Mobile ION Does Gaming… Sometimes

We tried all of these games on the Gateway EC5409u and 1201N. With its GMA 4500MHD GPU and with the latest drivers, the EC5409u performance is in the single digits on most titles, even at minimum detail levels. We wanted to show results for the 1201N and its closest competition in a large number of titles, including older and newer games. (We brought back a few older gaming tests to see if 1201N could run them acceptably; we didn't try to pull together results from previously tested laptops on those games.)

Assassin's Creed DX9

Batman: Arkham Asylum



Empire: Total War

Fallout 3

Far Cry 2


Mass Effect

Devil May Cry 4

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

FEAR2: Project Origin

Half-Life 2: Episode 2


So the good news is that the 1201N can definitely handle gaming… but the bad news is that it's only in some games. Falling into the "acceptable performance" category are titles like Empire: Total War, Fallout 3, Devil May Cry 4, Spore, Sims, and any other less demanding titles. A few titles are borderline, like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Crysis, FEAR2, Half-Life 2 EP2, Oblivion, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Games that really stress the CPU performance end up in the dog house. Assassin's Creed, Far Cry 2, GRID, and in particular Mass Effect all fall into the "need more CPU power" category. Still, the 1201N is a universally superior gaming solution compared to any laptop using current Intel graphics.

As for the potential of ION, we can see that with the Studio 14z. It's always a good deal faster than the 1201N, and in several titles it's even more than twice as fast. 3DMark put the 14z as being ~40% faster than the 1201N, but only Empire: Total War matches that figure.

General Performance: Dual-Core Beats Single-Core Windows OS Performance
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  • YpoCaramel - Friday, January 22, 2010 - link

    130cd/m2 is too dim for portable use. These levels might be useful for getting accurate color in lighting controlled rooms, but most ultra-portables don't have that luxury. Even if they are kept indoors they will encounter a variety of lighting conditions, some of which will make the screen quite difficult to see at such low brightness. What's worse, the screen is reflective. Sufficient brightness can minimize reflections, but the 1210N just doesn't have the brightness. The competition can do better - even old the eeePC 1000H.
  • darkryft - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    I personally feel the 1201N is a great evolution for the netbook, but probably represents the limit. To go any further in size any number of other features would drive the cost to where it is no longer a netbook, it's a laptop.

    There are some drawbacks, yes, and there are laptops that can be had for nearly the same money the perform better, but this is a fantastic feature set in the ultra-portable class. I'm personally phasing myself out of PC gaming and desktop computing as a whole, and I will probably invest in a full-on laptop at some point, but for documents, music, and netsurfing this will easily handle the tasks.

    If only it were cost-feasible to drop a Patriot Torqx in this thing.
  • SmCaudata - Saturday, December 26, 2009 - link

    The ASUS 14" laptop seems like the best portable out there right now. The battery life is good enough were you really don't need to bring your charger everywhere and it's price is not much more than this dual core netbook for much better performace. There are a few select situations where one may absolutely need 11" or smaller, but for 99% of the users out there I cannot imagine that the 14" thin and light ASUS is too big. If I were in the market for a laptop it is certainly the one that I would buy.
  • Rsaeire - Saturday, December 26, 2009 - link

    " decoding and in particular gaming are too much for the 4500MHD."

    The Intel GMA 4500MHD supports full hardware acceleration of HD video codecs, MPEG-2, VC-1 and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 26, 2009 - link

    Yes, but Flash 10.1 still struggles on HD movies.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Yes, but Flash 10.1 is currently at beta 2, a full-featured release isn't available yet.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Exactly, and do you buy something with GMA 4500MHD with the hope that everything gets worked out in the next couple of months as far as Flash goes, or do you wait and see first, or do you go with ION? I'm inclined to take one of the latter two approaches, as buying something with the assumption that it will work later (see GMA 500 -- no recent XP driver updates, and as far as I can tell the Acer 751h still has major issues with stability) isn't a great plan.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Alternately, I might just wait for something like this.">

  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Actually, having seen Adobe in action, I'd probably wait. Haven't seen too many things they can't break to some degree, even sometimes after they have fixed them.

    Ion is cool, don't get me wrong. However, Intel's 4500 onboard video has been the first video product I've seen from them that seems to work well for almost everything except gaming. I rarely switch on my Radeon 3470 mobile graphics (I have a ThinkPad with switchable graphics) for this reason. If I was in the market, I'd rather get an SU2300 laptop than an N330 once I've seen what Flash 10.1 release looks like --and your review actually convinced me of that, as I'd have been on the fence before.
  • Spivonious - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    But that's not due to the 4500MHD, it's due to Flash not taking advantage of it.

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