Hardware, design and build: an Eee PC with no surprisesDifferent to the black or white Eee PC 1015s we've seen up to now, the chassis comes in a choice of gold (test version), pink or violet. The texture of the coating on the top of the hood also differs from the previous models in the range, which were completely smooth up until now. this 1015PW is rough. Although a few elements of the finish could be improved, the overall impression is coherent and high quality.
The 1015PW's keyboard with separated keys (14 x 13 mm) is very nice to use. Supple and relatively quiet, it offers comfortable keying. We were however less convinced by the reduced size of the Ctrl, Shift and arrow keys. You'll often find yourself missing them when trying to type. In other words, the same keyboard as on all the others in the 1015 range.
The multi-touch touchpad is bordered with two slim aluminium coloured bands that run down either side and there's a big click bar underneath. We would have preferred to see this bar closer to the edge to give easier thumb access. Very wide (78 x 41 mm), the touchpad offers an excellent glide and good precision.
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. Like the other 1015 series netbooks, there's a mechanism to cover the webcam lens when you're not using it. This cover makes it easy to cut the image, without deactivating the webcam completely.
Connectivity hasn't changed from previous models and there's still no USB 3.0. There are however 3 USB 2.0 ports, an RJ45, a headphones socket, a microphone and a 2-in-1 memory card reader. Wi-fi b/g/n is of course included and is accompanied by Bluetooth 3.0.
A small panel opens under the PC to give access to the RAM. Apart from that and the removable battery, there's no access to any of the other components.
Underneath, with the panels off
Power supply, VGA out, USB 2
Card reader, headpones, mic, USB 2.0 port (X 2), RJ45
In terms of temperature, the fan does well and the Asus Eee PC 1015PW hardly heats up at all. It's pretty much inaudible when processing office docs and only really gets 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.
Processing: mainly office docs and Internet
Like the 1015PEM, the 1015PW uses an Intel Atom N550 CPU. It's no surprise that this CPU confines it mainly to office document processing and Internet browsing (CPU index: 23). Although you can do some photo retouching and music or video encoding, you'll need to be patient as we're a long way behind what you get from your average notebook.
Windows 7 Starter takes 50 seconds to boot. It turns off in around ten seconds.
You won't be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on this machine as it's too jumpy. You'll have to make do with DVD or DivX type compressed videos. The GMA 3150 graphics can play HD 720p but not much more.
Gaming: a few old titles no moreGenerally 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.
Audio: headphones required but...As time goes by, the audio on the 1015 series is changing and not necessarily for the better. The old speaker gave a smothered sound but the new one is shrill. We're torn!
Of course, you tell yourself that under these conditions, it's best to go for the headphones. A good idea except that there's a lot of extraneous noise and an audible hiss. As a result the audio on the 1015PW definitely isn't its strong point. This is a shame. The mic in works well however.
Mobility, battery life: better than the 1015PEM
While the 1015PEM battery running Windows Family edition lasted 4h30, the 1015PW with the same processor but Windows Starter lasted 5h12 under the same conditions (video playback, headphones plugged in, screen at 100 cd/m², wi-fi and Bluetooth off). This is long enough for a day's note taking or to help you pass the time on a long journey.
When it comes to size, it's a pleasure to see the tiny bipolar charger so dear to Asus. It measures just 83 x 34 x 25 mm. The netbook itself is pretty standard at 1.25 Kg and an average thickness of 3 cm.
- Good battery life: 5h12 video playback
- Wide touchpad, nice to use
- Comfortable keyboard
- Nicely contrasted matte panel: 1090:1
- Colours completely false
- Webcam just about ok
- Ctrl, Shift and arrow keys too small
- Audio: the sound from the speakers needs work
While the 1015PW won't revolutionise netbooks in general or the Eee PC range, at least it won't disgrace itself either. It uses tried and tested components and adds a touch of fantasy.