Monday, 15 June 2009

Notebook Review Spec : ASUS N90SV-A2

The ASUS N90SV-A2 is an 18.4" multimedia gaming notebook designed for people who might not need the power of a W90, or have the budget for one. Offering dual hard drives, NVIDIA Geforce GT 130M graphics, optional Blu-ray playing capabilities, and a FullHD 1080P display the N90 is perfect for someone who wants a true multimedia hub for their dorm room or office. With prices starting as low as $1,399 online depending on configuration, is this 18.4" multimedia rig worth it? Read our full review to find out.

ASUS N90SV-A2 Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64 bit)
  • 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550 (1066MHz FSB, 6MB L2 Cache)
  • Chipset: SiS 671DX+968
  • 4GB PC2-6400 RAM (2GB x 2GB)
  • 2 x 500GB Seagate 5400rpm
  • 18.4" 1080P HD FHD LCD 1920x1080 (Glossy)
  • Optical Drive: BD-ROM + DVDRW+/-
  • Wireless: Atheros AR928x B/G/N Wifi and Bluetooth 2.0
  • 8-cell 14.8V 4.4Ah 62Wh battery
  • Dimensions: 18.4" x 12.4" x 1.8"
  • Weight: 9lbs 8.3oz
  • Warranty: 2-year global, 1-year accidental damage
  • Price as configured: $1,799


Build and Design
ASUS gave the N90SV a clean and sleek look with sharply defined contours and a classy pinstripe glossy black finish. When closed the N90 appears to be quite slim (for an 18.4" notebook) with a sharpened front edge that slowly expands out over the screen and gradually slims down again towards the rear. The exterior is tastefully finished with the glossy black plastic and a thin plate of chrome that connects the two screen hinges. While the ASUS logo is displayed front and center, it doesn't appear to be too large or obscenely flashy.


Inside the N90 the pinstripe black finish continues around the palmrest and keyboard, transitioning to solid black directly around the keyboard and media keys. I was hoping for touch sensitive media keys on a notebook at this price range, but these worked very well, and the physical volume control was a nice perk. The speakers are located right above the keyboard, covered with a fine mesh grill. Overall I think the looks are great, but I wish they went a bit further with the high price tag of this model.


Build quality feels very good with solid feeling plastic and few creaks or squeaks. Given the thin chassis that also happens to be over a foot and a half wide, there is some additional flex if you are holding it near one of the corners ... but that is expected. The glossy surface feels durable and scratch resistant to a point, but not scratch-proof. One side benefit of having no touch-sensitive media keys is less swiping over the glossy plastic around the keyboard, which can sometimes create fine scratches over time. The only complaint I have in relation to build quality is so much space was left open and utilized. ASUS could have easily fit on almost double the USB ports, but instead left a lot of open real estate.

Screen and Speakers
The 18.4" FHD 1920x1080 display is above average in quality, with bright colors and very good contrast levels thanks to the glossy surface. For a small dorm room or office the screen is large enough to properly sit back and watch a movie with a few friends. Paired with the Blu-ray drive the movie experience is great compared to even tiny 15.4" or 17" notebooks. Viewing angles are average, with about 15 to 20 degrees of vertical viewing range before colors start to distort. Horizontal viewing angles span further, viewable to about 70 degrees before reflections off the glossy surface overpower the displayed images. Backlight brightness is fine for viewing the screen in a brightly lit room, but limit any outdoor use to a heavily shaded are.


The speakers are located below the display, underneath a thin plastic grill. The oddly small speakers feel misplaced on an 18.4" multimedia notebook and sound underpowered. Peak volume levels were weak, and the speakers sounded very tinny at higher volume levels. Bass and midrange were lacking, leaving only higher frequencies to fill the room. For enjoying a quick movie or listening to streaming music they will probably be more than adequate, but for the best listening experience use the headphone jack or HDMI out for digital audio through a stereo.

Keyboard and Touchpad
ASUS was easily able to fit a full-size keyboard into the N90SV, with room to spare on each side. The keyboard is comfortable to type on once you get used to the keys, which are shaped different from more common keyboards. The keys are more squared off with sharper and more defined edges, and have less of a "cup" to the key surface. Once you get past the shape of the keys the typing surface feels great, with very good support under strong typing. Some flex was noticed under significant finger pressure, but it was minimal at worst. Individual key action was smooth, with a shallow press needed to activate it. Noise while typing wasn't significant, with only a mild click when each key was pressed.


