The Asus Eee PC 1000HE is a slightly tweaked version of the netbooks.
The 1000HE should be available to buy from early April for approximately £360.
The 1000HE looks virtually identical to the other 1000-series netbooks, and that's no bad thing. It's an attractive device with gently curved edges, shiny, circular, coin-style hinge edges and minimalist 'Eee' branding at the corner of the lid. Being the design obsessives that we are, we would probably have got rid of the glossy, fingerprint-attracting black finish, and somehow squeezed in a larger, 11-inch screen in order to reduce the size of the bezel -- but these are minor quibbles.
The first major improvement offered by the 1000HE is its new keyboard, which appears to have been inspired by theor . The keyboard features isolated keys, meaning each key has a 2mm to 3mm gap between itself and its nearest neighbour. This makes it considerably easier to use than a standard netbook keyboard, on which the keys tend to be more closely grouped. It's entirely possible to touch type on the 1000HE's keyboard. The mouse track pad is equally pleasant to use, as it's larger than those on most other netbooks, and supports multitouch gesture inputs.
Just above the keyboard, Asus provides a row of four shortcut buttons. One of these instantly deactivates the screen backlight, which is only ever useful if you're desperately trying to hide porn from someone looking over your shoulder. On the other hand, if you're really anal about battery life, you can hit the button every time you blink. The other three are more useful -- one zooms the screen (by changing the resolution), and the remaining two are user-programmable, so you can assign them to launch your favourite applications.
There's a fairly ordinary arrangement of ports on the 1000HE. The left side is home to Ethernet, USB, microphone and headphone ports, while the right side houses a VGA video output, two additional USBs and a MultiMediaCard/SD card reader. There are no optical drives, digital video outputs or fingerprint readers, but that's par for the course with a netbook.
The 1000HE is the first machine we've seen that uses an Intel Atom N280 CPU. Theoretically, it offers better performance than the near-ubiquitous Atom N270 chips we see in most netbooks, thanks to its faster front-side bus and higher clock speed. The N280's front-side bus -- the system that transfers data between the memory sub-system and the CPU --- runs at 667MHz, as opposed to 533MHz in the case of the N270. This boosts the clock speed to 1.66GHz -- 600MHz faster than that of the N270.
Don't expect a massive improvement in performance, though. The 1000HE has the same Intel 945GSE chipset used on previous Eee PCs, and not the new, faster-performing, Atom-specific GN40 chipset announced at the same time as the N280 CPU.
The 1000HE contains 1GB of RAM -- again, typical netbook fare -- but ships with a large, 160GB hard drive instead of the 80GB unit seen in the 1000H. This should please BitTorrent junkies no end, as the machine is capable of storing approximately 230 standard-definition movies, 40,000 MP3s and a quite ludicrous number of digital images.