One extremely serious competitor in this race is the new Seashell model from AsusTek: Asus EeePC 1008HA. The general specs of this machine are more or less identical to many previous and competing models, but there are also some very important differences that make this model stand out from the crowd.
Design and layout
The EeePC 1008HA model differs from the previous 100x models in several key areas. One of the most noticeable is the seashell design that reminds me of the Macbook Air in some regards. All the ports are hidden away from direct sight behind small access doors (reminding me of Asus G71G) and there are no access doors on the bottom of the unit and the battery is completely internal. This makes the case design very sleek but will of course hinder any modding attempts as you will have to open the whole unit if you want to change the mem chip or switch the battery.
Weighing only 1100g (2.42lbs), it is also one of the lightest netbooks around while still providing acceptable, if not great, battery life. The battery is a 3-cell Li-Polymer battery and the manufacturer's promise is that it will deliver about 6 hours of power for the unit. In real life, this is more likely to reach about 4 hours if you turn off the wi-fi when you don't need it while watching movies. For simple text editing, you might squeeze a bit more time from it.
What makes this netbook stand out from the competition is the keyboard: 92 % of the size of the normal laptop keyboard, big keys and a good-sized right-side shift key all make this netbook almost as nice to type on as a regular notebook or a desktop. In fact, for once, I didn't need any time to get accustomed to the keyboard and could start typing this review immediately. All in all, the keyboard is even better than the chiclet that we liked in EeePC 1000HE.
Also the touchpad on 1008HA is different from any of the previous models. First, it is a Synaptics touchpad, which means that some of the old multitouch commands, such as the two finger scrolling, are no longer there. You can still zoom in and out with the touchpad, but for scrolling you have to use the right side edge of the pad. Furthermore, the touchpad is completely flush with the casing, set apart only by a series of small knobs which work as a visual and tactile identifier.
The 1008HA Seashell arrives with WinXP preloaded. Windows runs very fast on the machine and I encountered no slow-downs when hooked up to a power outlet. In power saving mode, you will naturally get some slowdown switching between windows when you have many programs running, but, overall, the machine is definitely faster than the previous models – thanks to the updated processor.