By ditching the long-in-the-tooth Intel Atom processor for the AMD E-350 Fusion platform, Asus graduates this 12.1-inch Eee PC from the flailing Netbook category to the more comfortable ultraportable one. At $449, which includes a USB 3.0 port, the Eee PC 1215B compared favorably with the 11.6-inch HP Pavilion dm1z, which looks nicer and has a faster hard drive, but lacks USB 3.0.
HP Pavilion dm1z
Lenovo ThinkPad X120e
Samsung Series 9
If you're not looking to spend $1,000 or more on an 11.6-inch MacBook Air or Samsung Series 9, one of these sub-$500 AMD ultraportables is the way to go. The basic Eee PC look and feel is dated, and definitely ready for an upgrade, but for only a little more than last year's step-up Netbooks, you'll get performance that's much less of a compromise.
|Price as reviewed||$449|
|Processor||1.6GHz AMD E-350|
|Memory||2GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Radeon HD 6310|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.7x8 inches|
|Height||0.9 - 1.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||12.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.4 pounds/3.8 pounds|
We've seen a lot of subtle variations on the Eee PC design over the years, but if there's one thing this new 1215B confirms, it's that the overall look and feel of the line is due for an aesthetic upgrade. The smudge-attracting matte-black plastic worked fine for low-cost Atom-powered Netbooks, but trading up to a more mainstream processor and higher price, we'd like to see some visual differentiation. For example, the last 12-inch Eee PC we looked at, the 1215N from August 2010, looks identical to this model. We called it "a bit of a throwback," even last year.
The familiar island-style keyboard is similar to what we've seen on other Eee PC models, and also very close to the one on the HP dm1z. The Asus version adds an extra vertical row on the right to accommodate Page Up, Page Down, and other navigational buttons.
The large touch pad looks at first like the clickpad-style ones found on MacBooks and HP's dm1z, but there is actually a small button bar below it for the left and right mouse buttons. Those button bars are universally a pain to use, and we'd much rather have a clickpad or distinct left and right mouse buttons.
The display has the familiar 1,366x768-pixel native resolution found on nearly every laptop screen from 11 to 15 inches. On a 12-inch laptop, that gives you plenty of space for documents and Web pages, and it's also good for 720p HD video. The display is glossy, so it occasionally picks up distracting glare from nearby lights, and off-axis viewing was better horizontally than vertically.
|Asus Eee PC 1215B||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
There are few surprises in the ports and connections on the 1215B, with the exception of a single USB 3.0 port. While it's unlikely that you have a lot of USB 3.0-certified gear lying around, it's a nice bit of future-proofing, and we're seeing it added to most mid- to high-level laptops. It's where we'd go for next-gen peripherals, as it doesn't look like the competing Thunderbolt high-speed data port is going anywhere fast.
Our Eee PC 1215B included what seems to be close to the standard loadout for a sub-$500 AMD ultraportable: AMD's 2011 E-350 Fusion processor, coupled with onboard AMD Radeon 6310 graphics, 2GB of RAM, and a 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive. Ordering a similar system from HP will give you some basic configuration options, mostly in the hard-drive size and speed, and amount of RAM.
For basic use, from Web surfing to productivity to media playback, there's a notable difference in feel between a system with this configuration over an Intel Atom Netbook. You'll spend a lot less time waiting and more time working, which is a major plus. Performance was on par with other E-350 laptops, including the Sony Vaio Y, HP's dm1z, and Lenovo's ThinkPad X120e.
The onboard graphics are certainly a major step up from what you'd find in a 2010 laptop with integrated Intel or AMD graphics, but don't mistake this for a gaming machine. Unreal Tournament III ran at 22.7 frames per second, and the newer Street Fighter IV ran at 15fps, both at the native 1,366x768-pixel resolution. Cranking down the settings and resolution should get you a playable experience in most mainstream games.
|Asus Eee PC 1215B||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh number||34.25|
|Annual power consumption cost||$3.89|