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Asus Eee PC 1215N - Audio, Performance, Battery and Verdict

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

Unlike its screen, the Eee PC 1215N's audio performance is somewhat sub-par, and Asus doesn't do its stereo speakers any favours by placing them at the bottom of the netbook, where putting them on a bed or on your lap is likely to muffle them. Even on a flat surface there is distortion at maximum volume, which is very audible but by no means room-filling. In fact, a lot of it comes across as distinctly cramped and muddled, lacking in presence, clarity and bass.

When it comes to performance, you would be forgiven for thinking the 1215N is not a netbook at all. Dropping it in at the deep end, we played a 1080p Flash video, which is enough to bring your average Atom-powered machine to its knees. However, this Eee PC played it back full-screen without a hint of stutter.

We decided to up the stakes, and ran the Flash video again – with a 720p .MOV trailer running in the background, and with video acceleration disabled. Flash was smooth and the trailer stuttered occasionally but was watchable, which is very impressive.

High bitrate 1080p can still be a problem for the CPU, but that's where Nvidia's ION2 takes over. Basically, for daily use there's almost nothing the 1215N can't handle, which immediately puts it in a whole different ballpark to most netbooks. However, as you can see it just can't match up to AMD's competing NEO processor, of which the 1.3GHz K325 is found in the Dell Inspiron M101z.

Gaming is just about possible, but only at very modest settings on undemanding titles. In our standard TrackMania Nations Forever test this Eee PC managed only 22.6 frames per second, which is barely playable and no great improvement over Nvidia's original ION graphics, though it's still superior to Intel's integrated graphics on most Atom machines. Interestingly, it gives very similar performance to AMD's ATI Mobility Radeon HD4225 which supports its NEO CPU.

With a weight of 1.4kg, this netbook stays well within the ultra-portable category and is significantly lighter than Dell's (admittedly more powerful) Inspiron M101z.

Battery life is on the good side of average, though this is partly due to Nvidia's Optimus ensuring that Intel's frugal integrated graphics are used whenever appropriate. Its 5,200mAh, 56Wh battery should give you around seven hours, and managed a decent six hours and 40 minutes in our battery test, running a looped video at 50 percent screen brightness.

Overall then, we have an impressive machine. Its performance is comfortably superior to other Intel-based netbooks (though AMD's platform still rules supreme here) and battery life is good, but it's let down by poor build in the keyboard area. However, the main problem with the 1215N is that at £430, it's not just its performance that's approaching laptop territory but its price as well.

If you truly can't afford more, this EeePC bears consideration. However, if you can stretch to £500, the Inspiron M101z will be a better option for many, with double the RAM, a more competent CPU and larger hard drive making up for the shorter battery life. If you want something a little less conventional, the Packard Bell Butterfly Touch is also available for under £450. It's not as light nor as powerful in the graphics department, but other specs are stronger and it offers tablet-like functionality with its swivelling capacitive touch screen.

Verdict

Asus' Eee PC 1215N is the most powerful Intel-based netbook we've tested, enhanced by an attractive design and great-feeling soft plastic finish. However, it's let down by its poor keyboard and premium price tag, which puts it up against AMD's NEO-based ultra-portables and even Intel's own CULV machines. Though it certainly survives the encounter, it doesn't come away unscathed.

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supamario

December 14, 2010, 3:47 pm

Thanks for the article.


I've said this on many occasions, so I'll say again - PLEASE include a feature table. Whether it is a Phone, PC or camera.


Reason? It is nice to glance over the specs to decide whether to read the article in detail.


Thanks.

TechVegan

December 14, 2010, 4:26 pm

@supamario:


You're welcome.


A feature table has been included for your glancing pleasure :)

GoldenGuy

December 14, 2010, 5:42 pm

12 inches is a bit bigger than a netbook, no? And in that sense may be reviewing it as a cheap, small laptop might make us view it more favourably, than an expensive netbook. But then, ever since I adopted that 10 inch rule of thumb, everything seems a bit bigger than a netbook to me - even the Air.

richardcrossley

December 14, 2010, 7:22 pm

I think 10 inches is fun, 12 inches is painful.





The 10 inch format works well in economy class and those fold down tables on trains. I would think 12 inches would be a real pain in the neck because the screen might not be fully opened.

TechVegan

December 14, 2010, 8:00 pm

@GoldenGuy:


The definitions of a 'netbook' are loose at best. As netbooks get gradually more powerful the line between laptop/notebook and netbook becomes increasingly blurry. Personally I find 11in offers the ideal compromise between size and space.





@richardcrossley:


That's one of the many reasons I love convertible tablet laptops: their screens simply twist around and fold back, giving you the ideal view on cramped aeroplane/train tables. Check out the Butterfly Touch mentioned in the review, or HP's tm2 { http://www.trustedreviews.com/... }.

lifethroughalens

December 14, 2010, 9:29 pm

"I think 10 inches is fun, 12 inches is painful." - Insert Terry Thomas voice here!





