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Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black) review: Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black)

Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black)

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein
Scott_Stein.jpg

Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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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.

Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black)
7.3

Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black)

The Good

Nvidia Ion graphics for improved video playback and gaming; HDMI-out port added; dual-core Atom CPU.

The Bad

No automatic-switching graphics; lacks higher-def display; only 1GB of RAM; price approaches better-performing 11.6-inch ultraportables.

The Bottom Line

The compact 10-inch Asus Eee PC 1015PN offers a dual-core Atom processor and Nvidia Ion graphics for decidedly better-than-average Netbook performance, but premium ultraportables that aren't much more expensive can do better still.

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
Chipset NM10
Graphics Nvidia Ion, + Intel GMA 3150
Operating system Windows 7 Starter
Dimensions (WD) 10.3 inches x 7 inches
Height 0.8-1.4 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / weight with AC adapter 2.8 / 3.4 pounds
Category Netbook

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]
Video VGA, HDMI VGA
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
Expansion None None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

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.

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee PC 1015PN
266 

Annual power consumption cost

Juice box
Asus Eee PC 1015PN Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.60
Sleep (10 percent) 1.10
Idle (25 percent) 11.43
Load (5 percent) 20.66
Raw kWh 38.20
Annual energy cost $4.34

The Asus Eee PC 1015PN's six-cell battery lasted 4 hours and 26 minutes on our video playback battery-drain test. That's over an hour less than the otherwise identical Ion-free Eee PC 1015PEM. More than 4 hours will still be good enough for some, but the graphics power on this laptop does take a toll on how much juice you'll get. Play a lot of Flash-based video or games, and you'll be heading for a power outlet that much sooner.

Asus offers a standard one-year warranty with the Eee PC 1015PN. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and an online knowledge base and driver downloads are available on its Web site. It's a little hard to track down phone numbers and model numbers, but we eventually found what we were looking for (it's 1-888-678-3688).

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

Asus Eee PC 1015PN
Windows 7 Starter; 1.5GHz Intel Atom N550 Dual-Core; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia ION; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

HP Mini 5103
Windows 7 Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Atom N550 Dual-Core; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB (Shared) Intel GMA 3150; 160GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron M101z
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.3GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K325; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 384MB (Dedicated) ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225; 320GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Gateway LT3201u
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.7GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 384MB (Dedicated) ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4225; 250GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1215N
Windows 7 Home Premium; 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525 Dual-Core; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1033MHz; 512MB Nvidia ION; 250GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Acer Aspire One D255-1203
Windows 7 Starter; 1.5GHz Intel Atom N550 Dual-Core; 1024MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 256MB (Shared) Intel GMA 3150; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black)
7.3

Asus Eee PC 1015PN-PU17 (black)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 7Support 7