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Asus Eee PC 1215N-PU17 (black) review: Asus Eee PC 1215N-PU17 (black)

Asus Eee PC 1215N-PU17 (black)

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
7 min read

Since the start of the Intel Atom era, we've longed for one thing: a dual-core version of that otherwise impressive power-saving CPU. Standard single-core Atom Netbooks are fine for basic tasks, but even when just Web surfing or typing they can be bogged down by bouts of seemingly random sluggishness. The Asus Eee PC 1215N aims to address this shortcoming by being the first premium Netbook/ultraportable to cross our desks with the dual-core D525 version of the Atom (although we've previously seen a couple with an older dual-core desktop/Nettop version of the Atom).


Asus Eee PC 1215N-PU17 (black)

The Good

Includes Intel's dual-core Atom CPU, plus Nvidia Ion graphics and Optimus graphic-switching technology; good game and video playback performance.

The Bad

Other low-cost ultraportables with AMD's dual-core Neo are faster; flimsy keyboard; stiff mouse buttons.

The Bottom Line

The Asus Eee PC 1215N combines Intel's dual-core Atom CPU with Nvidia Ion graphics and Optimus GPU-switching for an impressive overall package, but one that still feels a bit too much like a Netbook.

For $499, the Eee PC 1215N includes most of what we'd want from a current ultraportable, including a high-resolution 12-inch display, Nvidia Ion graphics (with Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching), and, most importantly, a dual-core CPU.

In practice, this is a big step up from typical $300-$400 Netbooks, but at the same time, similar systems with AMD's Neo CPU more closely approximate the feel of a full-power mainstream laptop. The Eee PC 1215N does do very well at basic gaming and HD video playback. Combined with the larger 12-inch screen, that makes for a potentially very useful travel system with serious multimedia chops.

Price as reviewed $499
Processor 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525
Memory 2GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive 250GB 5,400rpm
Chipset MCP79
Graphics Intel GMA 3150 / Nvidia Ion
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions (WD) 11.7 x 8.0 inches
Height 0.9-1.4 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 12.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.3/3.9 pounds
Category Ultraportable

The handful of 12-inch laptops currently available owes much more of their design heritage to 10- and 11-inch Netbooks than to the 13-inch laptops that are equally close in screen size (but going the other way). That means the Eee PC 1215N has a distinct Netbook-like feel, with a black plastic body (in a mix of glossy and matte finishes) and a gently tapered design that's slightly higher in the back to accommodate the battery.

It's a perfectly acceptable look, but one that also feels like a bit of a throwback after the recent Eee PC redesign in the 1018p model, which wowed us with its thin metallic body.

The keyboard is similar to the large island-style keys used on other recent smaller Eee PC models, with an extra vertical row added on the right to accommodate page-up, page-down, and other navigational buttons. We saw the same layout on Asus' previous 12-inch model, the Eee PC 1201N. The keys themselves work fine, and typing is reasonably fast and accurate, but the middle of the keyboard feels flimsy, with too much flex while we typed and an annoying clacky sound to the keys, such that the entire system felt a little cheap.

The large touch pad is a big improvement over both the usual small Asus touch pads and especially over the one found on the older 1201N. Instead of a tiny rectangle of raised dots, you get a traditional matte surface (also used on the rest of the wrist rest) that offers just the right amount of finger resistance.

Multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling, work better here than on many PC laptops--but still nowhere near as smoothly as on a MacBook. One major touch pad annoyance: the thin rocker bar (used in place of a superior two-button setup) is especially stiff and unyielding, making it hard to right click without several misfired attempts.

The display offers the standard 1,366x768-pixel native resolution found on nearly every laptop screen from 11 to 15 inches. That gives you plenty of room on screen for documents and Web pages, and it's also ideal for 720p HD video. The display is glossy, but not overly so, minimizing distracting glare from nearby lights. The internal speakers were acceptable for a small laptop, and reasonably loud, but serious movie or music playback will still require headphones or external speakers.

Asus Eee PC 1215N Average for category [ultraportable]
Video VGA, HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
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 Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None None

Despite the larger chassis, there are no exotic extra ports or connections to be found on the Eee PC 1215N, although we're pleased to see 2GB of RAM standard. The combination of Intel's dual-core Atom, plus Nvidia's one-two punch of an Ion GPU and Optimus graphics switching technology is the real standout here.

We've previously seen systems that crammed in an older dual-core Intel Atom, but this is the first laptop we've seen with Intel's newer dual-core D525 CPU (and it should be followed later this year by the Atom 550). In our benchmark testing, there was a definite improvement over the performance of single-core Intel N450 Netbooks (as we'd expect), but it was still definitely in the Netbook arena.

If there were no other options available, we might be very happy with the Atom D525's performance, but we've seen several 11- and 12-inch laptops with AMD's Neo processor recently. The single-core Neo is a decent match in many ways, and the dual-core Neo, as seen in the Dell M101z, for example, was significantly faster. Keep in mind that you'll pay about $80 more for a dual-core AMD Neo ultraportable. In everyday use, the Eee PC 1215N felt like a faster Netbook, but it's still not quite speedy enough to be our full-time general use laptop.

The Nvidia Ion/Optimus graphics combo, however, is a real winner, especially considering that you get it plus the dual-core Atom CPU, all for under $500. The Ion GPU handled basic gaming well, running Unreal Tournament III at 1,280x768 pixels at 40.5 frames per second and Street Fighter IV at 1,366x768 pixels at 21fps. HD video playback was likewise excellent, and the Ion GPU is supported by Flash 10.1, which is used by many streaming video Web sites for HD feeds.

Juice box
Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)  
Off 0.53
Sleep 0.67
Idle 10.38
Load 17.99
Raw kWh Number 33.98
Annual power consumption cost $3.86

Annual power consumption cost
Asus Eee PC 1215N

Switching to a dual-core CPU and adding better graphics capabilities might be expected to radically shorten the battery life of an Eee PC. Fortunately, the 1215N proved to be a solid performer in our video playback battery drain test, running for 3 hours and 56 minutes--as good or better than any premium Netbook/ultraportable we've seen (although standard Netbooks can easily run one hour extra or more).

At least part of that credit must go the Nvidia's Optimus technology, which turns the Ion GPU off and on automatically as needed. When not playing HD video or running an intensive application such as a video game, the system uses the default integrated Intel graphics instead, thereby nearly matching the battery life of a laptop without a separate GPU. The best part is that this all happens behind the scenes, with no need for the user to set anything up or manually switch between graphics profiles. We're seeing Optimus on more and more laptops recently, and it's close to becoming a must-have feature for any system with Nvidia graphics.

Asus includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system, and also offers a collection of online support tools, including driver downloads, online FAQs, and also a 24-7 toll-free phone line.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee PC 1215N

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

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee PC 1215N

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee PC 1215N

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee PC 1215N

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
Asus Eee PC 1215N
Windows 7 Home Premium; 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525 Dual-Core; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1033MHz; 512MB Nvidia ION; 250GB Seagate 5400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1201PN
Windows 7 Home Premium; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia ION; 250GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Asus Eee PC 1015P
Windows 7 Starter; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 250MB (Shared) Intel GMA 3150; 160GB Seagate 5400rpm

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 5400rpm

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 5400rpm


Asus Eee PC 1215N-PU17 (black)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Battery 8Support 7