ASUS Eee PC 1101HA Review, Specs

The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA is an amazing 11.6 inch mini laptop that yields excellent battery life in a form factor that is not too bigger than the 10.1 inch mini laptops. However, all those amazing runtimes are due to the sluggish Atom Z520 processor, which might be just too slow for some people. Keyboard is excellent and so is its display packing 1366×768 pixels. Read this review to find out more about it.

ASUS Eee PC 1101HA Review

ASUS Eee PC 1101HA Specs

11.6” 1366 x 768 LED backlit display (glossy)
Intel Atom Z520 (1.33GHz) processor
1GB RAM (2 max)
160GB HDD (2.5” SATA) + 10GB Eee Storage (online)
Intel US15W Chipset + GMA 500 Graphics (Poulsbo)
Maximum output resolution: 2048 x 1536 pixels
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
3x USB 2.0, VGA out, headphone and microphone jacks, 3-in-1 card reader
6-Cell 5600 mAh 63Wh Battery rated at 10.7 hours / 2.3 Hour charging time.
286 x 196 x 21.8 – 36.2 mm Dimensions
1.36 kg / 3 lbs Weight (with AC brick and cables, 3.46 lbs)
1.3MP Webcam
Windows XP Home SP3 (recovery DVD + Partition)

Packaging

The contents are the same as previous Eee PC netbook contents: A black case, wired mouse, recovery DVD, warranty and manual. Of course, you have the power brick, adapter and mini-notebook itself.

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Software

You get the usual for an Eee PC: Eee Storage (store data online in the cloud), Skype, Windows Live, StarSuite 8 (OpenOffice).

Unlike on older Eee PCs, there’s a whole suite of little apps ASUS has thrown in and they’ve placed it in a customizable docking bar at the top of the screen. Problem is most of it is of little value and they don’t need to be accessed very often if at all.

Live Update – handy for easily updating your BIOS. Just needs a reboot and you’re done.
Eee @ Vibe – seems to be some kind of photo / music storage / sharing service. Not yet available at the time of this writing.
Ez Messenger – Easily message other people who have this software installed. I would stick to Skype, MSN or whatever most people use.
Parental Control – uses i-Filter. Stop your kids accessing unwanted files, websites etc. Seems like this would be very handy.
Data Sync – sync data between computers. (I didn’t use it)
Eee Download – Access ASUS’ online store where you can buy software.
Overall, lots of custom software added from ASUS, most of which, add little value. Live Update, and Parental Control being the most useful. The lack of software installed and bloatware is a plus, actually. A lack of any kind of Anti-virus program popping up in your face all the time is refreshing to see.

Layout
On the left: Air vent, Kensington lock, 1x USB, VGA out, power plug

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On the right: Multi-card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, 2x USB, Ethernet port.

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On the front, just LED status indicators:

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On the back: Battery, and behind the battery is a SIM card slot. Don’t know if ASUS plans on 3G models.

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On the bottom: Clean and simple: Just a single slot for accessing RAM and stereo speakers at the front edge. 7 screws to take off the whole bottom to access the innards.

On the chassis: LED status indicators on the front right edge and up the top above the keyboard, a button to disable touchpad and power button. I would have preferred they stuck with the SHE button, but you can easily do the Fn + Space Bar for that.

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Build Quality / Feel

The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA looks top notch from the outside. An almost flush 6-cell battery tucked into the back and towards the front it gets very thin. The lid is a glossy plastic which is a fingerprint magnet.

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Once you upon the 1101HA up, the whole chassis including the palm rest has the same glossy plastic black all over and it runs up to above the keyboard and on the screen bezel. Basically the whole machine, except the keyboard and the base of the 1101HA is a fingerprint magnet.

The plastic material feels and looks cheap, yet it’s quite solid all over. I didn’t hear any creaking or see any flex anywhere.

Overall, the quality is good but not in the same class as the Toshiba NB205 netbook. Nor, is it an improvement over the original 10” ASUS Eee PC 1000HE / 1000H netbook.

Touchpad
Enable multi-touch scrolling (two-fingered) to overcome touchpad scrolling issue.

The 1101HA has an unusual touchpad design. The whole touchpad area is flush with the rest of the chassis and has a dimpled surface, subtle to the eye and to the touch.

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The touchpad button is a single, silver button. It’s slightly set in further than most netbook buttons so occasionally I end up hitting the front chassis edge but you get used to it. The button is slightly noisy and stiff, not as bad as on the ASUS Eee PC 1000H series though.

My main gripe with the touchpad is that without having defined edges, you cannot find the right scroll area on the touchpad instantly, you have to fumble around a bit. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it came with multi-touch scrolling but they’ve removed that feature. There is only multi-touch pinching.

You will probably have the bump up the sensitivity too otherwise you’ll be scrolling like crazy on the high resolution display.

Overall, it’s a slightly unusual touchpad design which works well enough but not so good for scrolling.

Sound Quality
I’ve listened to a lot of music on the 1101HA and I will sum it up in one line:

Good volume, good quality but a little more bass would have been nice.

