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″ 1024×600 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.