The Eee PC 1101HA is one of the best-looking netbooks available, and its high-resolution screen sets it apart from the competition. A good choice for anyone who needs a stylish, but low-cost, ultraportable, and can live with the limited power of the Intel Atom processor.
Screen resolution; battery life; large keyboard.
Glossy screen limits outdoor use.
The Asus Eee PC 1101HA is the second in the firm's range of 'Seashell' netbooks - the smaller 1008HA was launched earlier this year. Both are an attempt to inject a bit of style into a computer category where many models look like they were cobbled together from spare parts. Asus has succeeded, too. Clearly fashioned after the MacBook Air, both Seashell models have stylish, slimline cases that, although wholly plastic, still feel very well made.
The Eee PC 1101HA's 11.6in screen is a little larger than that of the 1008HA (and most other netbooks), but the real benefit is its increased resolution. The standard netbook resolution of 1,024 x 600 is adequate for most purposes, but has obvious problems with wide web pages and tall dialogue boxes. The Eee PC 1101HA's 1,366 x 768 resolution remedies these.
The LED backlight makes the screen vibrant and evenly lit but, as ever, the reflective finish limits its use outdoors, which is a rudimentary oversight for such a go-anywhere netbook. The screen's horizontal viewing angles are reasonably wide, but visibility soon drops off if viewed at too high an angle. This perhaps makes the Eee PC 1101HA a poor choice for delivering impromptu meeting room presentations, but the inclusion of a standard VGA port makes it easy to connect an external monitor.
The extra case width needed to accommodate the larger screen also leaves room for a full-size keyboard. The wide, low-profile keys on the Eee PC 1101HA are comfortable to type on, but the keyboard has an oddly hollow feel. The keys aren't as well sprung as on other laptops and stop suddenly when they reach the end of their short travel. Other laptops have keys that are a bit more cushioned when pressed. The half-size Shift keys are also a pain, and Asus would have done well to use the good half-inch of empty space at either side of the keyboard to make room for full-size keys.
Asus opted for a fixed internal battery on the Eee PC 1008HA, but the 1101HA has a removable six-cell 48Wh battery. This should make this model much more appealing to anyone looking for a lightweight laptop for prolonged use away from the mains. But a second battery may not be necessary; with Wi-Fi turned off and the built-in power-saving features enabled, the Eee PC 1101HA can last for around nine hours on a single charge, or a claimed 11 hours with the optional 63Wh battery.
Of course, the catch with any netbook is the limited processing power. The Eee PC 1101HA's Intel Atom Z520 processor is nowhere near as powerful as the Intel Core 2 Duo, but it's sufficient for email, web browsing, word processing and other non-intensive tasks as long as you don't try running more than two or three at once. Asus has wisely chosen to install the less resource hungry Windows XP on the Eee PC 1101HA, as the Atom Z520 just doesn't have the power to run Windows Vista well.
At £379, the Eee PC 1101HA is only £29 more than the Eee PC 1108HA yet offers some considerable advantages, albeit at the slight expense of portability. The higher resolution screen is worth the extra money alone. Of course, this will raise the inevitable argument about netbooks costing as much as a more capable low-cost laptop, but this misses the point. The Eee PC 1101HA is more comparable to an ultraportable that costs at least three times as much, but it still has enough performance and features to suit most people.