Introduction, Specifications, Availability, and Pricing
Netbooks are growing up right before our eyes. When they first surfaced, the screens were in the 7-inch range. They then grew to a norm of 10-inches and today the 12.1-inch netbook is fast becoming one of the most popular sizes on the market. These machines have more screen space and perhaps more importantly a larger keyboard than the 10-inch netbooks we typically see.
I am sure there are many people out there who have been waiting for a nice netbook to surface with Optimus tech and Ion graphics from NVIDIA. ASUS has put one of its shiny new Eee 1215N netbooks into our geeky little hands and it has all the goodies packed inside.
We have some high expectations for this little 12.1-inch netbook. Battery life is one of the things we expect great things from, given the tech inside. How well will it perform all around is a big question, so let's get right to it.
Specifications, Availability, and Pricing
ASUS' Eee 1215N netbook went on sale today with a recommended price of $499. The machine should be available at just about any store you want to shop at as you read this review.
At the time of writing, the 1215N was under embargo. Check out the full specifications of the ASUS Eee 1215N below:
ASUS Eee 1215N
The 12.1-inch screen is glossy and has the same issues with glare as most netbooks and notebooks do, but it looks great with video streaming.
The right side of the ASUS Eee 1215N has a pair of USB ports, Kensington lock port, Ethernet jack and the mic/headphone ports. The little machine is impressively thin.
The left side of the 1215N has VGA out, HDMI out, USB port, a cooling grate and the memory card reader. The little port to the left of the VGA output is the tiny AC adapter for the machine.
The bottom of the netbook has nothing to see but the battery releases, cooling grates and the covers for the storage and RAM.
The keyboard is nicely sized, well spaced and has good typing feel. The right Shift key is smaller than the left, which is a pet peeve of mine.
My review unit was brushed silver on top. The 1215N is also available in glossy black.
Performance - A/V Encoding, Battery Life and Boot Time
Below is the CPU-Z screen shot so you can see what ASUS is working with.
A/V Encoding and Battery Life
The ASUS Eee 1215N will be run through the standard notebook/netbook test regime here at TweakTown. This includes iTunes Encoding and Media Transcoding plus Battery Eater Pro for battery life estimation. This machine will also be put through our new expanded benchmark regime with the addition of boot time, PCMark Vantage, SuperPi, and Cinebench.
All systems are tested "as is", which means operating systems and drivers can and do vary and some come pre-installed with applications that may or may not affect performance. Any anti-virus or security applications are disabled and uninstalled before any testing is started as they can affect test numbers.
For the iTunes encoding test I take Stone Temple Pilots - Core CD album in MP3 format and encode it to AAC format using iTunes and time the results with a stopwatch.
All tests are performed with the system in High Performance mode with minimum CPU set to 100%.
The ASUS Eee 1215N was dead last in this benchmark with a time to encode the album that was more than twice as long as the next slowest machine.
For the movie encoding test I take the Microsoft Magic of Flight VC-1 WMV video with six channel audio (1080p HD) and transcode it to XviD (1080p HD) with LAME MP3 two channel audio and a MP4 container using MediaCoder 0.7.3.4616 32-bit edition.
All tests are performed with the system in High Performance mode with minimum CPU set to 100%.
The ASUS Eee 1215N was last in the movie encoding benchmark with a time over 300 seconds longer than the eCafe netbook I reviewed before.
Battery Eater Pro is very hard on batteries, so you are likely to get more run time in the real world, depending on how you use the machine. Since we compare all laptops and netbooks the exact same way though, it creates a fair and balanced playing field for our comparisons.
For the power saving mode test I run the machine in 'Power Saver' mode with turn off display disabled and brightness set to 50%, sleep mode disabled, HDD turn off disabled and minimum CPU set to 5%.
For the performance mode test I run the machine in 'High Performance' mode with turn off display disabled and brightness set to 100%, sleep mode disabled, HDD turn off disabled and minimum CPU set to 100%. Do note that some systems even when set to 100% CPU may force drop down the clock speed when AC power is lost.
