Handling, design and build: wide touchpad and comfortable keypad
Entirely in black, the Asus Eee PC 1015PE won't stand out from other netbooks, in terms of design. Very standard. Surely we're over the glossy black hood by now! Rapidly covered with dust and fingerprints! The screen surround is similar and is unfortunately subject to small scratches.
It is however a coherent design overall, relatively sobre and well-finished. We like the soft feel of the wrist rest, which makes it comfortable to use and it stays cleaner than a glossy surface. It's a shame this material wasn't used for the whole computer.
The 1015PE's keyboard with separated keys (14 x 13 mm) is very nice to use. Supple and relatively quiet, it offers nice ease of use but is penalised by the fact that the "Ctrl" and "Shift" (capital) keys are so small.
The touchpad (multi-touch) is made of the same soft material as the wrist rest. Two slim bands of aluminium colour on the sides mark it out from the wrist rest and a a big click bar underneath (that we would have preferred to see closer to the edge of the machine so as to give easy access for the thumb). Very wide (78 x 41 mm), the touchpad offers an excellent glide and good precision. It's a real pleasure to use it and it's a nice change from the tiny touchpads that you so often see on netbooks.
Without being exceptional, the webcam gives good results and an acceptable level of fluidity for occasional usage. Note however the weak contrast and a tendency towards overexposure of the light areas of the image. Asus could have done a lot better here and we hope to see progress on future generations. The new range of Seashell Eee PCs, of which the 1015PE is one, includes a new mechanism to cover the webcam lens when you don't wish to use it. This cover makes it easy to cut the image, without deactivating the webcam completely.
In terms of ventilation, the Asus Eee PC 1015PE does well and hardly heats up at all. It is pretty much inaudible when processing office docs, with the fan only really getting going during more demanding tasks (retouching photos, video editing). That said, the computer remains quiet and it's more the hard drive that makes the noise, during loads and file copying.
Connectivity hasn't changed and there's still no USB 3.0. There are however 3 USB 2.0 posts, one RJ45, one headphones socket, one microphone and one 2-in-1 memory card reader. Wi-Fi b/g/n is of course included and is accompanied by Bluetooth 2.1.
A small panel opens under the PC to give access to RAM. Apart from that and the removable battery, there's no access to any of the other components.
|Webcam with cover
||Memory card reader, headphones, microphone, 2 USB 2.0s, RJ45
|VGA, USB 2.0
||Touchpad and click bar
Processing: mainly office docs and internet
A standard configuration with standard performance. The Asus Eee PC 1015PE still uses an Intel Atom N450 processor (with the graphics part). This is a model that is found in the vast majority of current netbooks.
Our test protocol is now based on the one used for processors. It's no surprise that the Atom N450 used here scores 19 on our index, compared to 100 for our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400). The resulting rating for processing is therefore just 1 star. This computer obviously hasn't been designed for anything more than office docs and internet usage. You can extend this to photo retouching and video editing as long as you have plenty of patience and time, as such processing will take between 3 and 6 times as long as on a standard laptop.
Windows 7 Starter starts up in 40 seconds (to desktop), then needs 18 seconds more to load the main programmes. It turns off in 12 seconds.
You won't be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on this machine. You'll have to make do with DVD or DivX type compressed videos. The new GMA 3150 graphics part is limited to HD 720p video, which is really a shame when you know that the older Poulsbo platform (Intel Atom Z series processors) is able to give 1080p video playback.
3D gaming: a few old titles no more
Generally speaking, gaming on netbooks is only for real enthusiasts willing to put up with highly compromised quality. Only models with ATI or NVIDIA ION graphics chips can handle a few recent games and even then as long as the CPU doesn't cut down performance too much (a single core Intel Atom is insufficient).
Audio: headphones a must
No innovations when it comes audio quality. The sound you get from the netbook's small speakers isn't any better than usual. It's dry with no bass and a predominance of high-end. Thankfully, the headphones out is very clean, with no hiss. We strongly recommend you use it, with headphones or an external speaker kit.
Mobility, battery life: number 2 in our league table!
With its 6 cell 5200 mAh battery, the Asus Eee PC 1015PE breaks all the battery life records: 8h03 video playback (Wi-Fi deactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²)! This is almost 2 hours better than the Asus Eee PC 1005PE (4400 mAh battery, 6h16) and not far off one hour better than the Samsung N210 (5900 mAh battery, 7H06), old number two in our league. The MSI Wind U115 is still in first place thanks to its SSD (from 7H to 9H52). When will we be seeing SSDs in netbooks again?
When it comes to size, it's a pleasure to see the tiny bipolar charger so dear to Asus (dimensions: 83 x 34 x 25). The netbook in itself is pretty standard at 1.25 Kg and an average thickness of 3 cm.