The N90 offers a large Synaptics touchpad that is a dream to use. Sensitivity is great and with a soft matte finish it is easy to flick your finger around the touchpad and accurately move in on your target. No lag was noticed during use, with my only complaint regarding the touchpad being the default settings. The sensitivity was set a little high, and it was easy to lurch the pointer across the screen by touching your palm to the side of the touchpad by accident. Some minor tweaking of the settings helped fix this, as well as just getting used to the large layout of the notebook. The touchpad button is a rocket style button, with a single solid bar for triggering the left and right button. Moderate pressure was required to activate the button, having shallow feedback and giving off a muted click when pressed.

Ports and Features
Port selection on the N90SV is average compared to other notebooks we have reviewed, but it feels underutilized with the amount of open space around the sides of the notebook. The notebook offers four USB ports, VGA, HDMI, two headphone out, microphone in, and LAN. For expansion the it has an ExpressCard/54 slot and SDHC multi-card reader. One feature lacking that is very disappointing is eSATA, used for high speed external storage. This connection should have not been left out of an 18.4" multimedia notebook. For HD movie playback, the N90SV-A2 sports a Blu-ray drive, which is nice if the notebook fill the role of multimedia hub in a home theater.


ASUS includes a notebook carrying case and wired mouse with the N90SV. The case works well to protect the notebook from scratches and damage, but doesn't have as much padding as other retail bags. The wired USB mouse works as intended, but feels and looks pretty cheap. In a pinch it is a good mouse to store in your bag as a spare, but beyond that I think most people will replace it with something better.

Performance and Benchmarks
System performance with the Intel Core 2 Duo T9550 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 130M was excellent, showing little lag except under higher resolution gaming tests. The notebook flex through normal tasks such as web browsing, startup and shutdown, and playing HD movies with ease. Testing both 720P and 1080P movies files the notebook played the video without any framerate problems, and outputted clear digital audio in-sync out through HDMI.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
ASUS N90SV-A2 (Core 2 Duo T9550 @ 2.66GHz) 28.485 seconds
Sony VAIO FW (Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz)
30.373 seconds
Dell Studio 17 (Core 2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz) 31.574 seconds
Dell Studio XPS 16 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.827 seconds
ASUS F50SV-A2 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz)
31.857 seconds
Gateway P-7805u FX (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.287 seconds
HP Pavilion dv6z (AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 @ 2.10GHz)
38.519 seconds

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Gateway P-7805u FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS 1GB)
6,637 PCMarks
ASUS N90SV-A2 (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550, NVIDIA GeForce GT 130M 1GB) 6,464 PCMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB)
6,303 PCMarks
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 6,005 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470)
6,002 PCMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650)
5,982 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 4,119 PCMarks

3DMark06 graphics comparison against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Gateway P-7805u FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS 1GB) 9,190 3DMarks
ASUS N90SV-A2 (2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9550, NVIDIA GeForce GT 130M 1GB) 5,778 3DMarks
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 5,152 3DMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB)
4,855 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 3,254 3DMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 2,974 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470)
2,598 3DMarks

HDTune for the built-in hard drives:


Gaming performance is slightly below full-on hardcore gaming notebooks, but still very respectable. In Call of Duty: World at War with high detail settings the notebook handled 1080P resolution at 16 to 20FPS. Lowering the resolution down to 720P, speed increased to25-30FPS. Bioshock varied more at 1080P resolution, going between 20-30FPs depending on the amount of action on the screen. Lowering the resolution to 720P, framerates sped up to 40-45FPS. Left 4 Dead was similar, going to 20-30FPs at 1080P, and 40-50FPS at 720P. If you tweak the detail settings, you should have no problem getting consistently high framrates in most games.

Left 4 Dead @ 1280x720
Left 4 Dead @ 1920 x 1080
Call of Duty 5 @ 1280x720
Call of Duty 5 @ 1920x1080
Bioshock @ 1280x720
Bioshock @ 1920x1080

Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of the N90SV is excellent. The notebook barely breaks a sweat even after running benchmarks and games. The large surface area of the notebook helps dissipate heat quickly, and the end result is a very lap-friendly notebook. Cooling fan noise was also minimal, staying off most of the time, and when on it was very quiet.


