The brand-new Asus Eee PC 1000HE Netbook is the first device anywhere to use the newly improved and supposedly faster Intel ( INTC) Atom N280 processor.
As much as I love Eee PCs for their size, portability and price, I also realize that they've also had their shortcomings -- especially handling processor-intensive tasks, such as streaming videos. Older Eees could do it but not very well. I always found videos played on machines running on Atom N270 processors somewhat disappointing. Watching videos on YouTube and TheStreet.com could be painful. I chalked this up to the fact that Eees, like all the Netbooks, were built to a certain price point, and I just had to live with this shortcoming. Not anymore. This new 1000HE, running the N280 processor, does a much better job of handling streaming video than any older N270-clad Netbook. Testing this new device on TSC's Web site was a pleasure. Watching videos -- while not as perfect as when using a full-sized laptop with a bigger processor and more memory - is now "more than acceptable" in my book. And I noticed that the new chip is faster with a lot of other computer chores, too, like installing new software. Installing Microsoft Office 2007 on this Eee took less than half the time than on the last Netbook I tried. Same for my antivirus software, my favorite media player, the company's VPN client and lots more. What usually takes a few hours was completed in less than 30 minutes. I was very impressed.
The new Eee PC itself is quite wonderful as well. The package includes a 160GB internal hard drive, 10GB of file-encrypted Eee Online Storage, 1GB of RAM, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, an easy-to-see 10-inch screen and an easy-to-use "Chiclets"-style keyboard. It runs on Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows XP operating system The rechargeable battery back deserves a separate mention. This newly designed battery -- along with the special Eee "Super Hybrid Engine" processor-controlling, power-saving software -- is reportedly capable of providing up to a whopping 9.5 hours of battery between charges. I'm told that those numbers are real, although I've found that in real life situations you usually get 20%-30% less than the stated amount. That still means the battery should last 6.5 to 8 hours or so. Asus is currently accepting pre-orders for the 1000HE. Whether you want it in Fine Ebony Black or in a nice-looking blue, the new, faster Eee retails for $399. But, for a limited time, an additional $25 instant rebate will bring the price down to $374 for pre-orders. I'll play with the new Eee a while longer and let you know what I find. But for now, I'm impressed with the new processor's speed and what it promises for future Netbooks. Maybe we'll see one from Apple ( AAPL) someday.