When Fruit Messiah Steve Jobs pulled the MacBook Air one out of a jiffy bag during his Macworld 2008 Keynote, most of us were simply blown away by its 'size 0' figure (something which can't be said about most of today's rather unhealthy-looking supermodels). But it wasn't until Stevie stepped off the stage and we had time to get up close with the Air that we quickly realised that there were a number of quite glowing flaws.
From the Air's single USB port and lack of Ethernet to its non-removable battery and AWOL DVD drive, there were many obvious flaws. On the plus side, the Air is incredibly slim and stylish, and even today, the MacBook Air attracts opinions that are polar opposites – it's really a love it or hate it affair.
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What the MacBook Air did do was shake the laptop market up and it led to a new breed of ultra-slim ultra portables. Both Lenovo and Dell have joined Apple in this segment and it has also prompted a number of MackBook Air 'inspired' netbooks – we saw MSI's ultra-thin 13.4in X320 netbook for the first time at CES and the Asus Eee PC 1008HA 'Seashell' will go on sale in the UK later this week.
It's the latter which we're looking at today and it's quite an exciting addition to an otherwise overcrowded netbook market that feels a little tired in some respects. Tired is certainly not a word you'd use to describe the 1008HA though – it's more like a breath of fresh air coming across the ocean.
This conveniently brings us onto the way Asus is marketing this sleek little number. To be frank, we're not exactly sure why this is called the seashell because its aesthetics bear very little resemblance to a seashell – aside from the fact it sports a gently curved clamshell design – but it does feel like it belongs on a beach with that aforementioned fresh ocean breeze.
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The insides of this latest addition to the ever-growing Eee PC line are fairly familiar, but this is the first netbook we've seen which uses the slightly faster Atom N280 processor instead of the near-ubiquitous N270. It has the same set of features as the N270 – the only difference is that it runs at 1,667MHz on a 166MHz front side bus instead of at 1,600MHz on a 133MHz bus. The rest of the Seashell's core specs are exactly as expected though:1GB DDR2 memory – check; Intel 945GME/ICH7 chipset – check; 160GB hard drive – check; 10in 1,024 x 600 display – check. Let's get on and have a look at how the 1008HA fares against the competition...
Intel Atom N280 processor (1.66GHz, 512KB L2 cache)
Intel 945GME/ICH7 chipset with Intel GMA 950 graphics
1GB 533MHz DDR2-SDRAM
Glossy 10-inch LED-backlit display (1,024 x 600 native resolution)
160GB Seagate Momentus 5400.5 hard drive
Two USB 2.0 ports, two 3.5mm audio jacks (headphone and microphone), 10/100 Ethernet and Mini DisplayPort (port extender for D-SUB supplied)
Integrated 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth 2.1
Integrated media card reader (SD/SDHC/MMC)
Stereo speakers, built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam and digital array microphone