Power consumption was oddly high with the SiS chipset, just like the F50SV we reviewed a while ago. During low activity the system idled at a high 26 watts, whereas slightly smaller sized and similarly equipped gaming notebooks might draw closer to 20 watts. Because of this our battery figures were below average. With the system set to "Balanced" mode, screen brightness set to 70%, and wireless active the N90SV stayed on for 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Overall ASUS N90SV-A2 is a decent large format multimedia notebook, handling most modern games and HD video without any problem. It has great design with very good build quality, something that is becoming a common trend with ASUS notebooks these days. Feature selection is good, with the onboard Blu-ray player with this model, but the missing eSATA is a downside. While the price is high compared to similarly configured 17" notebooks, most online retailers are selling the lower model for $1,399, which drops the second hard drive and Blu-ray reader. With the 18.4" display this notebook could easily take the place of a small TV in a dorm room, playing HD movies and games in full 1080P resolution.


  • Excellent 18.4" 1080P screen
  • Good gaming performance
  • Responsive touchpad


  • Missing eSATA
  • Mediocre battery life

Notebook Review Spec : Sony VAIO CS

The VAIO CS is a 14.1” multimedia notebook from Sony that offers a light bar that pulses with the music you are playing. This sleek colorful notebook is offered in a wide range of colors including Sangria red, Glossy or Matte Black, Cosmopolitan Pink, Seashell Beige, Copper Brown, and Dove White. No matter if you are listening to music or watching an HD movie with the optional Blu-ray drive, the Sony VAIO CS is designed to handle your needs with a splash of style.

Sony VAIO CS (VGN-CS220J/T) Specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (SP1, 64-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T6400 (2.00GHz, 2MB L2, 800gMHz FSB)
  • 14.1" WXGA Glossy LCD display at 1280x800
  • Intel X4500 Integrated Graphics
  • Intel 5100AGN Wireless
  • 4GB DDR2-800 SDRAM (2GB x 2)
  • 320GB Hitachi 5K320 hard disk drive (5400RPM)
  • Pioneer DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive
  • 1.3MP MOTION EYE webcam, stereo speakers, music lights
  • 76W (19.5V x 3.9A) 100-240V AC Adapter
  • 6-cell 48.8Wh Lithium Ion battery
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 13.2” x 9.6” x 1.14” – 1.57”
  • Weight: 5lbs 6.4oz, 6lbs 2.5oz with AC adapter
  • 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty
  • Price as configured: $879.99

Build and Design
The Sony VAIO CS looks great sitting closed on your desk. Our review unit has a luxurious copper finish with gold-colored trim around the edges of the screen. Opening up the notebook you see the same glossy copper paint around the palmrest and keyboard bezel, with a matte black inlay for the keyboard. Even the touchpad uses a metallic copper finish, albeit matte instead of glossy. Underneath the front edge of the keyboard is a fairly unique feature, a pulsing LED light bar that adds a bit of flare to whatever music you are listening to. I am not sure I would use it if I owned this notebook, but if you are into strobing lights and techno it would probably be fantastic.

The build quality of the VAIO CS is a mixture of durable alloy panels and flexible plastic bezels. If you were only going to look at the bottom of the CS, you would see excellent build quality with very rugged panels covering vital components. The bottom shell is made entirely of a metal alloy, with a nice rugged plate covering the hard drive to prevent impact from damaging your data. Once you flip over the notebook your opinions on the build quality quickly change. The screen cover, keyboard bezel, and hinge covers use very flexible and weak feeling plastics. When you open up the notebook the hinges squeak and creak as the plastic covers flex.

Carrying the notebook around closed the screen cover exhibits quite a bit of flex, but thankfully even strong pressure on the back of the screen doesn’t distort colors on the LCD. The paint quality is excellent with a nearly perfect glossy surface. Our review model has a metallic copper finish, which I might say is one of the nicest paint jobs I have seen on a notebook.

