Not a great deal has changed from the 1005HA released last year to this 1005PE, going on initial appearances and first impressions. The underlying technology has been boosted, but the improvements are almost negligible in everyday use. Smooth HD video playback is possible with some other slight improvements here and there, but buying the 1005PE to replace the 1005HA isn't a wise idea. However, the newer technology in the 1005PE makes this netbook a good alternative to the budget laptop.
Faster Pine Trail Intel Atom processor; better screen and media playback capability; Windows XP; online storage.
Unimpressive battery life; not much to recommend it over its predecessor.
Intel Pine Trail Atom N450 1.66GHz, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 10.1in screen, Windows 7 Starter, 250GB hard drive, 0.3-megapixel video camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5in audio, USB 2.0, VGA, SD, MMC
The Asus 1005PE netbook hails from the firm's second generation of Seashell designs that started appearing in the middle of last year. These netbooks also have the next generation of Intel Atom processors known as Pine Trail which, coupled with the Tiger Point chipset, is said to offer great improvements.
From outward appearances, nothing seems to have changed from the Intel Atom N270 1.6Ghz 1005HA netbook released last year. They both weigh 1.27kg and measure 262mm x 178mm x 25.9mm, and have a screen height of 36.5mm. The changes are under the hood with the updated chipset and processor.
The Intel Pine Trail chip is the heart of the Asus netbook and is reported to be 20 per cent faster than the previous generation. The main reason for the faster speed is that the Pine Trail has the memory controller in the processor and an integrated graphics processor in the chip package, which also results in lower power consumption. These are fundamental changes for the Atom chip, although the speed increase is only mildly noticeable compared to older netbooks.
The 10.1in screen has also seen some improvements, and is much more distinct compared with the 1005HA. It is also noticeably sharper in terms of colours and text. Netbooks have often been plagued with poor screens measured against those found in notebooks. Although this screen isn't as sharp as some of the others that Asus has put out lately, it is still an improvement and the company is definitely making ground in screen development. The display still has the 1,024 x 600 resolution of older Asus netbooks. We had hoped that Asus might step the resolution up to 1,366 x 768 to match its 11in netbooks.
These more vibrant and vivid colours could have something to do with the updated graphics processor, which also has improvements in high-definition (HD) video playback. The older 945 express chipset in our 1005HA with the GMA 950 struggled with all types of media in our tests, none more so than with HD. The new chipset includes the updated GMA 3150 and, as mentioned before, it is in the chip package itself.
As a result QuickTime 720 video plays smoothly, whereas on the 1005HA it was so badly disjointed that it seemed more like a slideshow than a video. This time around Intel and Asus have got the formula right and HD video is possible in QuickTime up to a decent margin. 1080p QuickTime or high bit-rate WMV media weren't nearly as smooth in playback, but were still watchable, whereas the 1005HA didn't even get a look in playing this type of media, and we were back to watching slideshows again.
The keyboard has been redesigned between the two generations of Seashell netbooks, and the new design falls more in line with Asus' other models such as the ULV50. The 'chiclet' keyboard format is well laid out with a surprising amount of space between the keys for a netbook. The spacing is even more crucial in a netbook than a notebook, as the size of the device can be a third of its larger counterpart. We found that typing on older netbooks often led to a few of the neighbouring keys being pressed at once, but this 'word bleeding' is avoided with the new layout and it's a welcome addition to light laptops.