discounted from its MSRP, it's worth a look as a semi-premium Netbook.
|Price as reviewed||$499|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Atom N450|
|Memory||1GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.3 x 7.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.8/3.3 pounds|
You've seen Karim Rashid's designs before, most likely without even knowing it. He's designed well-known items such as Umbra's ubiquitous plastic wastepaper baskets and the Dirt Devil Kone vacuum. His, dare we say, Philippe-Starck-like approach to plastic pop sensibilities are a perfect match for the task of putting a little fun into the normally function-focused world of laptop design.
The wavy, undulating lines of the Eee PC 1008P wouldn't look out of place in a Kartell showroom, and its tile-like outer pattern (available in either brown or pink) is a welcome change from the usual choice between glossy, flat plastic or slightly-less-glossy, flat plastic. Unfortunately, the cool design is mostly limited to the outside of the system. The interior, aside from a small signature from the designer, looks like any other matte-black Netbook keyboard tray.
The keyboard and touch pad are in line with other recent Eee PC models, with large, flat-topped island-style keys and a touch pad surface comprised of tiny, raised dots. The keyboard feels wonderfully solid, with no flex under even heavy typing, although we're a little wary of the shrunken right shift key. The touch pad supports several multitouch gestures, including two-finger scrolling, but Asus continues to stick with its single silver rocker bar in place of separate left and right mouse buttons.
There are no quick-launch buttons, except for a single dual-use button above the keyboard for turning on the system's ExpressGate OS (for when you don't want to boot all the way into Windows) and for disabling the touch pad (when you're using a mouse and don't want to accidentally brush up against it). Other functions are all accessed by using the Fn key, including several power profiles that are mapped to Fn+spacebar.
The 1008P's biggest missed opportunity is its 1,024x600-pixel resolution display. That's typical for Netbooks in the $299-$350 range, but pretty shocking for a system that costs $499. At least the lower-res screen looks very nice under its slick edge-to-edge glass overlay. Still, we've seen Netbooks up to $100 less with 1,366x768-pixel displays.
|Asus Eee PC 1001P||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 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|
Part of the clean look of the 1008P comes from having its ports and connections hidden behind tiny, folding doors. It makes them a little harder to access on the fly, but also keeps them safe from foreign debris. There's a mini-VGA display output on the side, and an adaptor cable tucked behind a flap on the system's bottom. So to get video output, you'd have to remove the VGA dongle from its underside slot and connect it to the mini port under the left-side port flap.
Though the Eee PC 1008P has the same Intel Atom N450 CPU as practically every other Netbook on the market today, it doubles the RAM to 2GB. This is a rare upgrade we've always thought would be a good way to add a little boost to normally sluggish Netbook performance. There are two sides to this coin, however.
In anecdotal use (including the writing of this review), the 1008P with its 2GB of RAM certainly felt faster and more responsive than other Netbooks we're used to. We still ran into occasional slowdown, but nothing that made us want to throw it out of the nearest window (which is sometimes how we end up feeling about Netbooks). On the other hand, our CNET Labs benchmark scores showed little or no difference between this model and 1GB/Atom N450 Netbooks. That said, we definitely spent less time watching the little Windows 7 rotating wait circle icon on this system while Web surfing and word processing.