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Asus Eee PC 1005PR Reviews

The good: Adds HD display and video playback to Asus' flagship Netbook; reasonably priced for a premium Netbook.



The bad: Streaming Flash video playback is still choppy; Eee PC touch pad is in need of a refresh.



The bottom line: A rare 10-inch system with an HD display, the Eee PC 1005PR also adds HD video playback hardware for a well-priced step-up Netbook experience.



Review:

Now that Asus has a solid entry in the basic $299 category with the Eee PC 1001P (previous entry-level Eee PCs were closer to $350), it's time to see what the company that essentially created the Netbook market can do with a reasonably priced premium model.

For $399 you get the 1005PR, a nearly identical-looking Eee PC with an Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Starter--but also upgraded with a 1,366x768-pixel resolution 10-inch display, a 250GB hard drive, and a Broadcom HD video accelerator.

To be honest, we'd rather have Nvidia's Ion GPU, which adds some basic gaming muscle to its video capabilities, but as the current version of Ion is essentially locked out of most Netbooks (it's starting to show up in a handful of models with 2GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium), this is about as good a Netbook deal as you're likely to find for $399.

Asus definitely knows how to make solid, reliable Netbooks, and this version keeps the excellent slim profile and wide keyboard of other Eee PCs (although the touch pad and mouse buttons are in need of an update). The Broadcom HD hardware works fine for playing HD video files (WMV, MOV, etc.) from your hard drive, but support for streaming HD flash video is choppier; Adobe, Broadcom, and PC makers have been saying all year that smooth performance is just one more update away, but it hasn't happened yet.

Absent other high-end features, we wouldn't recommend spending more than $299 for a basic Netbook, or $399 for an HD Netbook, and the Eee PC 1001P ($299) and 1005PR ($399) both fit the bill quite nicely.



Processor 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450

Memory 1GB, 800MHz DDR2

Hard drive 250GB 5,400rpm

Chipset Intel NM10

Graphics Intel GMA 3150 (integrated)

Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium

Dimensions (WD) 10.3 x 7.0 inches

Height 0.8-1.4 inches

Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches

System weight / Weight with AC adapter 2.7/3.2 pounds

Category Netbook

Like the recent Eee PC 1001P, the 1005PR has a matte, textured lid, which is a nice change from the overly glossy versions we're used to. It's probably the nicest-looking Eee PC we've seen aside from the Karim-Rasheed-designed 1008P, which looked very smart, but was overpriced.

We've always liked the wide island-style keys on the Eee PC line--similar to what you'd fine on a Sony Vaio or Apple MacBook keyboard. It's actually become the standard format for Netbook keyboards. This particular version sounded a little clacky under our fingers. It's still very usable, but the right shift key is a little too small.

The standard Eee PC touch pad and mouse buttons, however, are badly in need of an update. The touchpad is demarcated by a small field of tiny raised dots. It's not as easy to navigate as many other touch pads with special resistive surfaces, and the tiny rocker bar that stands in for left and right mouse buttons has always been a pain. Toshiba, for example, has done a good job of fitting in a larger touch pad with big, solid buttons.

The 10.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is much more practical than the 1,024x600 pixels found on most 10-inch Netbooks. That higher resolution is standard on 11-inch Netbooks, but found on only a handful (but a growing one) of 10-inch models.

The built-in Broadcom Crystal HD video accelerator is the same as we've tested on Netbooks from Dell and HP. As in those cases, once the latest Flash player release candidate software and Broadcom drivers are installed (be sure to uninstall the old drivers first), HD video playback, even at 1080p, is very good--from files on your local hard drive. Playing HD versions of Flash video content from YouTube or Hulu, however, is more of a mixed bag: it's watchable, especially in a windowed viewing mode, but choppy to varying degrees when played full-screen (full-screen WMV and MOV files play fine from the hard drive). Even with special hardware, Netbooks are not quite full-fledged video playback machines yet.

Asus Eee PC 1005PR Average for category [netbook]

Video VGA VGA

Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks

Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader

Expansion None None

Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Optical drive None None

Extras beyond the standard three USB ports, an SD card reader, basic audio connections, and a VGA video output are hard to come by in most Netbooks, and the 1005PR is no exception.

Not surprisingly, the combo of an Intel Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Starter performed about as well on the 1005PR as it does on any of the dozen or so similarly configured Netbooks we've tested. The differences between identically configured Netbooks are minor enough that you wouldn't notice in real-world use, and all are fine for basic tasks, such as Web surfing, word processing, and e-mail.

Specifically in the case of a system like this with video hardware, multimedia playback can also be added to that list. But other than the capability to play HD video files, our usual Netbook admonitions about having realistic expectations of these single-core CPUs apply.
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