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Asus 1000HE

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Hey all, just wanted to post some positive feedback about my recent netbook purchase.

 

I had a few stackable coupons for Staples.ca that were about to expire, so I figured I might as well dive in and see what all this netbook fuss was about. So I did my research, and it turns out that the only netbook staples carries also happens to be one of THE netbooks to have. Score.

 

So after plonking down CDN$385 + tax, I have a shiny blue netbook in hand.

 

The good news: it's a hell of a lot better than expected. I have a Dell Studio laptop and a Lenovo Thinkpad, and never thought that another laptop would ever make me happy. I had become used to sturdy keyboards, flexless screens and chassis', short depth keys and excellent trackpads.

 

The Asus has almost all these features (minus some minor screen flex), and the keyboard and trackpad are really quite excellent to boot. Plus you really can't beat the battery life. 7+ hours on a single charge gives "portable" a whole new (real) meaning.

 

Screen quality is good for a netbook/laptop (I'd give it a 7.5/10, which is saying a lot since I have the Studio laptop with 1080p LED screen, which I would rate a 9/10), and the screen is matte finished, which isn't the best for crisp, high-contrast picture viewing, but excellent for real world out-and-about functionality.

 

The build quality is good, a solid 8/10, with minimal chassis flex (it is a small chassis, afterall) and only a slight amount of screen flex, that I am happy to say does not cause the LCD to distort. There are some minor plastic edges on the back, where it's obvious the edge of the mold was, but nothing horrible.

 

The keyboard is simply superb, and better than any netbook I've played with to date. Normal keys like shift, enter, space, etc, are logically layed out and oriented, with minimal missed typing issues and almost no wrist fatigue. The keys are matte finished with a nice feel, though not as nice as some others with metal keys. However the press depth and positive feeling is superb, as is the minimal (or non-existant) keyboard flex.

 

All the other doo-dads work as intended, and the webcam, speakers and microphone are happily above par for a net/note-book. Using skype over wifi in my living room, the other party never complains about audio or picture quality.

 

Stock performance is good, though I have little to benchmark it against as a netbook. I was impressed however, that load times were snappy and general responsiveness was excellent as long as you only had a few programs running. I'm happy to report that multi-tasking is great despite the underpowered specs, with little to no bogging (really!) when opening mulitple IE windows, receiving MSN alerts and running open office all simultaneously. At one point I had Open Office, MSN, Googletalk, IE with 3 tabs and VLC player (playing SD video stuff) all running at the same time, as was able to ALT-TAB back and forth without perceivable lag or redraw issues.

 

Fingerprinty-ness is bad, but not AS bad as my glossy Red Studio. Mad props to Lenovo for the fingerprint-proof-ed-ness of the thinkpad's matte black magnesium cover.

 

Asus includes XP and Vista drivers on the included CD, which installs automatically. Unlike some bundled apps, the ASUS proggies are actually moderately useful, particularly when trying to optimize for power savings or performance. SHE actually lets you overclock the system to 1.75 without much effort (though the N280 will go higher, as noted below). Note that the stock install of XP is hard locked NOT to recognize more than 1GB of RAM, hence my upgrade to Vista.

 

Vista runs just as fast or faster than XP (via readyboost and after disabling uneeded services and apps), and I can honestly say I like it MORE than XP on the netbook, as the experience is just incrementally better. I also went from roughly 6.25h +/- under XP to over 7h every time doing the same typical tasks, so I'm not sure if that's a fluke or a happy byproduct.

 

My current config after much tweaking includes a stripped down and vLite-ed install of Vista Home Premium, and an upgrade to 2GB of 800MHz DDR2. I also purchased a fast 4GB SD card for ReadyBoost duty, which I am happy to report makes a VERY noticeable difference when teamed with 2GB of RAM and a relatively slow 5400RPM HDD. I also installed SetFSB and the "AutoSetFSB" program that allows automated launching at bootup. So yes, it's overclocked! I run at 2.0GHz even with RAM at 800MHz 5-5-5-15, which makes for a noticeably snappier environment than the stock 1.66GHz/667MHz config. Battery life in this configuration is about 1h less than the stock configuration (roughly 5.5-6.5h), which I think is a great tradeoff, considering I never go for that long w/o access to a plug!

 

I also set up 2 underclocked profiles, which allow me to maximize battery life (if I ever need to...) Running underclocked at 1.33GHz/533MHz, I get just under 8h, probably closer to 7.5h realistically, but I can get over 8h with the system running at 1.00GHz/400MHz with the screen at medium-low and using the wifi sparingly. Though what use that is, I have no idea :D

 

720p video content from my desktop runs flawlessly provided you don't do too much multitasking. I get no lag or choppiness when running MSN, 1/2 IE windows and 720p divx video all at the same time, though CPU usage remains quite high (>70%) all the time.

 

Haven't tried gaming, as I think gaming on a netbook (solitaire excluded!) is a pointless waste of time and eyesight.

 

Questions are welcome!

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Update to my mini-review...

 

Couple questions via PM I thought I'd respond to here.