Screen and Speakers
The VAIO CS has a glossy 14.1 display using the 1280x800 16:10 aspect ratio. Colors appear bright and vibrant with very good levels of contrast thanks to the glossy surface. Black levels could be a tad deeper, but this is normal for a notebook in this price segment. Backlight brightness levels are adequate for viewing in bright office conditions, but with the glossy surface outdoor computing is limited to late at night. Viewing angles are average with colors quickly inverting about 20 degrees forward or back vertically. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, with colors staying accurate, only dimming until reflections off the glossy surface overpower what is on the screen.

The speakers are about average for a notebook of this size. Bass and midrange are weak, with only higher frequency sounds coming through. Peak volume levels are good, but don’t expect to start a rave with only this notebook providing the tunes. The LED light bar located beneath the touchpad buttons on the front edge of hte notebook only appears to work when using the Sony suppled “VAIO MusicBox” software. In a dark room it will slightly illuminate the desk in front of you. I think a better position would have been above the display so it would light up the keyboard and a larger area around the notebook.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is a VAIO-style chiclet layout (a similar keyboard layout is used on all Apple notebooks) that is comfortable to type on, but awkwardly sized compared to a normal notebook keyboard. Even with the 14.1” frame Sony condensed the keyboard slightly, making finger placement for blind typing difficult at first. Once you get used to it there are no problems, but it does have a slight learning curve.

Sony uses a large Synpatics touchpad on the VAIO CS, with is comfortable to use, but shows signs of some lag. Making quick movements side to side or around in a circle it almost seems like the refresh rate isn’t high enough. It isn’t too noticeable, just something that stuck out at us. The surface texture is a smooth matte finish, with two buttons located directly beneath it for the left and right mouse triggers. The buttons require greater than average pressure to activate, and have shallow feedback when pressed.

Ports and Features
Port selection on the VAIO CS as a multimedia notebook is lacking without HDMI out, especially considering that you can configure it with a Blu-ray drive. Not having HDMI means no digital video or audio out to connect the laptop up to a stereo for surround sound. Another feature missing is eSATA, which is becoming very common on most consumer notebooks. The ports offered are VGA, audio jacks, three USB ports, Firewire, LAN, and modem. The CS also sports a SD multi-card reader and MS slot.

Front: MS slot, SD multi-card reader, activity lights, wireless on/off

Rear: Modem

Right: Optical drive, ExpressCard/34, 1 USB, LAN

Left: AC Power, VGA, 2 USB, Firewire, audio jacks

Performance and Benchmarks
System performance was average compared to other mid-range notebooks with integrated graphics. The Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 processor helped keep system lag to a minimum while compressing music or video for a portable media device, and even allowed the system to play 720p and 1080p HD video. The notebook is also designed to handle Blu-ray movies with configurations that have that drive, which is fine for the X4500 graphics chipset. Outside of gaming the notebook handled everything we threw at it without bogging down. I think the only area that could see some improvement is the hard drive, which is easy to swap with a 7200rpm model when configuring the notebook on the Sony website, or upgrading after the purchase.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

HP Pavilion dv4t (Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 26.972 seconds
Toshiba Satellite E105 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz)
33.961 seconds
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.628 seconds
Toshiba Satellite U405 (Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.1GHz)
37.500 seconds
Sony VAIO CS (Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 @ 2.0GHz) 38.314 seconds

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 5,463 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 5,173 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite E105 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, Intel 4500MHD) 4,836 PCMarks
Sony VAIO CS (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel X4500) 4,428 PCmarks
Toshiba U405 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Intel X3100) 3,052 PCMarks

3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 2,211 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, NVIDIA 9200M GS 256MB) 1,741 3DMarks
Toshiba Satellite E105 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, Intel 4500MHD) 1,030 3DMarks
Sony VAIO CS (2.0GHz Intel T6400, Intel X4500) 899 3DMarks
Toshiba U405 (2.1GHz Intel T8100, Intel X3100) 539 3DMarks

*All 3DMark06 benchmark tests are set at 1280 x 800 screen resolution.

HDTune storage drive performance results:

Heat and Noise
Thermal output from the VAIO CS was minimal, with little heat output from the Intel T6400 processor and Intel integrated graphics. All sections of the notebook that make contact with your legs or hands stayed just above room temperature, never getting hot. Noise from the notebook was minimal while the fan was spinning, but the noises that the fan made starting and stopping did get annoying. It would make a low pitch chirp each time it cycled, which happened frequently under normal use.

