Over the weekend, Asus announced what might be the best netbook to date, at least in terms of specifications. We're of course talking about the Eee PC 1004DN which was first spotted during CES back in January and at the time caused quite a stir due not only to the fact that it had a built in optical drive, but also the fact that it had an unannounced processor and chipset.
The Eee PC 1004DN carries on the style change that started with the S101, although this time around it seems like Asus has finally started to listen to its customers, as the 1004DN has two mouse buttons rather than the single large bar that many netbooks seems to favour. It also uses the new keyboard found on the 1002H, although we've yet to try this out four ourselves to see how good it is in use.
With the 1.66GHz Atom N280 processor and the GN40 chipset the 1004DN should be a step up from your average netbook, at least until the first models based on Nvidia's ION solution appear. We're a little bit curious about the press release though, as Asus states "the 10-inch LCD display that supports 720p high definition playback" yet the display has a standard netbook resolution of 1,024x600 which means that it's physically impossible for it to support 720p resolution in full screen. It's not as if you couldn't play back most 720p content on the 945GSE chipset, as this isn't that demanding, so this seems like a snafu from the Asus PR department, but we'd expect other netbook makers to follow suite, as if nothing else, this is a good way to trick people into buying a netbook with the GN40 chipset.
The optical drive is of the "super-multi" kind which means it can handle all standard writeable and re-writeable DVD formats including DVD-RAM. We really would've liked to have seen a slot loaded drive though, as having the pop-out tray on something this small seems awkward. Asus has also implemented a fingerprint scanner for biometric security (and added some extra cost) and an ExpressCard 34 slot. Other features include 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, a multi-format card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, a D-sub connector, an Ethernet port and a pair of audio jacks.
We have to question one feature on the 1004DN and that is the hard drive, as Asus has gone for a 1.8-inch 120GB 4,200rpm PATA drive, which seems very outdated for what is otherwise a top of the range netbook. There are 5,400rpm 1.8-inch drives with SATA interface readily available and we have a feeling most people wouldn't have minded to pay slightly more for the inclusion of one of these.
At 1.45kg the 1004DN is quite heavy for a netbook, but this is with a 6-cell battery which Asus claims is good for up to 5.9h of usage, although this is with full power saving features enabled. Overall the Eee PC 1004DN looks like an attractive option in what has become a market full over too many devices that are all too similar to each other.
No shipping date or pricing has been revealed so far.
You can find the press release here
Asus inadvertently reveals next gen Atom