ASUS 1201N: Eee 1005 Grows Up

If all you had to look at was Internet photos, you might have difficulty telling the difference between the 1005 series and the 1201N. The new model is basically the same exterior design - including the fingerprint grabbing glossy black exterior - only two inches larger. With the extra inches comes at least one addition that makes the 1201N better than most other netbooks: HDMI output. A few other Atom-based netbooks offer HDMI ports, but ION provides enough performance to make the inclusion of an HDMI port useful. If you have a USB Blu-ray drive, the 1201N will handle Blu-ray playback on a 1080p display. (We sent our HP Mini 311 with external Blu-ray back to NVIDIA, so we can't perform that test ourselves. Since it worked with a slower single-core N270, though, the Atom 330 will do at least as well.)

One thing that didn't grow up is the LCD quality, unfortunately, as the contrast ratio checks in at a relatively poor 275:1. That's better than just about any other netbook, but it's lousy compared to the 1005HA (or at least the 1005HA we tested; you never know what you'll get with LCD panel lotteries). Like many other laptops and netbooks, we're getting a display where quality has been sacrificed to the almighty bottom line, but glossy plastic remains all the rage. We don't like it, we know most other people we've talked to don't like it… and yet few of the manufacturers seem to be paying much attention, at least not in the $500 netbook/laptop market. C'est la vie!

With the added performance and power requirements, it's worth noting that chassis sizes are likely to bottom out at around 12". We've heard people say they want something like the 1201N in a 10.1" netbook, but honestly we'd be surprised if anyone can do that with the current offerings. Atom 330 and ION put out more heat and thus benefit from larger heatsinks and more powerful fans. It may not be impossible, but we still think it's unlikely, and personally I'm a lot happier with 12.1" and a 1366x768 LCD than any of the 10.1" offerings.

The design is pretty much what we've come to expect from ASUS. The plastic doesn't have a truly rugged feel, so it may not hold up to a lot of abuse, but otherwise it works fine. Incidentally, the glossy plastic (like most other glossy laptops) is prone to scratches, which will quickly mar the surface over time. The touchpad is something that is up to personal opinion; I wasn't a huge fan of the "bumpy" touchpad when I first encountered it on the 1005HA, but it has since grown on me. I'd just as soon use a mouse if at all possible, but this one works as well as any touchpad and better than most. The touchpad also supports multi-touch, which is nice feature. The "rocker" style mouse buttons are a different matter; again, a dedicated mouse solves the problem, but we prefer separate right and mouse buttons.

The battery is the same size/capacity as in the 1005HA and the new 1005PE, which means less battery life from the 1201N given it has a second CPU core and 9400M/ION is known to use more power than 945GSE, not to mention a larger LCD and twice as much RAM. ASUS also has their Super Hybrid Engine software installed on the 1201N, which is supposed to optimize performance and battery life as appropriate. The overclock on AC power tops out at a measly 136MHz bus (a 2.3% overclock), and unlike the 1005HA the power saver setting doesn't underclock the bus. Also worthy of note is that the Atom 330 doesn't support SpeedStep, so the CPU runs at a constant 1.60GHz (12 x 133MHz); an automatic underclock on battery power would be particularly useful. Sadly, the utility isn't nearly as useful as on the 1005HA or Power4Gear on the UL80Vt.

Finally, it's worth noting that the 1201N comes with Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Windows 7 Starter; the 2GB RAM and ION GPU make Home Premium more useful, and we appreciate the difference in look and feel. At least Starter no longer has the silly limitations of previous Starter versions where you couldn't multitask more than three applications (whew).

The overall premise for the 1201N is pretty straightforward: take ION-based netbooks and give them twice as many CPU cores. Our experience with the HP Mini 311 left us wanting in terms of gaming performance, but the 1201N may have enough muscle to run a few more titles. Let's find out.

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  • bsoft16384 - Saturday, December 26, 2009 - link

    Maybe someone can answer this for me - does the Eee PC 1201N support x86-64? The desktop Atom CPUs (Atom 330) do, but the mobile Atom CPUs have it disabled. Since this laptop apparently has a desktop Atom CPU, presumably it supports 64-bit as well? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 26, 2009 - link

    Yes, it supports 64-bit, but the default OS is 32-bit. Since it apparently only supports up to 3GB RAM, however, it's probably not important to install a 64-bit OS. There are a few apps where 64-bit code can boost performance by ~5%, but the higher memory requirements would likely decrease performance in other apps. Reply
  • vavutsikarios - Saturday, December 26, 2009 - link

    I would like to see how the 1291N compares to Acer Ferrari one.

    They are same size (the acer has the same 1366x768 on a 11.6 screen), exact same price, have comparable CPUs and graphics capabilities, same HDD and memory size, same OS.

    They are, obviously, direct competitors.
    Reply
  • vavutsikarios - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    Correction: the Acer comes with the Win 7 Home Premium 64bit version, so it's not the exact same OS.

    Despite that, I still can't think of any other machine that feels so much similar, hardware-wise, with the 1291N.
    I mean, the absence of intel graphics is by itself enough to differentiate those machines from the majority of netbooks out there. And then you add Win7, and they become even more different, and even more similar -with each other.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    I've already sent in a request; we'll see if Acer fulfills it. Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, December 24, 2009 - link

    What is preventing someone from putting out a CULV + an nvidia 9300 chipset??? Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Friday, December 25, 2009 - link

    I'm sure something like that may exist, but you couldn't really call it a netbook anymore, but an Ultra-portable. Once you go there, you typically end up paying 4-5 times more than you would for a netbook. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, December 25, 2009 - link

    The 9300 and 9400 are essentially the same, but regardless no one has created a CULV with NVIDIA IGP so far. There are discrete GPUs with some CULV laptops, but that's as close as we get. Anyway, 9300M is just 9400M with lower clocks. Reply
  • evident - Thursday, December 24, 2009 - link

    This thing is almost pushing $500. If you look around you can find a nice intel pentium dual core 14" laptop for the same price. granted, the netbook is alot smaller and that itself is worth something, but i still feel that the compromise is still too great. IMO, the sweet spot for an ion netbook would be $200. Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, December 31, 2009 - link

    Just buy a Intel CULV (Core2 based) if you like a small notebook. Atom is great, (think embedded space), but with ION, large screen etc I don't really get it. But at least netbooks (with Ion or Broadcom Crystal HD) will be more useful when Flash 10.1 hits none beta release. GMA 4500MHD is still a pretty good fit for accelerated flash (video) though, and the faster cpu helps with a lot of things. I think it would be more interesting to shrink the atom devices to the MID size. Finishing up Moblin would also be nice. Maemo has showed you can create a pretty good consumer Linux MID already. But they become pretty pointless as stand alone internet devices though. Reply

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