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Asus Eee PC 1215N - Design, Build, Usability and Screen

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

Unsurprisingly, the 1215N takes a lot of inspiration from Asus' stylish and slim Seashell range. It certainly makes a sleek impression thanks to its clean lines and tapered edges, and is overall quite stylish.

Thankfully, the company appears to have listened to our incessant complaints regarding glossy lids, and the finish used here is semi-matt. While it still picks up fingerprints, it's not nearly as bad as the shiny print magnets found on the majority of portable machines. Thanks to a lovely, almost soft-touch feel, it's also much nicer to hold.

Opening this Eee PC up, the screen bezel and keyboard surround might be glossy, but the palm-rests and touchpad are finished in a single piece of the same soft plastic as the lid. This not only looks great but is ergonomic, and the pad's flush chrome delineating strips and buttons add the finishing touch to this attractive combination. Our sample is all-black, but the 1215N is also available in muted brown, grey or red.

As you would expect from a netbook costing over £400, build quality is generally solid – with the unfortunate exception of the keyboard area, which displays an alarming amount of flex. So much, in fact, that it may become an issue for touch-typists who hit their keys firmly, as it adds unwanted feedback and an annoying rattle.

This is even more of a pity as, without this issue, the keyboard would actually have been very good. Layout is spot-on with all keys and shortcuts where you would expect them. Key size and spacing also work well, and feedback for individual keys is both springy and surprisingly deep. Last but not least, the large touchpad rarely interferes with typing.

The multi-touch touchpad itself is an absolute pleasure to use. Its soft but smooth surface is one of the most tactilely satisfying we've used and it's very responsive. Though its buttons are integrated into a single rocker switch, there is no dead zone, a feat most manufacturers fail to achieve. Sadly, the shine gets taken off by the buttons being far too stiff for comfort.

Getting to the 12.1in screen, compared to the humdrum 1,024 x 600 resolution we usually find, the 1215N's 1,366 x 768 gives you far more breathing space. Not only can you play 720p video without any cropping or downscaling, but you have far more room for work and play. We only wish this resolution was standard across the netbook board, as the Dell Inspiron Duo is only one of the few recent entries to feature it.

Unfortunately the display features a reflective, glossy coating, though this does help perceived contrast and colour saturation. In fact, blacks look black and dark detailing is quite good, with only the darkest two shades virtually indistinguishable. Meanwhile, white purity remains surprisingly intact. Colours are vibrant but not unrealistically so. Backlight distribution is even, though there is some very minor light bleed from the bottom and right-hand sides. There's also little to no sign of banding or other artefacts.

While that's all very positive, vertical viewing angles are very poor, meaning you'll need to open the screen to its maximum in order to get the most out of it. Horizontally, things are considerably better, but you'll still want to sit as centrally as possible. Overall, we'd say the 1215N's screen is above average, and its high resolution makes it an absolute pleasure for productivity.

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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