The sound quality on the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA is better than your average netbook. Volume is very loud and you won’t have any issues in that area. There was very little to no tinnyness in the sound that plagues many other netbooks, yet there was a lack of bass. The other 11.6” mini-notebook, the Acer Aspire One 751 has better sound quality. The old 1000H/1000HE sound very similar to the 1101HA except they had more bass.

The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA comes with SRS Premium Sound. It’s on by default, set to headphones. I switched to laptop speakers and it sounds different, but doesn’t seem to improve quality, kind of like when you mess around with an equalizer.

Overall, I am pleased with the sound quality on the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA, certainly above average.

Webcam & Microphone
I tested out the webcam and microphone with Skype. Overall video quality seemed good and showed a bright enough image in my dark den of a living room and frame rates were very smooth.

The microphone picked up my voice well, though I needed to speak louder than I would in a normal conversation in front of a person. I find this the norm with microphones on netbooks though. So it’s all good. A few netbooks have really bad speakers though, not this one. Even with the fan running full blast and annoying me (wasn’t running EeeCtl at the time) and microphone did not pick up any background noise at all..

Heat
The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA is excellent in this regard. The 1101HA never got warm on any occasion even running at 30% overclock with the fan set at 30% with EeeCtl. This includes situations where the 1101HA was running 8-10 hours with 100% CPU usage. At the end of such tests, the whole machine does not get warm.

I’m not really bothered by heat on netbooks, but this is good to know. The other 11.6” mini-notebook, the Acer Aspire One 751 gets very warm on the other hand.

Display
One of the best features of having a 11.6” mini-notebook is the 1366 x 768 resolution display which is uncommon on 10” netbooks. It’s a glossy display and the viewing angles and coloring seem in line with any other glossy netbook display. The quality won’t dazzle you away compared to a good desktop LCD monitor or the old ASUS Eee PC 1000H which has the best display, by far, on a netbook.

I do wish the brightness level could go higher at the maximum setting, not for indoor use, but for outdoor use. The brightness of the 1101HA at maximum is more than fine for indoor settings but could really use a brightness boost outdoors. On the older 10” Eee PCs you can use EeeCtl to boost the brightness over the allowed maximum, which along with the Matte display, made them a joy to use outdoors.

Right now, I’m comparing the maximum brightness levels on my 1101HA to my Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2, and the S10-2 is slightly brighter. This shouldn’t be! The other 11.6” mini-notebook, the Acer Aspire One 751 has a brighter screen than the 1101HA.

But really, the high resolution 1366 x 768 display more than makes up for this point and you can pretty much view all your webpages without ever having to maximize the screen like you would do on a 10-inch netbook. There won’t ever be a dialog box bigger than the screen either. There is also plenty of room on the right to keep your taskbar / sidebar, permanently. The great thing is the display is just as easy on the eyes as the 1024 x 600 is on a 10-inch display. I find the a 1024×600 on a 8.9″display a bit hard on my eyes, just so you can see where I’m coming from.

Like on other Eee PCs, there is a button to switch resolutions between 800 x 600, 1024 x 768 and 1366 x 768.

Keyboard
Update: Note, for the US model, the shift key is still small, but it is to the left of the up arrow key, not on the right, like mine.

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The keyboard is decently sized, and slightly larger than your average 10-inch netbook keyboard. I have the feeling the keyboard is directly pulled off of the ASUS N10 series netbook. Exactly the same keys. See ASUS N10J keyboard.

 

The keys are a departure from what your used to on a typical netbook or laptop. The keys are flat and beveled but skewed towards the top right, so you can’t see the top and right beveled edges.

Key travel is shallow but feels satisfying enough. I noticed no flex on the keyboard which is great. My “Enter” key makes an odd sound compared to the rest. This is a common experience, to me, on netbooks. The only thing that disappoints me is ASUS have reverted back to a tiny right shift key, which is further proof that they’ve nabbed the keyboard of the ASUS N10.

Overall, the keyboard feels just okay. As I said, it’s slightly larger than your average 10-inch netbook and easier to type on, which is what matters. I prefer ASUS’ previous efforts: The chiclet keyboard on the 1000HE and the standard keyboard prior to that felt more satisfying to the touch. A larger keyboard that went right to the edges like on the Acer Aspire One 751 would have been really nice, but I’m asking for too much, perhaps.

Noise
The fan is a mixed bag. It can be loud at times and then quiet at other times. Most of the time it’s between fairly noticeable and loud. It becomes louder if you overclock your 1101HA more. In a very quiet room, a fully overclocked 1101HA becomes unbearably loud after a while. If you have any other noise source in the room such as a tv, air conditioner or fan then the fan noise will be drowned out and won’t be an issue.

Luckily you can kill the fan noise with Eeectl.  This software is not actually designed for any of the new Eee PCs, but the fan control still works nicely with the 1101HA.

I’ve silenced the fan a couple of times over the last week, mostly when I need to study and before bed. Outside of those situations the fan hasn’t bothered me.

1080P HD Video Playback
Since the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA has the poulsbo chipset, it supports hardware 1080P HD Video playback unlike most 10-inch netbooks.

