(Re-) Introducing ASUS EeePC 1215N

It’s been a while since I last reviewed a netbook. Even though the netbook market is pretty huge right now, there’s a couple of pretty good reasons for this. First, the iPad factor—tablets have the buzz, and devices like the Galaxy Tab, RIM PlayBook, and anything and everything else with a touchscreen are far more interesting than the bog standard netbook. Two, they all have basically the same hardware in slightly different cases. If you’re ASUS, that means you’ve got roughly 20 different models with the same basic internals and otherwise minor changes to differentiate them all.

But this one, the 1215N, is actually different. You’ve got a dual-core Atom (a desktop Atom D525, not the new N550), a 12” screen, and NVIDIA’s Next Generation ION (NG-ION) platform, all in a tasty aluminum wrapper. Like the 1201N it’s replacing, it’s a unique riff on the netbook theme. Thankfully, most of the inane netbook limitations are gone, so the 1215 has a solid 2GB memory and Windows 7 Home Premium (as opposed to the awfulness that calls itself Win 7 Starter). All the other standard stuff is here too—Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. It’s a full featured netbook, except on steroids.

ASUS EeePC 1215N Specifications
Processor Intel Atom D525
(1.80GHz, 45nm, 1MB L2 cache, 13W)
Chipset Intel NM10
Memory 2x1GB DDR3-1066
Graphics NVIDIA Next-Generation ION
(16SPs, 475/790/1092 Core/Shader/RAM clocks)
Intel HD Graphics (Optimus Switchable)
Display 12.1" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) 250GB 5400RPM HDD (Seagate ST9250325AS)
Optical Drive None
Networking Atheros AR8152 Fast Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 BGN
Audio HD Audio (2 stereo speakers with two audio jacks)
Battery 6-Cell, 10.95V, 5200mAh, 56Wh battery
Front Side None
Left Side Flash reader (MMC/MS/MS Pro/SD/xD)
1 x USB
Cooling Exhaust
AC Power connection
Right Side Headphone/Microphone jacks
Kensington Lock
2 x USB 2.0
Back Side None
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions 11.65" x 8.0" x 0.91-1.46" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.21 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
86-Key keyboard
Flash reader (MMC/MS/MSPro/SD/xD)
Multi-touch touchpad
ExpressGate OS (8-second boot)
Warranty 1-year global warranty
6-month battery pack warranty
30-day zero bright dot LCD
Pricing ASUS EeePC 1215N Silver starting at $484

Compared to the outgoing 1201N, not much has changed here. It's the same basic hardware configuration in a similar chassis; the biggest difference is the bump from the first gen ION platform to Pine Trail and NG-ION, with a slightly higher CPU clock. It’s still pretty great as far as netbook specs go, but it costs significantly more than most netbooks. Our favorite 1001P goes for $299, while the 1215N goes for $499. Can the performance upgrades justify the large amount of additional cost, and how does it hold up versus similarly priced notebooks running AMD’s Nile platform? There are some other interesting questions; NG-ION is not significantly faster than the first-gen ION platform, so will the 1215N be better than the 1201N? And then you’ve got the N550 in play now as well; now that there are plenty of dual-core 10” netbooks out there, is the 1215N as different as it seems at first look? Let’s find out.

Checking Out the ASUS Eee PC 1215N
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  • StrangerGuy - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    Until I saw this review, I didn't knew the D525 doesn't even have speedstep...What was Intel thinking? Isn't the whole point of Atom is to SAVE as much power as possible even if this was meant for nettops?

    Back to the 1215n...ION 2 with Atom is just going to handle Flash and HD videos and... that's it, anybody who's buying a 1215n for gaming really, really needs a reality check. If current-gen Atoms actually came with an IGP that accelerates both I don't think anyone would even bother with ION...
  • sprockkets - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    Been like that since day one, but why is it an issue when you take around 10-15 watts anyhow?

