Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be differentiated into multiple cell types with great therapeutic potential. However, optimizing the often multi-week cultures to obtain sufficient differentiated cell yields has been in part limited by the high variability of even parallel hESC differentiation cultures. We describe the isolation and features of a subline of CA1 hESCs (CA1S) that display a very high 25% cloning efficiency while retaining many properties of the parental hESCs, including being karyotypically normal and their ability to generate teratomas containing all three germ layers. Although more detailed analysis revealed that CA1S cells have a 3.8 Mb genomic duplication on chromosome 20, they remain highly useful. In particular, CA1S cells are readily expanded at high yields in culture and possess greatly reduced well-to-well variation even when seeded at 100 cells/well. Thus, 108 CA1S cells can be generated within one week from 106 cells to seed 106 wells. We determined that CA1S cells have the capacity to follow established in vitro differentiation protocols to pancreatic progenitors and subsequent hormone-positive cell types and used CA1S cells to explore definitive endoderm induction in a high performance screen (Z-factor = 0.97). This system revealed that CA1S cells do not require WNT3A to efficiently form definitive endoderm, a finding that was confirmed with H1 hESCs, although H1 cells did show modest benefits of high WNT3A doses. Proliferative index measurements of CA1S cells were shown to rapidly reflect their differentiation status in a high throughput system. Though results obtained with CA1S cells will need to be confirmed using conventional hESC lines, these cells should ease the development of optimized hESC growth and differentiation protocols. In particular, they should limit the more arduous secondary screens using hESCs to a smaller number of variables and doses. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013;110: 2706–2716. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.