Thin for the win? ASUS Eee PC X101H-WHITE016S review

ASUS has a proud history with netbooks but unfortunately its new X101H-WHITE016S isn’t particularly great. No-one reasonably expects netbooks to be powerful but the X101H makes use of the now very dated Intel Atom N455 when almost any other new netbook makes use of the much more powerful Intel Atom N570. Even with 1GB of RAM the X101H’s performance is so-so with simpler programs like word processors and web browsers. It’s certainly affordable at $329 but the slowness is a real downer.

However where the X101H stands out is the unusually low weight of just 1kg and very slender 22mm thickness. This is impressive even by netbook standards and the build quality hasn’t suffered to make it possible. The stark white plastic surfaces are firm and the gentle texturing on every surface except for the screen bezel is pleasant to touch. Sadly the keyboard and touchpad aren’t that great to use. The keyboard flexes mildly during typing and the tiny keys feel somewhat lacklustre while the touchpad is alternately too sensitive or not sensitive enough.

The X101H’s usage of a three-cell battery means that with light word processing and web surfing the X101H lasted about four hours on power-saver mode. It charges quickly and the charger itself is diminutive but it does mean that for a full day you’ll need to remember where you last saw a power point. A larger battery would’ve increased the weight but we’d have accepted that trade-off to get longer life.

Despite being so thin the X101H does have a 320GB HDD which is a big step up from the 250GB HDDs that used to dominate the netbook market. One welcome feature is the design of the Fast Ethernet port. It hinges open to allow access allowing the X101H to maintain a slender profile when the port is hinged closed. It’s a good feature and we’re glad ASUS continues to use it in its netbooks. Otherwise there are two USB 2.0 ports an SD card reader a headphone jack and a VGA port. Not that exciting but when a netbook is only 22mm thin it’s nice to see that none of the ports have fallen by the wayside.

The 10.1in screen has reasonable colour depth but the viewing angle isn’t especially good.  Looking straight on the screen’s fine but look slightly off centre and the colours quickly wash out. Although the speakers handle a variety of music well they aren’t very powerful. This is to be expected of a netbook though. The webcam is low resolution but the colour quality’s more than sufficient for normal usage.

Portability is a key ingredient in the netbook formula but having enough processing power to do something useful is just as important. The X101H is certainly portable but the so-so keyboard and touchpad slow processor and ordinary battery life really bring it down. It does regain some ground with build quality and a small RRP but there are slightly more expensive and heavier netbooks that are much more worthy of your hard-earned cash.

Available from ASUS retailing for $329.
APC rating: 6/10