    Heck, my 2.5ghz dual core pentium only takes 3 watts less at idle when clocked down. That's why I didn't care when I went from the 65nm 2.2ghz to the 45nm 2.5 since for whatever reason Linux couldn't scale the new version down.
  • Geraldo8022 - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    I have an Asus with the ten inch screen and single core. I find I can tolerate most everything about it except the small screen size.. The concept of the tablets eludes me. I do like the battery life. I am wondering if Ontario, or even Atom for that matter, will be available in 15 inch laptop.
  • ajp_anton - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    I'm still confused about your x264 battery life test. Do you mean x264, as in the program that *encodes* h264 videos, or just general h264 playback?
    You also mention x264 in the text, "[...] with slightly worse x264 battery life [...]". Is this when encoding (actually using x264), or h264 playback (which has nothing to do with x264)?
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 26, 2010 - link

    This is playing back an x264 encoded 720p video file, which is a very common use for laptops on planes (i.e. watching movies). Encoding battery life would be far worse I think, since that would effectively max out the CPU.
  • ajp_anton - Friday, November 26, 2010 - link

    But the test itself has nothing to do with x264. An x264 encoded file is like any other h264 file, nobody cares where it came from.
    A much more relevant thing would be what you're using to decode the file (and if DXVA was used), because that's what's using the battery.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 26, 2010 - link

    We've stated this in the past: we use Media Player Classic Home Cinema 64-bit, with DXVA enabled. It's a ~7Mbps file as well, if that's important (though in my testing to date I haven't seen much difference between this file and a higher 15Mbps bitrate 1080p file, provided you have DXVA decode available).

    Anyway, we're playing an x264 encoded file, so it has everything to do with x264. It is also representative of general H.264 playback, though some H.264 content isn't quite so friendly. As an example, some of the QuickTime H.264 stuff behaves quite a bit differently.

    A 9.4Mbps QuickTime H.264 file uses 21.5% average (12.1 to 34%) in QuickTime. Played back in MPC-HC with DXVA, the same file uses nearly 8.4% (5.1 to 18.0%) but looks like absolute crap. VLC uses 13.5% (7.0 to 25.4%) but at least looks as good as playing it with QuickTime. The main point being that the file type does matter, though you are correct that the playback software is equally important.
  • ajp_anton - Saturday, November 27, 2010 - link

    Yes I remember you mentioning MPC-HC before, I'm just pointing out that it's not in the actual test.

    And saying that x264 has "everything" or anything to do with the playback test is the same as saying it's important to know if the 600MB file you're testing HDD performance with is an .avi or a .mkv.
    If it weren't for the encoder info that x264 puts in the file header, there'd be no way of telling what it's been encoded with.

    Sure the file format may make a difference - different containers may need different amounts of CPU power (mov, mkv, m2ts...). However, this has nothing to do with the h264 stream inside, or x264. You can make a quicktime file out of an x264 encoded video, and you can make a mkv out of a quicktime video.
    Here I actually don't know what it is you're playing back in the test... avi? mkv? mp4?
  • stancilmor - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    aside from a using a dell ultra-sharp quality LCD/LED panel why can't manufacturers just do away with the track-pad, push the keyboard forward,and include a wireless logitech mouse.
  • justaviking - Thursday, November 25, 2010 - link

    If you accept that a fundamental premise of a laptop/netbook is portability, the less you have to carry around, the better.

    I like the option of not having to pick up a mouse and juggle it along with my other stuff (coffee cup, a paper notepad (gasp!), donut, power cords, whatever) when I move from one room to another.

    I know some people like the little joystick nubbin thing, but I've always detested them. The first laptop I used, and old Compaq, predated the trackpads and the joystick thing was very difficult to use. It had two speeds; really slow, and zoom across the screen, not much in between.

    So while i do prefer a mouse, especially for longer use, and I love mice with the nano receiver that I can leave plugged in all the time, for me the lack of a touchpad for mousing would be a deal breaker.

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