Wireless is kept enabled during all tests and nothing else unusual is disabled. Time is rounded up to the nearest minute.
The ASUS Eee 1215N took a beating at the hands of the competition in the iTunes and movie encoding benchmarks, but it paid those other machines back in spades in the battery life benchmark, taking second place a mere two minutes behind the ViewBook Pro on a single battery in performance mode and beating the next place machine with almost twice the runtime.
Boot Time Testing
We measured using a stopwatch and timed from the point we turned the system on until the very first point the desktop was reached and fully loaded.
This is a new benchmark we'll be including hereon in all notebook and AIO desktop reviews. As you can see, the machine booted surprisingly quickly.
Performance - PCMark Vantage, CINEBENCH and Super Pi
PCMark Vantage 64-bit
Version and / or Patch Used: Nov 2007 Hotfix
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
The 1215N is the first machine that I have run through my new extended benchmark regime and with that in mind there are no scores to compare to right now.
CINEBENCH R11.5 64-bit
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 11.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
This is another of my new benchmarks, so there are no scores for comparison at this time.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5 Mod XS
Developer Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Product Homepage: http://pw1.netcom.com/~hjsmith/Pi/Super_Pi.html
Developed by some folks from the University of Tokyo (yes, Japan), Super PI is a small utility that does just as the name implies. It figures PI to a set number of decimal places. Since PI is an infinite number to the right of the decimal point, the utility measures the time it takes to figure a set number of places. It runs the calculations a set number of times and gives a time for the completion of the task. This is a simple and effective way to measure the raw number crunching power of the processor being used to compile the results.
Another new benchmark for my netbook regime, as you can see from the single score.
Hands on Use and Final Thoughts
Hands on Use
After all the benchmarks are finished up, I got to play with the machine and use it for some normal work. I like the larger 12.1-inch screen compared to some of the other netbooks. That screen is glossy and has 720p HD resolution, which is a nice complement to the Ion graphics with the streaming prowess to make media fans very happy. The big glossy screen means that there is a lot of glare to contend with in anything but a dark room.
The 1215N and its Ion graphics are simply top notch when it comes to streaming video content online. Watching shows streaming from Hulu is fantastic. The video is smooth and stutter free and the colors are correct and realistic. Skin tones are also natural; the 1215N is one of the best machines for streaming your favorite online videos that I have used. It's nice to be able to say that about a machine that is a small and cheap as the 1215N. I also really appreciate the fact that that video prowess doesn't come at the cost of battery life, thanks to the NVIDIA Optimus tech.
One downside to the 1215N is that the sound system is a bit meek. It has decent volume, but lacks the bass that I like in my movies. A good set of external speakers or headphones will go a long way to fixing that lack of bass. The volume is good enough to hear clearly in most environments.
The keyboard on the netbook is larger than I typically see thanks to the 12.1-inch screen. The keyboard is sized well, has good key spacing and offers nice tactile feedback. You can type on it all day without any issues. The right Shift key is annoyingly smaller than the left shift key. This is more forgivable on the larger 12.1-inch netbook than it is on some of the smaller netbooks that have the same layout with the small right Shift key.
The netbook also has a very nicely sized track pad with good sensitivity. That track pad is separated well from the bulk of the wrist rest of the machine and the buttons are well sized and easy to click and use. The track pad is exactly what you expect it to be. Another nice touch for the security conscious user is the sliding cover over the webcam to make sure you can only be seen online when you want to be.
After all was said and done, I think that the ASUS Eee 1215N really performed well for its expected use. This machine came in dead last on a couple of my benchmarks, but obliterated all but one of the competition when it came to battery life.
That positions this netbook in the perfect spot for the person who is less worried about being able to do things like encoding media and more into a machine that can stream video between classes or meetings and has the power for average computer work when you need to be all business for a very long time on a single charge.
This might be the perfect netbook to complement a larger, more powerful, but less portable full notebook or desktop computer. If you are into a lot of media encoding and editing, the 1215N might not meet your needs alone, but if you want a platform for movie watching and entertainment and have a second machine to do the heavy workloads, the 1215N is a great option.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com
United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca
Deutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de