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Tuesday, 10 March 2009 17:02

EEE PC 1000HE vs 1000HD: What you get for $400 more in a recession

I'm writing this on my full sized desktop computer but sitting next to me on my desk is a brand new Asus Eee PC HE, idling away on battery power in between the paragraphs I'm writing. I'm yet to see evidence of the much touted 9.5 hours of battery life but we'll get to that later.

The shiny white review 1000HE I've been given for a week or so in many respects lives up to the reputation that Asus has carved out for its Eee PC range. However, as the owner of a 1000HD bought a few months ago for AUD$500, I have to ask whether the 1000HE is worth AUD$895.

What would I get for the extra $400 that I have to pay for the new model?

I have the review 1000HE on one side of my desk and my own 1000HD on the other side. Other than the colour (mine's black), with the lid down they look almost identical. Some reviewers have noted there's less battery bulge on the newer model but in my view the difference in form factor, including thickness, is marginal.

On a set of kitchen scales, both machines weigh roughly the same - about 1.4kg - although the 1000HE may be about 20g heavier.

Of course the real differences, such as they are, become apparent when you open up the clamshells and fire up both boxes. The 1000HE is definitely an improvement on its predecessor but in the world of commodity computing $400 should buy a lot.

The first difference of note is between the keyboards. The 1000HE keyboard is beautiful with flat chiclet shaped keys that are easy to read and difficult to miss. It's a definite improvement over the 1000HD keyboard but to my heavy handed touch it doesn't feel particularly solid. A touch typist would disagree, but I find my 1000HD more comfortable to pound.


A lot of reviewers have also noted that the 1000HE now has the right hand shift key "correctly" positioned to the left of the page up arrow instead of to the right as is the case with the 1000HD. I guess that must be a touch typist thing because it doesn't bother me one way or the other.

Lining the two models up side by side, to my eye the screen of the new 1000HE is noticeably brighter and more readable. To someone with ageing eyes like me, that's definitely a big plus.

Another plus for the 1000HE over my box is the 160GB hard drive compared to my 80GB. That's definitely worth something but since I do most of my computing in the cloud when I use my netbook and don't keep all that much on disk, I can easily live with what I've got.

Then of course, there's the difference in processing power of the two boxes. My 1000HD is driven by a Celeron 900Mhz chip while the 1000HE has the spanking new Atom N280 running at 1.66GHz.

While this may sound strange - even unbelievable - to most readers of this tale, I can't discern any major difference in the performance of the two boxes running similar desktop applications with the same number of browser windows open. I suppose if I pushed both boxes hard enough, the 1000HE would eventually win out but for my uses, the performance was similar.

Mind you, I'm running an early build of Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on my 1000HD while the 1000HE is running Windows XP Home. I don't know whether that's an advantage or disadvantage with respect to performance on either machine.

Now with regard to battery life, Asus leaves you in doubt about its claims. Sitting bold as brass in the space in front of the keyboard is a large green tinged sticker in the shape of a flashlight battery that reads:

"OneDayComputing 9.5 hours battery life"

Then in fine print that requires my reading glasses:

"Battery life depends on configuration and use. Please see for more information."

A quick visit to that page reveals all:

"Estimated maximum battery life under Windows XP is measured with BatteryMark 4.0.1 (in Eee PC Super Hybrid Engine Power Saving mode, 40% LCD brightness, Wi-Fi off, BT off, and camera disabled). Actual battery life may vary based on product settings; usage patterns and environmental conditions."


In other words, if you have the computer in a state where you can barely read the monitor, you're not online (this is a netbook I thought) and you can't do anything useful, you may get 9.5 hours of battery life.

In actual fact, when I charged the battery up full and checked after booting up, going online and then disconnecting the power, the battery monitor informed me that under present conditions, the battery had 6 hours 45 minutes of charge left. Three hours later, after leaving the 1000HE running doing little more than having a couple of browser windows open, it's down to 3 hours and 50% remaining.

My feeling is that if you doing some real work on the 1000HE while on the road, you might get about 5 hours out of a charge. I'm not sure what watching movies stored on your hard disk while on plane would do to the battery storage but I suspect about two movies might be the limit.

That said, the storage of the 1000HE is way beyond what the 1000HD provides. My machine's battery tells me it's full when I have a nominal 3.5 hours of life off mains power. In reality, I'm lucky if I can get two hours of doing real work using just the battery. If I could get a guaranteed four or five hours from my battery pack, I would be stoked (do they still say that?).

So in essence, the 1000HE is a lovely netbook - significantly better than the 1000HD in many respects. Is it worth the extra AUD$400 that it costs?

Better keyboard, better display, bigger hard drive, much better battery life and potentially more powerful processor. If those things are important to you, then the answer is probably yes.

However, we are going through a pretty bad economic downturn, so I'm happy to hold on to my 1000HD for as long as it lasts - and that may well be the case for many others.

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Stan Beer

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Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 35 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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