Asus has more Eee PC Netbook varieties than we can practically count; if you've lost track, you're not alone. Nvidia Ion graphics are the big addition to the Eee PC 1015PN, a $429 higher-end configuration of the Eee PC 1015PEM and 1015PED we reviewed recently. This 10.1-inch Netbook, like the 1015PEM, also sports a new dual-core Atom N550 CPU.
We noted in our review of the Asus Eee PC 1015PEM that the dual-core Atom provides slight performance improvements without causing any extra strain on battery life or your wallet; dedicated Ion graphics offer an additional performance boost when it comes to video playback and even a little gameplay, but at a greater cost in both instances. The 1015PN with Ion is $60 more expensive than the dual-core Asus without.
Also, at an over-$400 price, the Eee PC 1015PN begins to edge uncomfortably close to 11.6-inch ultraportables such as the Dell M101z, which offer better performance. And, despite the premium price tag and features, the Eee PC 1015PN cuts corners on other specs: Windows 7 Starter, only 1GB of RAM, and a lack of an HD screen feel like disconnects. This is the best of all three Eee PC 10-inch Netbooks we've looked at in the 1015 line, but its cost may be a deterrent to some.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$429|
|Processor||1.5 GHz Intel Atom N550 dual core|
|Memory||1GB, DDR2 667 MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia Ion, + Intel GMA 3150|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.3 inches x 7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / weight with AC adapter||2.8 / 3.4 pounds|
Like many of Asus' recent Eee PC Netbooks, the 1015PN has a sleek, teardrop-shaped side profile, thicker at the back and tapering down to a sharp point at the nose. It's largely the same tapered/curved design we've seen on most Asus Eee PCs over the last year or so, and it's getting hard to muster excitement over yet another incrementally similar design. Smooth matte surfaces on the back lid and keyboard deck guard against fingerprints but still show some ambient gloss. This Eee PC line comes in red, blue, white, and black; our black model had a flat finish that showed a few fingerprint smudges. The back lid is rather thick, and the whole unit feels solid, even a bit dense, but the compact form felt easy to tuck away. Having no protruding batteries or edges other than a slight bump on the rear bottom is a plus.
The edge-to-edge raised Chiclet-style keyboard feels crisp and has no flex, but the smaller-than-full-size keys felt cramped after a while. In particular, the tiny wrist rest underneath feel too small for easy lap typing. A wide multitouch touch pad is composed of the same comfortable matte-smooth lid/palm rest material, and is delineated by thin silver strips on the left and right, a slight change from previous Eee PC models. The touch pad felt wider and less hedged-in than on previous models, though our thumbs tended to land on the pad when typing. A thin plastic button-bar beneath is too small but has a solid click.
Above the keyboard, a small plastic power button sits to the right, and a quick-start button lies side-by-side with a Wi-Fi on/off button on the left. Asus' Express Gate Cloud quick-start OS is a pared-down environment with its own browser, photo app, and a few other features. Despite its faster boot time, we doubt many people will be satisfied with its performance and limited options; most will opt to simply boot up Windows and keep the Eee PC in sleep mode between sessions.
The 10.1-inch LED matte screen on the 1015PN has a maximum pixel resolution of 1,024x600--standard for Netbooks, but we've noticed 1,366x768-pixel 10-inch Netbook displays becoming increasingly common. For the higher price, we expected a higher-res display in the 1015PN. Pictures and videos looked crisp and viewing angles were reasonable, but Web pages felt cramped at this limited resolution.
Stereo speakers, located on the bottom front edge of the Eee PC 1015PN, offered louder-than-average audio that actually sounded quite good for video viewing. They're not musically extravagant, but they're definitely good enough for most needs.
Asus chose to add a physical lens cover slider to its VGA Webcam, ostensibly to protect people against being unknowingly recorded. It seems a little silly, and if the tab is closed, some users might temporarily think their Webcam stopped working. Regardless, the picture quality is suitable for basic video chat, but its contrast levels created dark silhouettes. Cyberlink's YouCam software is included on the system, which can be launched from a pull-down software widget on the desktop and links to various Asus cloud-storage services and shortcuts.
|Asus Eee PC 1015PN||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Netbooks rarely surprise when it comes to ports and features, and this Asus Eee PC doesn't break the mold. It does, however, add HDMI, something other Eee PC 1015 models lacked. This allows the 1015PN to output HD video to a larger monitor or TV.
The speed of the included Atom N550 CPU is very similar to its single-core brethren, so most everyday tasks will feel exactly the same as they do on any other Netbook. Multitasking does see improvements, although we still wonder how much multitasking we'll really get done on a tiny 10-inch Netbook with such limited screen real estate.
The more notable addition on this Eee PC is Nvidia Ion graphics. Though automatically switching Nvidia Optimus technology isn't available on this Netbook, the dedicated Ion GPU significantly helps with HD video playback and streaming. Full-screen Netflix looked very good; ABC's Flash-based video player also looked great. Hulu in full screen was choppier than that, but still very watchable. If nothing else, Ion turns this Eee PC into a video-capable machine--something that many Atom Netbooks really aren't.
Games can also be played, within reason. Unreal Tournament III ran at 27.4fps in native 1,024x600-pixel resolution, and we found other casual or older mainstream games to be very playable on the Eee PC 1015PN. The one big drawback, other than the small screen, comes from the increased fan-blown heat that billows out the side of this Eee PC when using GPU-intensive tasks such as Flash 10.1 streaming-video playback.
With that much heat dissipation, you'd expect this would take a toll on battery life; indeed, it does.