I'm disappointed and confused as to why none of these latest netbooks are able to play 1080p smoothly? Why is it that the tiny chip in the 5DMK2 (and all other HD DSLR's / compacts) plays it perfectly, as does the tiny chip in the WD Live box, yet these dual core Atoms can not?





I was recently on a trip to Central America and wanted to show a client some HD video on Vimeo - they had a brand new 'all singing and dancing' dual core Atom EeePC and it was absolutely pathetic. It could barely play SD youtube videos smoothly let alone HD content, it stuttered it way though all the videos I pointed it at with the fan on full blast all the time.





Are there any 10-12" netbooks (small screen laptops) that can easily play back full HD both streaming and from local files? This ability is seriously overdue in my mind.

TechVegan

December 14, 2010, 10:07 pm

@lifethroughalens:


"Are there any 10-12" netbooks (small screen laptops) that can easily play back full HD both streaming and from local files?"


This one :)





Keep an eye out for our Christmas netbook (and small laptop) buying guide, coming soon.

scamevoli

December 15, 2010, 12:10 am

Re 1080P, doesn't it all depend on software these days?





I haven't tried it on a netbook yet, but I loaded up IE9 beta and Flash 10.2 beta onto my CULV (SU2300) a week or two ago and was amazed at the difference - 1080P flash plays smoothly with only 25% max CPU usage.





Has anyone tried this software combination on a netbook yet?

fireflud

December 15, 2010, 3:48 am

@lifethroughalens:


I've had a 10" Acer Aspire One 521 with a ATI Radeon HD 4225 for a few months now. I upgraded the RAM and it plays 1080p from youtube and HD Vimeo flawlessly - even whilst outputting via HDMI to my full HD TV. I'm frankly amazed that it has received relatively little attention, it's relatively difficult to find (purchase) and there is no review for it on this site. Plus, it was only 350 Euros.

GherkingTR

December 15, 2010, 3:50 am

Scamevoli is right, HD media players and 1080p shooting cameras play back their video the same way, every time, and are designed to do a specific task very well.


You need supporting software (try XBMC or media player classic) to take full advantage of the hardware support in computers, because they're general purpose devices. My m101z was at 30% CPU playing back a 720p mkv in VLC, until I used XBMC which took the CPU processing down to 10% because it was offloaded the work to the GPU (what a mouthful).

lifethroughalens

December 15, 2010, 6:29 am

Thanks for the comments people, appreciated. I read the this review but somehow came away with the incorrect thought that it couldn't play 1080 video, must have got confused with the 17 tabs open at once :)





I'm toying with the idea of getting a Dell M101z for use when travelling far flung places that i wouldn't normally consider taking a laptop on a job, owing to weight and size restrictions when travelling light. I just need to be sure that is can handle 1080p easily and output it over HDMI. I'll have a look into XBMC too, thanks GherkingTR.

TechVegan

December 15, 2010, 9:21 pm

@lifethroughalens:


I tend to average over a 100 tabs open at a time, so I know what you mean :)





The Dell M101z is an excellent choice, and if you go for the dual-core version should handle pretty much anything you might throw at it. But why not have a read of our netbook/small laptop guide (which is now going live tomorrow!) to see if it's the one for you?

lifethroughalens

December 15, 2010, 10:27 pm

@Ardjuna - 100 tabs?! I begin to get lost after 15+, not to mention all the browser issues that crop up having that many open...most caused by flash, I suspect. That's impressive information management :)





I will do - hitting F5 awaiting the guide, with one finger hovering over the 'Buy it' button simultaneously. There are only so many pairs of socks that a man can cope with as presents over Christmas, so this is my present to me. Cheers & happy Christmas TR. Humbug. :)

TechVegan

December 16, 2010, 2:32 pm

@lifethroughalens:


Well, divided over several windows... :)


And issues do occasionally crop up, but that's where Firefox's Session Manager extension comes in handy.





Hope that guide was useful (going by your comment, did you opt for the Scrooge category? ;)


Thanks and a Merry Christmas to you too, dear reader!

Hibou

February 25, 2011, 7:35 pm

How can the Dell M101z "more competent CPU and larger hard drive making up for the shorter battery life" ? And given that statement, why does the Dell get an 8 for battery life and the Asus only 7 ? Indeed the marks for the Dell are "generous", when other comparisons make them more equal. The Dell is a decent laptop with an unexceptional battery life. The 1215N has similar performance for video playback and gaming, but a much better battery life if the Ion GPU is not used i.e. for most other tasks. For those general applications, the speed advantage of the Dell is not very important, and the short battery life a disadvantage for an ultra-portable/netbook.

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