 

Fan noise is basically non-existant, even under full overclock. The system supports monitoring and fan speed control, and when I jack it up to maximum, it's still barely noticeable. Compared to my Studio, it's a hell of a lot quieter when both are set to max. I'd give it a 9/10 in this regard.

 

Boot up speed is roughly 32 seconds on Vista HP, but I have disabled almost everything to make it run mean and lean. Shut down time is a fast 12 seconds on average, so very good.

 

The Backlight it quite good, and reasonably uniform. Being spoiled by the Studio's 1080p LED display makes me a bit jaded, but I'd give it a solid 7.5/10. The matte screen tends to downplay differences in backlight uniformity as well. Viewing angles are quite good, with no issues for my GF when she is sitting next to me. Horizontal angles are better than vertical, but I don't find I need to adjust the angle of the LCD as I sit in a chair - and slouch, for example - like I do with some other laptops I've used.

 

IMHO.... The minimum comfortable backlight brightness for indoor daytime viewing is 70%, though 60% is alright if you are trying to maximize battery life. 80% is what I would consider ideal, and 100% is sometimes too bright indoors under regular/lower lighting. Outdoors 90-100% is pretty much neccessary, though I am typically happy with 80% unless I am in direct sunlight or there is a lot of glare.

 

Weight is somewhat porky for a netbook. 3.3lbs, which approaches a full laptop. Realisticalyl tho, the small size still makes it portable, and I think the weight makes it feel solid.

 

Hard drive is a 160GB 5400rpm Seagate Momentus 5400.5, so it has 3.0GB/s SATA, NCQ, 8MB cache and G-Force protection (whatever that means).

 

I upgraded to 2GB of OCZ 800MHz 5-5-5-15 (OCZ2M8002G). Stock RAM was non-name with Hynix chips.

 

USB is 2.0 on every port. All the ports feel very solid and robust, by the way.

 

RAM and HDD are VERY VERY easy to change. Remove the backplate (2 screws), then slide out the RAM, or remove 3 more screws to get at the HDD. And doing so does NOT void the warranty :)

 

WiFi power and reception is good. Actually VERY good. Speedtest-ing using WiFi-N on my network using a D-Link DGL-4500 using High Gain antenna' 50' feet from the router was within 2% +/- of my Dell and Lenovo. So quite exceptional really.

 

Bluetooth is 2.0/EDR and supports H2DP. I can get stereo music using my Sony bluetooth music receiver through my UE SF5EB's, although CPU usage jumps about 4-6% when using bluetooth. Stereo range is not as good as my Dell Desktop, and starts breaking up around 12 feet. Optimal listening distance is probably within 6-8 feet before quality starts to degrade. On standard mono voice/skype calls range is a much more usable 20 feet or so without much noticable quality difference.

 

Trackpad speed is OK when the multi-touch support is on, but improves to great with it off. I imagine the overhead for the driver to 'look for' multi touch gestures is quite high, so there is some lag when these features are on. I 'downgraded' to the stock Vista driver which gives me standard programming, touch to click, scrolling, etc and there is zero lag.

 

Battery life update - after some initial breaking in, I figured I'd retest the battery and provide some hard figures.

 

I've got 5 basic profiles setup that I switch back and forth between, as follows.

 

Ultra - 2.0GHz CPU, 800MHz RAM, 100% Backlight. I only use this plugged in.

Fast - 1.75GHz CPU, 700MHz RAM, 80% Backlight. I bump up to this when I want a quick boost while mobile.

Base - 1.66GHz CPU, 667MHz RAM, 80% Backlight. Stock settings

Lite - 1.25GHz CPU, 500MHz RAM, 70% Backlight. My typical profile at work - when it is just sitting next to me unplugged.

Min - 1.00GHz CPU, 400MHz RAM, 60% Backlight. When I really want to stretch the battery (like in the car on roadtrips). Thats it.

 

Average-ish runtimes that I've noted after using the system for a few weeks. This is based on average usage (60-75%), with Wifi ON.

 

Ultra - 6:00

Fast - 7:00

Base - 7:35

Lite - 8:10

Min - 8:45

 

Enjoy!

Cheers

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Hay that's a great review! I am currently triple booting on the 1000HE, OSX, XP and Ubuntu. One thing I find with the SetFSB tool is that the setting carries to OSX if you do not remove the battery from the machine which is very nice.

 

Would you be able to share your settings on the AutoSetFSB?

 

Also which PLL/Clock Generator did you use on SetFSB?

 

I am currently using SetFSB Clock Generator ICS9LPR427AGLF and I maxed out at 230/760 (1838.2MHz), but I cannot push it beyond 240/760 :(

 

Also preset the GMA 950 video card to 400MHz with the help of GMABooster, www.gmabooster.com (works for Ubuntu and OSX as well), I did notice a performance gain on all platforms, 720p playback is smoother etc...

 

I am considering keeping this netbook, or I might buy a Unibody MacBook. The 1000HE is just so damn portable its hard to let it go...

Edited by edmondt

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Nice little review there dude!

:thumbs-up:

 

I wanted one of the first netbooks awhile back when info was scarcely available for the Asus, but all these new ones seem like they're pretty frickin good...

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