Battery life with the 6-cell battery was pretty good for a 14.1” multimedia notebook. With Windows Vista set to the Balanced profile, wireless active, and brightness set to 70% the VAIO CS managed 3 hours and 51 minutes before turning off. Sony also offers a higher capacity battery option for this notebook, but we were unable to test this battery in our review.

The Sony VAIO CS is a nice multimedia notebook with good looks and some pretty cool features. The pulsing light bar adds a bit of flare to this notebook, with the closest alternative being LED’s on some large gaming rigs. Build quality could be better, with a lot of flex in the upper half of the notebook. The plastic creaks when you are opening and closing the lid ... not really the sound you want coming from your notebook. Sony also limited the amount of ports on the notebook, not even including eSATA or HDMI. With an optional Blu-ray drive it is inexcusable not to offer an HDMI to hook it up to a stereo and HDTV. Overall I think if you like the design and the pulsing lights this notebook is worth checking out in retail stores like Best Buy, but still look at other VAIOs above and below the size of the CS.


  • Good paint quality
  • Solid keyboard and chassis
  • Cool pulsing light bar
  • Decent battery life


  • None of the plastic used feels durable
  • No HDMI or eSATA

Notebook Review Spec : Asus Eee PC 1008HA Seashell

There is no shortage of netbooks (ultraportable budget laptops) on the market, but the new ASUS Eee PC 1008HA "Seashell" might prove to be one of the best netbooks yet. With a new thin and light design and long life battery the 1008HE Seashell has a lot to offer for a modest price. Keep reading to find out more about this little laptop.

Our ASUS Eee PC 1008HA features the following specifications:

  • Operating System: Genuine Windows XP
  • Processor: Intel Atom N280 Processor 1.66GHz (667MHz FSB)
  • Memory: 1GB DDR2 SDRAM (667MHz)
  • Internal Storage: 160GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD plus 10GB Eee Online Storage
  • Display: 10.1-inch diagonal WSVGA+ (1024x600)
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 950
  • Wireless: Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Expansion: 4-in-1 media card slot
  • Ports and connectors: (2) USB 2.0 ports, proprietary VGA adapter, power connector, RJ-45/Ethernet (Gigabit), stereo headphone/line out, stereo microphone in, 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 0.75-1.20 x 10.3 x 7.0 inches (including feet)
  • Weight: 2.4 lb (not including weight of AC adapter).
  • Power: 3-cell Lithium-Polymer battery
  • Warranty: One-year standard warranty
  • MSRP: $429.99

Build and Design
The Eee PC 1008HA Seashell features a completely new design for the ASUS Eee PC family of netbooks. Like the name implies, the chassis shape is inspired by the curves of a seashell. The clamshell-like design gives the 1008HA a very clean and distinct appearance. Every port from Ethernet to USB is covered with plastic doors which are probably more decorative than they are protective. ASUS claims this version of the Eee PC is just one inch thick at its thickest point, but that doesn't include the feet on the bottom of the netbook. We measured the maximum thickness at more than one inch, but the 1008HA is still remarkably thin and light.

Once again, ASUS managed to impress our editors with their attention to build quality in the Eee PC line of netbooks. The glossy black plastics suffer from very little flex and the keyboard is as firm as even the best business-class notebooks on the market. The various parts of the chassis come together with tight seams and good attention to detail. ASUS claims that the plastics used on Eee PC 1008HA are coated with an "Infusion finish" that makes the netbook scratch resistant. I wasn't able to produce any scratches in the plastics during the testing period, but the glossy surface is extremely prone to fingerprint smudges which make this brand new netbook look a little dirty after just a few minutes of use. The 1008HA is also available in white, blue, and pink ... in case black isn't your color of choice.

ASUS switched to a new keyboard design on the 1008HA that is 92% of a full sized keyboard, which is a nice improvement over some of the older Eee PC netbook keyboards. The gesture-based Synaptics touchpad is likewise pretty large for a netbook. If ASUS made any obvious sacrifices with the design of the 1008HA then those sacrifices are related to making this netbook as thin as possible. I'll explain later in the review.

