Evaluating netbooks can be a bit of minefield. This is mainly due to the spectre of new technology hanging over the sector; be it a new Atom processor and platform with 720p video decoding, the much sought after dual-core Atom or VIA's Nano, there always seems to be something over the horizon that might warrant delaying one's purchase. However, it's easy to forget that such 'progress' doesn't come for free, as the latest Eee PC to roll out of Asus, the 1000HE, demonstrates.
Ostensibly just an Eee PC 1000H, the 1000HE brings with it a few minor but arguably significant changes to the machine. For starters, it has a newer processor; the marginally faster Intel Atom N280. This sports a faster 667MHz front-side bus that helps increase the core clock to 1.67GHz, up from 1.6GHz on the Atom N270.
This processor was announced alongside a new Atom chipset called GN40, the main feature of which is a dedicated video decoding chip that makes smooth playback of 720p video possible. However, in the 1000HE you still get the older 945GSE chipset used in the current crop of Intel based netbooks. As such, the performance difference between the 1000HE and other N270 based netbooks is near enough as makes no difference, making this change largely redundant.
Thankfully, this isn't the end of the differences. Most notable in this regard is the new keyboard. Asus has employed an isolated style keyboard, as sported by the likes of the Sony VAIO TT, Apple MacBook and Samsung X360, while adjusting the layout to address the right-Shift key issue that's plagued every Eee PC to date. Now, after much complaining by more or less everyone who encountered an Eee PC, the right-Shift sits inside the Up cursor key, thus ending the irritation of moving up a line when all you actually wanted was to capitalise a letter.
Unfortunately, our version of the Eee PC 1000HE is a pre-production version with a US key layout so lacks a UK-style full-size Enter key, but provided this is remedied in retail units there are few other complaints we can make about the basic layout.
As for the keys themselves, they do have that familiar slightly shallow feel typical of isolated keyboards, which may put off some people, but key response is crisp and positive and the new layout makes for fewer errors when typing. We wouldn't say this is the best keyboard we've used on a netbook; that award remains with the now largely defunct HP 2133 Mini-Note PC, but it's certainly among the better ones out there.