I’m not going to write much here, because I’ve already covered 1080P HD on another Atom Z520 mini-notebook, the 11.6” Acer Aspire One 751 and that played back 1080P HD video very well. The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA should be able to perform slightly better given that it overclocks.

In Windows XP, you can use Cyberlink PowerDVD9 (costs money). I’ve tried various guides but I cannot get 1080P HD video playback in Windows XP. It’s a piece of cake to get up and running in Windows Vista or Windows 7 though.

Overclocking

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Check out my earlier post on Overclocking the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA.

ASUS has quietly slipped in an unofficial / undocumented feature: Manually setting an overclocking speed of your ASUS Eee PC 1101HA. If you head into the BIOS there will be an option to set the “SHE Overclock Value”. It ranges from 5% – 30%. 10% being the default. This makes the Atom Z520 perform at par with the Atom N270 that is being used in the MSI Wind U115 netbook.

This only overclocks the “Super Performance” mode of the SHE. Other SHE modes are not affected. Below are the CPU speed ranges:

SHE Overclock Value    Idle    Step
5% Overclock    0.85 GHz    1.4GHz
10% Overclock (default)    0.9 GHz    1.5GHz
20% Overclock    0.95 GHz    1.6GHz
30% Overclock (max)    1 GHz    1.7GHz
The other SHE modes are unaffected, here are the speeds below:

Mode    Idle    Step
High Performance    0.8 GHz    1.3 GHz
Power Saving    0.6 GHz    1 GHz
Auto Power Saving    0.6 GHz    1 GHz
So, great, you can overclock the 1101HA from the default 1.5GHz (10%) to 1.7GHz (30%) when running on “Super Performance” mode. I don’t feel any difference between 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz. You can notice the difference between 0.6GHz (power saving mode) and 1.7GHz easily though.

I will cover how the battery life is affected on the highest overclocking vs the default setting in the Battery Life section.

Unfortunately, ASUS seems to have disabled this overclocking feature if you upgrade your default 1GB RAM to 2GB. The option disappears from the BIOS. I’ve tried several good quality 2GB RAM sticks and none of them enabled the feature.

Battery Life
The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA comes with a 6-cell 5600 mAh 63Wh battery that is hidden nicely and barely protrudes at all from the base. A huge plus in my book.

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I haven’t had the time to test the battery out in real life situations but I’ve run plenty of simulated tests with Battery Eater Pro.

The following tests where done on “Power Saving” mode, 50% brightness, Wi-Fi ON, Bluetooth OFF. Default SHE overclock mode (10%):

Test    Battery Life (Hours:Mins)
Idle    10:09
Classic    8:41
Looped DivX Movies (Wi-Fi OFF)    8:04
The next tests where done with the same settings, but with SHE overclocked to 30% and running on “Super Performance” mode:

Test    Battery Life (Hours:Mins)
Idle    7:35
Classic    6:51
Looped DivX Movies (Wi-Fi OFF)    6:22
You’re easily looking at about 8 – 10 hours of battery life in power saving mode. Expect up to 2 hours less (6 – 8 hours) running overclocked at 30% while on Super Performance mode. That is excellent battery life and far above most 10-inch netbooks. Again, I haven’t tested real life usage, but I will update this section, once I have done that.

Upgrades
For the non-tech person, at most you can upgrade the RAM which is as easily as unscrewing a single screw. You can get to the insides easily enough but under the keyboard lies a warranty seal, so you will void you warranty if you want to upgrade your storage.

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Size and Weight
Compared to a 10-inch netbook, the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA adds very little weight and bulk. This is similar going up from a 9-inch netbook to a 10-inch netbook.

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The 1101HA itself weighs 1.36 kg / 3 lbs. The 6-cell battery weighs 0.37 kg / 0.8 lbs. With everything including the power brick and cable, the total weight comes to 3.46 lbs.

I’ve only got a 10-inch Lenovo S10-2 to compare to but the S10-2 is a few centimeters smaller in size, on both ends but the 1101HA is thinner. The S10-2 weighs 1.24 kg / 2.7 lbs.

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The power brick remains true to the rest of the Eee PC netbook line and comes with one of the smallest power bricks on a netbook. Furthermore, ASUS have shrunk down the power connector even further, if it wasn’t small enough, it is now!

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Some comparisons of the 1101HA to my 10-inch Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 netbook.

The S10-2 obviously has a smaller footprint but is actually thicker as the 6-cell battery really pushes the whole netbook up at the back. When fully opened up, the height is just about a centimeter taller than the S10-2. Another huge difference is that the keyboard on the S10-2 is it’s not a touch type keyboard and I end up pecking keys with two fingers while I can do real work on the 1101HA.

Asus Eee PC 1101HA Review Summary

Pros
8-10 hour battery life
6-Cell battery hidden away nicely
Easy overclocking
1366 x 768 display
Plays 1080P HD video
Small power brick

Cons
Fairly noisy at times
Small right shift key
Can’t easily upgrade HDD – Voids Warranty
2GB RAM disables BIOS overclocking feature

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