There was once a time when netbooks were small, cheap alternatives to standard laptops. Today, they needn't exhibit any of those traits to bear that moniker. The Eee PC 1101HA, Asus' first 11-inch hyper-portable, challenges traditional netbook perceptions with a large screen and an equally sizeable keyboard, though it is inexpensive. It's available to buy now for around £360.
Glossy and usable
The 1101HA is part of Asus' Eee PC Seashell netbook range, all of which are beautiful to look at, but have little common with actual seabound molluscs. Like its smaller siblings, the 1008HA and 1005HA, we're impressed by the glossy finish on the lid (it's available in both black and white), the dynamic wedge-shaped profile and the general solidity of the chassis.
The 1101HA doesn't have the same portability as its smaller counterparts. It's an inch or so wider and deeper, but that hasn't put us off. The laptop remains light at 1.4kg, and will slot into most hand- or manbags without a fuss. Unfortunately, Asus hasn't taken full advantage of the 1101HA's extra girth. It still has just three USB, one Ethernet and one D-Sub VGA video output port, an SDHC card reader, plus headphone and mic ports, which is the netbook norm.
Neither has Asus used the extra space to install a significantly larger keyboard, but that's not a complete disaster. It uses a keyboard that -- as far as we can tell -- is identical to the one on the Eee PC 1008HA, which is a good thing, because that machine was generally very easy to type on. It also gets the same MacBook-style multi-touch mouse trackpad, which, despite the odd, mottled surface, is handy for scrolling through documents and Web browsers.
Higher-res than your average netbook
The aforementioned 11-inch display really is the star of the 1101HA's show. Not only is it an inch larger than the vast majority of netbooks -- meaning it's slightly easier to use for long periods -- but it also has a higher resolution than most netbooks. Its LCD panel runs natively at 1,366x768 pixels, rather than the 1,024x600 pixels you usually get on 10-inch devices, so there's slightly more desktop space to manipulate application windows.
Sadly, there's no point in opening multiple windows. The 1101HA uses a 1.33GHz Intel Z520 CPU, which -- despite working alongside the customary 1GB of RAM -- has only ever proven to be lethargic in our past experiences. If you're expecting the 1101HA to be faster because it's bigger, you'd better think again.
The device doesn't let itself down elsewhere. It ships with a fairly typical 160GB hard drive, which provides ample storage. This being an Eee PC, it also benefits from an additional 10GB of 'free' online storage. This isn't a great deal, but it comes in handy when you need to backup your most precious files to a location you can access from any Web-enabled computer.