Handling, design and build: best ease-of-use in its category
Asus cleverly sent us the silver version of the Eee PC 1215N. Above and beyond how nice it looks, this colour picks up less marks and dust than the blacks we see everywhere on our computers. We've been using it for a few days and we can't but be impressed that there aren't more marks on the wrist rest and the rest of the shell. In addition, the plastic is smooth and soft to the touch and doesn't stick to your fingers. The same however can't be said for the glossy black plastic screen surround and the keys on the keyboard. Though it might look good, marks and micro-scratches are inevitable on this type of material.
The Asus Eee PC 1215N has an excellent finish and is very robust; the screen hinge gives an impression of sturdiness. It is moreover nice and discreet and allows you to lower the base of the screen behind the chassis, which takes up less space when the computer is open.
The keyboard with its spaced keys (14.5 x 14 mm) is the same as the one used on the 1201N, a happy decision! It gives excellent ease-of-use, with firm, rapid typing. We like the fact that the keys haven't been resized.
The touchpad (multi-touch) is extra-wide (84 x 49 mm), even bigger than the pads which currently equip some 15-inch laptops! With 2 chrome bands either side, it uses the same smooth and soft plastic as on the wrist rest. The glide is very good and you won't have any problems with its precision.
Underneath, there's a silver bar with left and right clicks. They're quite noisy and you have to press down hard on them to activate them. We would have liked to see them on the edge of the wrist rest to facilitate access with the thumb.
The webcam image is fine. It is fluid enough for selective usage during instant messaging. It does however lack sharpness and contrast. Note that the webcam lens has a very practical cover that you can push over the lens to mask it without stopping your conversation.
In spite of having a dual-core processor, designed more for mini-PCs/nettops, the fan used in the Asus Eee PC 1215N does an effective job without being particularly noisy. You can hear the fan accellerate during heavy processing (photo retouching, video editing, gaming), which makes the machine more audible but not particularly so.
Connectivity is standard with 3 USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI, a VGA, an RJ45, a mic, a headphone, a 2-in-1 card reader and an anti-theft.
Wi-Fi b/g/n is of course included, along with Bluetooth 3.0. As of October you'll also have the option of a model with USB 3.0, which will take the 1215N's price up slightly.
A small panel opens under the PC to give access to the RAM. The 2 slots are occupied by two 1 GB models. The battery is removable and sticks out slightly under the machine.
|Asus Eee PC 1215N from above
||Power supply, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0, fan, memory card reader
|Touchpad and click bar
||Headphones, mic, 2 USB 2.0s, RJ45, antitheft
Processing: an economical dual-core good for multitasking
Windows 7 index: 3.2. Details: CPU 3.5 - Memory 5.1 - Graphics 3.2 - Gaming graphics 4.9 - Main hard drive 5.7.
Like the Eee PC 1201N in its time, the Asus Eee PC 1215N uses a dual-core, usually reserved for nettops/mini-PCs. At 1.8 GHz the Intel Atom D525's clock is 200 MHz higher than the old Atom 330. It's heat dissipation envelope is also 5 Watts higher, which is not negligeable as the D525 alone can draw up to 13 Watts. The important difference comes in terms of the graphics chipset and memory controller integration. In all, a solution based on the D525 only consumes 14.5 Watts, against 33.5 Watts for the Atom 330 solution!
From the point of view of processor performance, there isn't a great difference as the D525 only gives a 15% improvement on the Atom 330. In comparison to a netbook using the Atom N450 - the most common processor used on netbooks - the Asus Eee PC 1215N is 50% faster overall and the dual-core gives much better responsiveness during multi-tasking with Windows 7 Premium 32-bit pre-installed on the machine.
The Intel Atom D525 unfortunately can 't decode HD 1080p (equivalent to Blu-Ray films). Fortunately however, the NVIDIA ION chipset is there to take on this task and free up the processor for other work. You'll need to activate hardware acceleration with compatible sofware such as PowerDVD 9, Media Player Classic Home Cinema or VLC in order to benefit from the excellent video decoding capacities of the ION chipset. CPU occupation then drops to under 10% and fluidity is perfect.
3D gaming: limit graphics settings to get more fluidity
In spite of the new NVIDIA ION chipset with 16 CUDA units - twice as many as on the first generation Asus Eee PC 1201N - performance is still too limited to make this netbook a veritable gamer PC.
You'll have to forget most recent games if you want good fluidity at native resolution. Games such as Starcraft 2 are only just playable at no more than 20 fps.
It is however possible to pllay older titles and/or more demanding games if you're reasonable in terms of your graphics settings: Half-Life 2, Counter Strike Source, Warcraft 3, World of Warcraft, and so on...
Audio: headphones on if you want good sound
The Asus Eee PC 1215N may give nice video images, but the soundtrack is something else. Lack of bass and too much high end. The results lack in depth and detail, so much so that you'll quickly be donning your headphones if you want audio worthy of the name. The headphones out has no hiss and gives sufficient quality to enjoy mp3s and watch films in good conditions.
Mobility, battery life: Optimus to the rescue
In spite of a lower capacity battery than with the Eee PC 1201N (5200 mAh against 5600 mAh), the 1215N outlasts its predecessor by 8 minutes. 3h43 video playback (Wi-Fi deactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²) isn't a bad score for such a well-equipped netbook. This is achieveable both because of the low power consumption of the processor with integrated graphics and the NVIDIA Optimus technology which means you only use the ION chipset when necessary (video gaming, HD video decoding). With SD video playback (DVD type), the Intel graphics part holds the fort. As it's more economical than the NVIDIA chip, using it lowers overall consumption.
At 1.45 kg, the Asus Eee PC 1215N is slim and easy to carry around with its small charger.