Hey, it's only fair. At this point, Asus releases more netbooks than M&S has pants. I won't recap all the versions we've reviewed - or are about to review - but the netbook maker continues making nips and tucks with designs, making just enough variations to warrant a separate take of the same micromachine. Is the Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell for you, though?
Let's address the few big differences up front. This machine sells for £380 right now, but you can expect it to end up cheaper than the £356 1008HA. The reason? The Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell isn't trying to slink its way into a manila envelope - it is slightly thicker.
That's largely because the Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell has the VGA port grafted back on its side instead of having the space-saving dongle that slimmed down the 1008. Also gone: the little flaps covering all those "unsightly" ports sprouting around the machine. The fashion-conscious computer user may still prefer the 1008HA's lines, but in all other respects the 1005HA does its best to in essence remain the same machine.
The other big changeup from the 1008: a six-cell battery, which guarantees you a reasonably long battery life. In our lab tests, we found that the machine hung in for 8 hours, 11 minutes. Not too shabby - even for a long road trip.
Under the Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell's glossy black exterior - which is sure to attract all sorts of unwanted smudges - are current netbook innards and the default loadout of ports. You must know 'em by heart at this point, so count along with me: an Intel Atom N280 CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, Bluetooth, and 802.11n Wi-Fi run the show. How does it perform? It falls right in the zone for netbooks. Scoring a little on the high side, it ranks a 38 in PC WorldBench tests (the average, to date, hovers around 35). So obviously, you're fully covered on your basic office documents and web surfing needs.
Lining the outside of the Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell, the usual retinue of connection options: an ethernet hookup, three USB ports, an SD Card reader, and headphone and microphone jacks. Nothing shocking there.
The keyboard is 92 percent of full size, with a good layout, and it feels big and comfortable. The buttons are firm and large enough to type on easily. Even the metallic mouse-button bar is reasonably secure - and we especially like Asus' treatment of the touchpad.
Instead of using dainty trim or a different material to indicate that you're within the strike zone, this model incorporates tiny bumps like the 1008. Only difference is, the Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell dials down the divots, so it's a little fainter to the touch. And for some it might be a hair tougher discerning where the touchpad ends and the wrist rest begins. Not a huge deal - just a personal preference thing.
As for the 10.1in screen, it looks sufficiently sharp and crisp at its native 1024-by-600-pixel resolution. (You can scale this setting higher in an emulated mode.) Colours pop when you tilt the display at just the right angle - as is the case with most laptops and netbooks. Also typically, the screen's glossy coating will leave you squinting when you try to view it in broad daylight.
The other big features in play here come in the form of the power toggle mode (accessible through holding the function button and tapping the space bar) and a software suite that sits on your desktop. The software suite breaks down into an Asus download store (a portal for free apps would be handier) and access to a free 10GB of online storage, with syncing data and quick applets geared to general users who want to quickly increase font sizes or colour-calibrate a picture.
The Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell is a compromise. Granted, it's a good one for those that liked the sleek style of the Eee PC 1008HA, but wanted either to see less flash or to spend less cash. That said, you're seeing netbook prices driving down into the £300 range. So take a look for yourself to see if this fits your netbook needs.