The Asus 1215N is one of the most awaited mini laptops of 2010, mainly because it promises way better performances than regular netbooks can offer. I had the chance to get my hands on one of these devices a couple of weeks before it actually became available in stores. You can read the detailed review bellow.
The version tested is in fact similar to the one that will hit the stores later this summer, but it comes with extra memory (4 GB instead of 2 GB).
In terms of specs, there’s almost nothing you could ask more from the Asus EEE PC 1215N. Here’s what this test version has to offer:
- Intel Atom N525 processor, clocked at 1.80 GHz, with 2x512KB cache L2 and 800 Mhz FSB
- Nvidia ION graphics: Intel GMA 3150 + Nvidia GT218 dedicated chip (Managed by Nvidia’s Optimus technology)
- 4 GB DDR3 memory
- 320 GB storage drive + EEE storage space available online
- 12.1 inch glossy display, 1366 x 768 px
- decent connectivity: Wi-Fi N , fast Ethernet, but no Bluetooth
- chiclet keyboard and wide multi-touch trackpad
- Webcam, 3xUSB slots (this test version came with 3xUSB 2.0 slots, but the finalr elease will have 1xUSB 2.0 and 2xUSB 3.0), mic and audio out, card-reader, HDMI and VGA outputs
- 6 Cell 5200 mAh 56 Wh battery
- Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
So, there’s actually nothing missing, but Bluetooth connectivity (final release version will actually come with Bluetooth 3.0 as an option).
Design and build quality
The Asus EEE PC 1215N is part of the famous Seashell line. Thus, it brings the same design of its predecessors, from whom it also inherits the solid build quality and attention to details.
But there are some changes from the 1201N model. First, the exterior in no longer glossy, but matte. The lid case was replaced with a new one, made from a smooth and silky matte plastic. The bottom part is also made of plastic, but it’s not the rugged and ugly one used before, but one with a nice dimpled texture. Layout of the bottom part is changed too, with a new design for cooling vents.
There’s also a new side-port layout. Details bellow.
Although the device is matte, it still catches fingerprints and smudges like crazy. They are bothering on the Black finish but almost invisible on the Silver one, so right now, if I were to pick between one of them, i would definitely go for the second.
Details on looks and build quality are also available in the clip below.
Sry for the rubbish video quality, had some problems with my HD camera and had to shoot regular content this time.
Keyboard + Touchpad
The keyboard is more or less the same on the 1215N and 1201N. In fact, the layout on this test model is somewhat different, but I’m pretty sure this is an European version and the one available in the States will come with an identical layout as the 1201N had.
Now, I particularly don’t like the row of keys on the right that will take some time getting used to. When trying to hit BackSpace or Enter you might end up hitting Home or PgUP/PgDN and this is frustrating. Even worse is the small Left Shift key: you’ll surely end up pressing the “\” next to it when trying to capitalize some letters.
Besides these problems, the keyboard on this device is a good one, with chiclet design and nicely spaced keys. It is Full-size and you won’t have problems with it if you have bigger fingers, but it also comes with some disturbing flex.
Now, it is important to know that the version I reviewed is the one meant for European market. The one that will land in the States will have the classic keyboard, with a smaller Enter and the bigger left Shift. Other things will remain the same.
The trackpad on the other hand is completely redesigned on this one. Comes with a smooth finish and is pretty snappy and accurate. It is separated from the rest of the palm rest (which is also matte) by two silver bars and it is also slightly positioned towards the left of the device, like on the Vaios or on some Toshibas.
The single-press click button though is rubbish: very stiff and hard to press. It might get better in time though, but a solution with individual click buttons would have been a lot better for sure.
There’s not much i can say about the screen on this 1215N. It’s a standard 12.1 inch 1366 x 768 LED display, with good viewing angles and brightness. And it’s also glossy, like displays on most Asus laptops, which makes it useful only as a mirror in strong light conditions. But as long as you don’t plan on watching movies or playing games outside, you should be fine with it.
Software and performance
Like I’ve said above, this Asus runs Windows 7 Home Premium OS, the 32-bit version, with the latest drivers available right now. However, since this laptop is not yet available in stores, i would expect improvements in terms of drivers in the near future, which might boost performances even more.
Now, we know that most netbooks can’t properly multitask, because of their low-performance single-core processors. The 1215N EEE PC does boost a dual-core ATOM processor, with HT, so it can actually run decently a couple of different applications. If a browser with a couple of tabs, an instant messaging program, a music player and a text-editor managed to make N450 powered computers sluggish, that’s not the case here. And I’m not saying this is a power-horse, but it will be able to run your daily applications nicely.
I’ve said before this is a mini-multimedia device, because of the Nvidia graphics it brings. In practice this means it can run all kind of content, including 1080p self-stored or Flash clips, plus all kind of Flash games. You can see proofs in the video below.
