Asus's 1002HA is an attractive little laptop that could easily pass for something several times its $500 price. It's only when you open it up and find a more-or-less standard netbook that it becomes clear it's not a new rival for the MacBook Air or Vaio TT.
But a netbook it is, albeit one that's pretty good by the category's standards. The 1.6 GHz Atom CPU, gig of ram, Bluetooth, 10.2" 1024x600 display, 160GB hard drive, three USB ports and a 1.3 megapixel webcam are to be expected; the ultra-thin form and its gorgeous brushed-metal chassis are the big bonuses. It's much prettier than the 1000HA it replaces.
It runs Windows XP and has Sun StarOffice and Microsoft Works pre-installed, as well as Asus's one-click power management tray utility. You'll want to jump out of the battery-saving modes to watch video or play casual games: even YouTube was a bit choppy on the lowest setting.
WiFi-n is a pleasing upgrade (many netbooks still just have b/g) but the 2-cell battery is disappointing. Though it got fair enough life for its tiny size – about 3 hours – the lack of a more substantial upgrade option is a shame.
It also falls short of perfection of other fronts. Asus still insists on a tiny right-shift key, the trackpad has a "sticky" response, and there's no 3G option. After seeing the HP Mini 1000's stunning, MacBook-like "Infinity" display, the 1002HA's thick, extruded bevels are a bit disappointing, too.
Get the 1002HA if you want a decent netbook with unparalleled good looks. Stick with the Samsung NC10 for better battery life or HP's Mini 1000 for a better all-round machine.