Our home desktop was several years old and due for replacement. I still have my Dell laptop, and it's still more than powerful enough to do everything I need it to do. Plus, I have a work laptop that's more than sufficient as well. We moved my wife to a MacBook Pro, because of the ease of use. And for those that have a thing against Macs because of the price, it has been worth it for me. When you consider how much time I spent assisting with what were really basic things on the PC, things she's able to handle just fine on the Mac by herself, so I've made up the difference in cost in the hours I've not had to spend being "support." But given that the Mac is as expensive as it is, we were looking for something for the kids. We homeschool, so it had to be powerful enough to do basic word processing, spreadsheets, etc. while also being able to access the Internet so they can do research, play games online, and the like. I wasn't looking for a gaming platform or even a more robust laptop to do development and SQL Server related work. So that put us in the netbook category. After doing some research, I decided upon the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA.
Online ratings can be misleading. You could have what looks to be a highly rated item, only to see that it has just a handful of reviews. So I was looking for a high rating along with a decent number of folks chiming in. I originally began my search on Newegg.com figuring I would look for what the best deals were. I didn't like the best deals so I started looking at highly rated netbooks. The Eee PC 1005HA had over 100 ratings, with over 80% being 5 eggs. Wanting to see what the ratings were on Amazon.com, I went over there and saw around 100 reviews, with over half giving 5 stars. So there were enough folks having offered an opinion with that opinon being a good one that it looked like the one I wanted.
Newegg has it for around $350 and that was within the price range for what I wanted to spend. However, when I popped over to Amazon, I realized it was even cheaper. Cheaper than manufacturer's suggested retail price, in fact. It had what I needed. Decent sized hard drive (solid state was on the wish list, but not in the budget), decent screen size for a netbook, full ergonomic keyboard, and decent memory. It came with Windows XP and that was fine. It had everything I needed and was at a great price. Kick in the fact that Amazon was willing to ship with 1 day shipping at an unreal price, and it was a done deal.
Living Up to Expectations:
It took me a little bit of time to setup, as I wanted to make sure each kid had their own limited user account (that's right, no administrator rights). So I needed to set the icons for sign-in, find the right backgrounds to allow them to see at a glance who was currently logged in, etc. But clean-up wise there wasn't too much to do. There's just not a lot of junk on it. I removed the trial installation of Microsoft Office, removed Microsoft Works, deleted the installer for one of the big name AV providers, then proceeded to patch it, set up the firewall, set up when Automatic Updates would grab patches and install, upgraded to IE 8, installed Microsoft Security Essentials for AV, installed OpenOffice, and configured the defaults in OpenOffice on each user account to save in Microsoft Office format. That only took a couple of hours. Most of that time was in the customization. During this time I spent a lot of time staring at the screen and using the touchpad.
A word about the touchpad. The netbook is light and it's got a plastic shell. However, the area for the touchpad has raised bumps so that you know you're on it. It's really easy to use and stay on for most of it. My four year-old had a bit of trouble with it, but I found it very usable. So if you don't want to use a mouse, you really don't need to. The touchpad is more than sufficient. I actually like it better than the ones I have on my Dell laptop (personal) and my HP laptop (work).
Now about that screen. The one issue I did have with the netbook is an issue with all netbooks. There is a limited screen space. Because there is a limited screen space, the resolution was only 1024 x 600. That's a problem, because some websites like Webkinz (yes, I went there) require 1024 x 768. I tried using Webkinz in 1024 x 600 and it's just not very usable. The bottom dock is lost, and that's how you get easy access to your pets, their items, and the like. Okay! I admit it. I have a Webkinz account. Originally it was for me to keep an eye on what my kids were doing, but some of the games are rather fun. But in any case, I needed to do something about that screen size, because I really didn't want to hook up the flatscreen monitor to the netbook. I'd rather package it all up, wipe the hard drive, and donate it to a worthy cause. Thankfully, I didn't have to cart over the monitor. The Asus Eee PC has a screen compression mode that will display 1024x768 on that 1024x600 resolution screen. I was hesitant to activate it because I figured there would be a nasty loss in overall resolution. But desperate times call for desperate measures so turn it on I did. And I was pleasantly surprised that you couldn't really notice the difference. About the only thing you do see is the screen flicker twice when you originally log on as it activates the screen compression, but then it works fine. Having solved the Webkinz issue, it was time to turn it over to the kids.
Kid Tested, Kid Approved:
My kids got on the system and have used it quite heavily. As would be expected for pre-teen and younger audience, they make heavy use of flash-based games and YouTube / Tangle.com videos. And they tend to play back-to-back-to-back for several hours at a time. The netbook has held up well and it's performed just fine. I see a bit of a pause when loading flash heavy websites as compared to my personal laptop, but I've got a Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM. The speed is more than sufficient for what they do. The only issue we've had is with the 4 year-old and adjusting to the touchpad. She doesn't have the dexterity yet to be consistent with it. So we ended up getting a travel-sized mouse (perfect for smaller hands) and she's good to go. Playhouse Disney, here she comes! So it's definitely held up in the couple of weeks we've had it.
Would I Use It?
"It depends." For general Internet use, for word processing and basic documents, it's great. For watching videos or listening to music, it's fine. Would I install SQL Server or a dev environment on it? No. It's not built for that. If I had nothing else, then I might consider it as it has a decent hard drive and enough memory to make that kind of setup usable, though just barely. If you use it for what it was intended for, it's fine. Anything more is pushing it. But that's to be expected with a netbook.
Would I Recommend It?
Based on my experience and the cost, yes. It's been a good buy thus far. It fills the needs for the kids and I can use it in a pinch for basic type of productivity. Especially given Amazon's price, I think it's a great deal for what you get. So I would recommend it if you're looking for a netbook and you're sure you just need a netbook.