However, I have to say I’ve initially had some problems running 1080p self-stored content. I’ve tried playing it with VLC Player, KMPlayer and Windows Media Player Classic and it lagged, until I’ve installed the codecs pack from CoreAVC (they are not free, but only cost $9.99, money well worth spending). After that, everything went smoothly. I’m not saying 1080p will only work with these codecs, I’m just saying that was the solution I’ve adopted.
Having Optimus on-board means the system actually changes between the two graphic solutions instantly and seamlessly. The same video will show you how fast and invisible the process actually is.
The computer will also manage to play some games. I for one tried Fifa 10, a modern football (soccer) game, and you get playable fps on 1024 x 768 with medium details. Other games should run OK too. I’ve also tried Sims3 and Anno 1404 (this one is kind of sluggish). Online games like Wow will work OK too. Of course, the 1215N is not a gaming mini laptop like the M11x from Alienware, but it can run some games if you want to have fun from time to time, as long as you’re willing to cut off details and use a lower than standard resolution.
Since this is the first laptop equipped with dual-core Atom D525 GHz processor and Nvidia ION, I’ve run some benchmarks and you can see the results in the pics below. They mostly say this CPU is better then the last-generation dual core Atom D330 and way superior to the N450. Graphics performance are better than on the previous generation ION too.
An article compering the performances of this configuration with the ones of Atom D330 and Atom N450 powered devices will follow in the next days can be found right here: Asus 1201N vs 1215N .
Also, Ive’ tried a couple of extra games, including StarCraft 2, Anno 1404, Bad Company and Modern Warfare 2 in this other post.
In terms of Software, you will find the usual bloatware preinstalled on this netbook, like all kind of applications from Asus and some trial software. The first thing I would advice you to do is get rid of them and then install a proper antivirus (I for one use the Free Avast version and am satisfied with it). Still, the amount of crappy software you’ll get on a Asus is way less than on others, including the Acers or the Sony Vaios, so it should not take you more than an hour to clean it out.
This Asus comes with a 6 Cell 5200mAh 56Wh battery. Now, depending on what you’re going to do with it, you would get an autonomy of around 2.5 to 6 hours, although on paper Asus will claim more. Here are some details:
- playing an 1080p HD clip with screen brightness set to 100%, High performance Mode, maximum speaker volume and Wi-fi On will get you around 2.5 hours of life
- playing a 720p HD clip with screen brightness around 70%, Wi-Fi Off, balanced Mode and while using headphones will get around 3.5-4 hours of battery life
- surfing via Wi-Fi while listening to music, editing texts and some photos and with YM on and screen brightness to around 70% will get you around 4.5 hours of life (you should know that having Yahoo Messenger on automatically starts the Nvidia graphic chip)
- using it in office mode with Wi-Fi Off and screen brightness to 50%, with a couple of applications opened but no music, will take you up to 6 hours of battery life
In the end, having Optimus on this Asus does help increase autonomy, but only if you don’t run applications that will turn the Nvidia chip on. So as long as you use the device for basic stuff, you will have decent battery life.
Now, for using it daily, an autonomy of around 4-4.30 hours is what you should expect. Other netbooks will offer more, but considering the capabilities of this mini laptop and its price, I declare myself satisfied with what it can provide here.
This device runs pretty cool most of the time, even in games or when playing HD movies. There is some warm air coming from the left cooling grill and processor’s cooler do starts from time to time, but there’s nothing disturbing in terms of heat or noise. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the new cooling vents layout.
The Asus 1215N comes with a 1.3 Mpx webcam, not the best you can get, but decent for Skype or other similar messaging software. Haven’t given it much thought as that’s not something i really care about on a computer.
Also, speakers on this device are good, like on most Seashells and definitely better than what I’ve seen on other netbooks, including all the Acers and Toshibas. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m going to give away my headphones for them.
Prices and where to buy
As you’ve seen in the rows above, the 1215N EEE PC is an interesting device. Packs good hardware inside a 12.1 inch form factor, but also decent looks and build quality. All these for around $500, which is the same as its predecessor sells these days.
This Asus will be available in stores in the United States from the end of this summer. It will be available in Black and Silver and you will be able to preorder the device if you want to get it just in time for this year’s school debut.
Update: You won’t find the Asus 1215N in stores anymore, but you’ll find the 1225B, a close and modern successor, with better hardware, features and a redesigned body. The thorough review for the 1225B EEE PC should tell you more about this one.
In the end, I can say I like this Asus mini laptop. I particularly like that it manages to pack some power, enough for it to act snappy in everyday tasks and run fine my daily applications. Plus, it can handle all kind of video content, self stored or Flash and a bunch of modern games. Thus, the 1215N is a compact, light and affordable multimedia notebook.
It is true that for $500 bucks you can get devices boosting Intel’s ULV platform, which will bring faster processors, but graphic experience won’t be as good. Also, you might even find some decent full-size laptops within this price range.
In the end it’s up to you to choose from these options. The 1215N definitely has its strong points and is definitely a solid pick. But that doesn’t make it automatically the best for each one of us.