The new Eee PC 1008HA Seashell uses a fairly standard LED-backlit display panel with a 1024x600 native resolution. The glossy screen surface helps to improve color and contrast, but glare and reflections indoors under strong lights or outdoors under direct sunlight can be a problem. Although the 1024x600 resolution is far superior to the old 800x480 screen resolution on the original Eee PC, I was a little disappointed that ASUS didn't use a higher resolution display on the Eee PC 1008HA. Considering that several other manufacturers such as HP and Dell are offering netbooks with 1366x768 screens the display on this netbook just seems a little underwhelming. Vertical viewing angles are average, with minimal color distortion when viewing from below and some over-exposed colors when viewed from above. Horizontal viewing angles are better with colors staying accurate at extremely wide viewing angles; you won't have trouble sharing a YouTube video with friends using this display.

Keyboard and Touchpad
As previously mentioned, the 1008HA uses an all-new keyboard that is 92% of full size. The keys are slightly smaller than the keys on an average notebook but the spacing between the keys is quite limited. If you prefer the shape and feel of traditional keys then you'll probably like the new keyboard. That said, I personally prefer the "chicklet" style keyboard used on the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE since there is more space between the keys to prevent me from accidentally hitting the wrong key. Still, the keyboard on this netbook is quite usable and should be perfectly fine for typing quick emails or editing documents while traveling.

The Synaptics touchpad used on the 1008HA is a gesture-enabled model that allows you to use multi-figure gestures such as "pinching" your fingers together or "pulling" your fingers apart to zoom in or out. You can also use a "three-finger tap" as an alternative to a right click on a mouse. The Synaptics control panel in Windows also allows you to customize these gestures as well. The touchpad surface is covered in dots that provide a clear indication of the edges of the touchpad, but this also makes the touchpad surface too rough for quick finger movement. The left and right touchpad buttons are located beneath a single rocker-style button, but with no separation between the left and right side it's easy to accidentally press the middle of the touchpad button when you're trying to press the left or right side. The touchpad buttons have extremely shallow feedback, so it isn't always easy to feel when you have or have not pressed a button.

ASUS also included a number of dedicated buttons and keyboard shortcuts to make life easier. There's a dedicated wireless on/off button, touchpad on/off, as well as FN keyboard shortcuts for screen brightness, video output, volume, and Windows task manager.

Input and Output Ports
In terms of port selection the Eee PC 1008HA is pretty basic. You get two USB 2.0 ports, a 4-in-1 media card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, and a special collapsible Ethernet port. The curved door on the right hand side of the netbook flips down to allow a standard Ethernet cable to be connected to the netbook.

Here is a quick tour around the Eee PC 1008HA:

Front view: No ports here, just clean lines.

Rear view: No ports here either, just the hinge and battery status lights.

Left side view: Power jack, proprietary VGA out, USB 2.0 port, and heat vent.

Right side view: 4-in-1 card reader, USB 2.0 port, microphone jack, headphone jack, and Ethernet.

In case you're wondering how that proprietary VGA port works, it's very simple and similar to the USB-to-video out ports on digital cameras. In order to make the 1008HA Seashell as thin as possible ASUS had to remove the standard VGA monitor output. As a result the VGA adapter is stored in a convenient slot in the bottom of the netbook ... there when you need it and hidden away when you don't.

Performance and Benchmarks
When it comes to testing netbooks, I can't really get that excited about the benchmarks. If you've read our reviews of other netbooks that use the Intel Atom processors then you know that all Atom-based netbooks have nearly identical performance in terms of actual real-world use. Overall performance with the Intel Atom platform is very reasonable for daily activities like Web browsing, email, using Microsoft Office, listening to music, and even watching movies. If you're in a bind you can even use photo editing software like Photoshop or GIMP for basic image editing.

ASUS also includes a proprietary overclocking application on the 1008HA called the "Super Hybrid Engine" that allows you to cycle through pre-set power profiles to maximize battery life by underclocking the processor, keep the processor at stock speed or slightly overclock the processor (from 1.66GHz to 1.70GHz).

If the Eee PC 1008HA suffers from any problems in terms of performance, it's likely related to the new proprietary VGA connector that ASUS uses to make the Seashell as thin as possible. The connection appears to be USB-to-VGA and if so that may be the heart of the problem. We've tested many simple video over USB solutions in the past and every single one of them suffers from sub-par performance with 720p and 1080p video files. As you can see from the benchmarks below, the 3DMark06 score for the 1008HA isn't particularly impressive despite the fact that this netbook uses the same Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics that are found in most netbooks.

