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There was once a time when netbooks were small, cheap alternatives to standard laptops. Today, they needn't exhibit any of those traits to bear that moniker. The Eee PC 1101HA, Asus' first 11-inch hyper-portable, challenges traditional netbook perceptions with a large screen and an equally sizeable keyboard, though it is inexpensive. It's available to buy now for around £360.
Glossy and usable
The 1101HA is part of Asus' Eee PC Seashell netbook range, all of which are beautiful to look at, but have little common with actual seabound molluscs. Like its smaller siblings, the 1008HA and 1005HA, we're impressed by the glossy finish on the lid (it's available in both black and white), the dynamic wedge-shaped profile and the general solidity of the chassis.
The 1101HA doesn't have the same portability as its smaller counterparts. It's an inch or so wider and deeper, but that hasn't put us off. The laptop remains light at 1.4kg, and will slot into most hand- or manbags without a fuss. Unfortunately, Asus hasn't taken full advantage of the 1101HA's extra girth. It still has just three USB, one Ethernet and one D-Sub VGA video output port, an SDHC card reader, plus headphone and mic ports, which is the netbook norm.
Neither has Asus used the extra space to install a significantly larger keyboard, but that's not a complete disaster. It uses a keyboard that -- as far as we can tell -- is identical to the one on the Eee PC 1008HA, which is a good thing, because that machine was generally very easy to type on. It also gets the same MacBook-style multi-touch mouse trackpad, which, despite the odd, mottled surface, is handy for scrolling through documents and Web browsers.
Higher-res than your average netbook
The aforementioned 11-inch display really is the star of the 1101HA's show. Not only is it an inch larger than the vast majority of netbooks -- meaning it's slightly easier to use for long periods -- but it also has a higher resolution than most netbooks. Its LCD panel runs natively at 1,366x768 pixels, rather than the 1,024x600 pixels you usually get on 10-inch devices, so there's slightly more desktop space to manipulate application windows.
Sadly, there's no point in opening multiple windows. The 1101HA uses a 1.33GHz Intel Z520 CPU, which -- despite working alongside the customary 1GB of RAM -- has only ever proven to be lethargic in our past experiences. If you're expecting the 1101HA to be faster because it's bigger, you'd better think again.
The device doesn't let itself down elsewhere. It ships with a fairly typical 160GB hard drive, which provides ample storage. This being an Eee PC, it also benefits from an additional 10GB of 'free' online storage. This isn't a great deal, but it comes in handy when you need to backup your most precious files to a location you can access from any Web-enabled computer.
The 1101HA sports integrated 10/100 Ethernet, which gives it a slight advantage over machines such as the MacBook Air, and also gets high-speed, long-range 802.11n Wi-Fi, which is a step up over the 802.11b/g you get on the majority of netbooks. It has a maximum theoretical throughput of 300Mbps -- an improvement over 802.11n's 54Mbps, though you can only realistically expect around 100Mbps.
The 1101HA comes with the Windows XP operating system (Asus has a scheme that allows users to upgrade to Windows 7 when it's released) and includes a one-year global warranty, which states -- in the EU, at least -- that Asus will collect the machine, repair it, and return it to you in full working order.
Doesn't exert the battery
The 1101HA lets itself down with mediocre performance. Its Intel Z530 CPU could only manage 891 in PCMark 2005, which is pretty poor, even by netbook standards. The machine also struggles with tasks most of us take for granted -- running even basic video on BBC iPlayer often seems like too much exertion, and even basic multitasking results in annoying slowdown.
The upside of this pathetic processing power is long battery life. The Eee PC 1101HA lasted a whopping 6 hours 44 minutes in our intensive BatteryEater test, which is the longest we've seen from any netbook. In the much less intensive BatteryEater reader test, the 1101HA lasted 10 hours 19 minutes -- stunning.
The 1101HA could have been a great machine. Its large, high-res screen, excellent keyboard and superb battery life would, ordinarily, be enough to secure our affections, but its rubbish performance means you're better off with alternatives such as the Eee PC 1008HA.
Edited by Nick Hide