Usage, Battery Life and Conclusion
Asus has come a long way with the Eee PC since we first reviewed the 904HA netbook over a year ago. Although the 1011HA is constructed mostly of plastic, it doesn't feel cheap. Overall build quality is great, however be prepared for the glossy finish on the wrist rest and outer lid to attract fingerprints like a magnet.
The screen's image quality and brightness were quite good; in size and resolution it is virtually identical to that of the Aspire One 751h. I personally love large resolutions on small screens like this as everything looks razor-sharp. Unfortunately our review sample had a single "stuck" red pixel, which I didn't really notice until a week or so into usage. Vertical and horizontal viewing angles are about average.
Typing on the 1011HA felt very natural despite the slight flex -- I would rank it among the top netbook keyboards I have used -- while the sleek touchpad design that sits flush with the wrist rest was a pleasant surprise.
Like the majority of netbooks we've seen, the Eee PC 1011HA comes preinstalled with Windows XP, which is a good fit for the hardware. The use of an Atom Z520 processor, rather than the more traditional N270 or N280 variety, means you'll be making some compromises in terms of performance to favor longer battery duration.
For our test the system was left idle at the Windows desktop with half screen brightness and all power saving features disabled. We were pleased to see the 1011HA achieve a run time of 8 hours and 45 minutes, which is just 5 minutes shy of the Acer Timeline 4810T notebook we reviewed a few months back. Compared to other netbooks, the Eee beat out our previous best of 7 hours and 58 minutes with the Aspire One 751h.
Performance-wise the Eee PC 1101HA is pretty much on par with the Aspire One 751h given that the two share the same processor and memory configuration. The obvious game-changer here is the Seashell's ability to be overclocked. When comparing benchmark numbers with the Atom Z520 pushed to 1.74GHz, the Eee PC 1101HA was clearly superior -- it even managed to outclass the Aspire One 8.9" equipped with a 1.60GHz Atom N270 in every test except Super Pi's 4M test.
When using the Seashell under normal conditions heat and noise were not an issue. The fan noise is a bit louder with the processor overclocked to 1.74GHz but not any more so than other netbooks.
Audio quality for the two downward-firing speakers was very good. Of course, as with any netbook there's a lack of bass, but the mids and highs were clear even at high volume levels. The SRS Premium Sound software made a noticeable difference, but I chose to disable it as it seemed to introduce a slight distortion every 10 seconds or so during music listening, almost as if it were having trouble processing the audio.
Besides that we encountered a couple more nuisances here and there. Much like the 904HA we reviewed a while ago, the 1011HA offers a single memory slot, so upgrading to 2GB would mean discarding the included 1GB stick. Unlike the earlier model, however, there is no easy way to access the hard drive bay. Those wanting to swap in a bigger or faster drive will need to remove the entire bottom panel and potentially void the warranty.
As of this writing the Asus Eee PC 1101HA can be found online for around $380, or about the same as the nearly identical (spec-wise) Acer Aspire One 751h. Between these two, the Eee has a battery life advantage, plus the option to sacrifice some of that juice with an overclock that will give it a small edge over the Atom N270 processor.
However, looking at the broader netbook market, the HP Mini 311 offers slightly less battery life but a faster CPU and Nvidia Ion graphics, a feat usually reserved for 12+ inch models. On the other hand, if you are looking for improved battery life, Pine Trail systems are hitting the shelves this month. These can be found for less than the Eee PC 1101HA, however they all seem to be 10.1-inch models which we are not particularly fond of.
We wouldn't be surprised if Asus revamped the 1101HA with updated internals in the coming months, as it currently stands as the lone 11.6-inch Eee netbook offering. In the meantime, it's a nice netbook to have, but the price is somewhat of a deal breaker considering the alternatives.
Pros: Good size / resolution screen; great battery life; pleasant keyboard and touchpad; overclockable; three USB ports.
Cons: Expensive; fingerprint magnet; no easy access to HDD bay; single memory slot.