That said, it's worth mentioning that the GMA 950 graphics in the Eee PC Seashell use the default clock speed of 133MHz for better battery life while some netbooks use a clock speed of 166MHz for better performance. The proprietary VGA port on the 1008HA should be fine if you're just wanting to display a Word document on an external monitor or show a PowerPoint presentation on a projector, or even standard definition (DVD quality) video files, but 720p and 1080p video playback over the proprietary VGA port to a higher resolution monitor suffers from some dropped frames/stutter. We used a number of widely available 720p HD trailers (such as this one) during our tests and none of the 720p movies played without some dropped frames. As long as you stay away from HD video you'll never notice any video problems ... similar to other netbooks currently on the market.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240 seconds
HP Pavilion dv2 (AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 @ 1.60GHz)
103.521 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 114.749 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 116.030 seconds
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz) 123.281 seconds
Acer Aspire One (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 125.812 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.406 seconds
Samsung NC20 (VIA Nano ULV U2250 @ 1.30GHz) 173.968 seconds

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 2,446 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB) 2,191 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,851 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 1,839 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,564 PCMarks
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,555 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,535 PCMarks
Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3) 1,441 PCMarks
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950) 1,437 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results against netbooks @ 1024 x 768 resolution:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB)
1,520 3DMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,417 3DMarks
Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3) 151 3DMarks
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950)
122 3DMarks
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950) 112 3DMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 92 3DMarks
Sony VAIO P (1.33GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 500, Windows Vista) 88 3DMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 83 3DMarks

HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

The built-in speaker performance on the Eee PC 1008HA is extremely good for a 10-inch netbook. I'm not a fan of the location of the built-in speakers since they're located on the bottom front edge of the 1008HA, but the audio quality is quite good. The speakers produce excellent volume (enough to fill a small room) and there is minimal distortion even at higher volume levels. The speakers lack much bass, but the range of highs and midtones are perfectly enjoyable.

Granted, most audiophiles will want to use external speakers or headphones for a better listening experience ... but the built-in speakers work well in a pinch. The audio output from the headphone jack is free of any obvious distortion and worked fine with the earphones and external speakers I used during the testing.

Heat and Noise
Temperatures on the new Eee PC Seashell are quite comfortable thanks to the use of the Intel Atom processor and a well thought out chassis design. Temperature readings taken from the outside of the plastic chassis remained "lap friendly" during normal use. The only time that temperature readings spiked was when I connected the VGA adapter to the netbook and connected an external display.

This little seashell-shaped netbook stayed perfectly silent during our testing and it's safe to say that the 1008HA is one of the quietest netbooks we reviewed. However, we might have been willing to put up with some fan noise to keep temperatures down when the netbook was connected to an external display.

Below are images indicating the temperature readings (listed in degrees Fahrenheit) taken inside our office where the ambient temperature was 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that these temperatures were recorded while the 1008HA was connected to an external display running at 1280x1024 resolution. When the 1008HA was not connected to an external display the bottom temperatures never exceeded 96 degrees.

Battery life with the integrated 3-cell lithium-polymer battery is reasonably impressive for a travel laptop. In our test with the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and XP set to the laptop/portable power profile the system stayed on for 6 hours and 36 minutes of constant use. Although I'm more than a little annoyed by the fact that you cannot replace the battery or use an extended life battery, the fact that the Eee PC 1008HA delivers more than 6 hours of battery life with constant use is pretty impressive.

At first glance, the new ASUS Eee PC 1008HA Seashell might not seem like an extraordinary netbook. Indeed, with so many netbooks using the same processor, integrated graphics, and standard 10-inch display, there isn't much on paper to make this netbook stand out in a crowd.

Still, what the 1008HA lacks in performance, it makes up for in finishing touches. The thin and light design, extreme battery life, and nearly full size keyboard make the Seashell Eee PC a very attractive travel laptop. If you can overlook the integrated battery and weak HD video performance the 1008HA is every bit as good or perhaps even better than the competition.


  • Thin and light
  • Excellent battery life
  • Cool built-in VGA adapter


  • Integrated battery
  • Weak VGA output performance at HD resolutions
  • Bad touchpad buttons