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What differentiates one netbook model from any other of the same size? There are only a few flavors, after all: last-gen netbooks, with Atom N270 or N280 processors and Windows XP; current-gen netbooks, with Pine Trail Atom processors and Windows 7; and Ion-based netbooks, with Nvidia mobile graphics and middlin’ battery life. Well, you could wait for second-gen Ion netbooks, which promise excellent gaming power and 10-hour battery life. Or you could go for the Asus Eee 1201N, which offers first-gen Ion performance and—get this—a friggin’ dual-core processor.
The 12-inch 1201N is the first netbook we’ve tested with an honest-to-goodness dual-core processor inside—Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom N330, which you may remember from bare-bones Ion boards and nettops. Paired with the N330 is Nvidia’s first-gen Ion platform, which turns a 12-inch netbook into something approaching a gaming platform (if 7-year-old titles fit your idea of games). The last Ion device we reviewed, the HP Mini 311 (February 2010), used a single-core N280, while upcoming second-gen Ion netbooks will use single-core Atom N450s. So is there a niche for a dual-core Atom netbook with Ion?
We’re gonna say yes. The Eee 1201N seems like the electronic offspring of a notebook/netbook union. With a 12.1-inch LED-backlit screen at 1366x768, 2GB of RAM (finally!), a 250GB HDD, and Windows 7 Home Premium, it trends more toward the usability end of the netbook spectrum than the portability end—although at a lap weight of three pounds, 3.5 ounces, it’s hardly a backbreaker.
The dual-core Atom really shined in our Photoshop and MainConcept tests, besting our zero-point system by 28 percent and 66 percent, respectively, and setting netbook performance records. The Ion-powered graphics performance was slightly lower than that of the HP Mini 311, most likely due to the Mini 311’s faster front-side bus and DDR3 memory. The 1201N even outperformed the Toshiba Satellite T115 ultraportable (reviewed March 2010) in everything but Photoshop. Put that in your calabash and smoke it, netbook haters.
Unfortunately, that processing power comes at a price. The 1201N’s six-cell Li-ion battery withstood our full-screen DVD-quality video-playback test for just three hours, 11 minutes. In an age of Pine Trail netbooks, which get more than seven and a half hours from a six-cell, that’s a major bummer. Still, until second-gen Ion netbooks (with their Optimus battery-saving tech) are available, that’s still ample time for a bit of fun on the plane.
The 1201N’s chassis is everything we’d expect from an Asus seashell-type netbook: thin, decent chiclet keyboard, responsive touch pad, and smudge-prone glossy-black finish. It’s attractive, though not particularly innovative. It’s also nice that Asus didn’t gimp the 1201N with a Starter version of Windows 7, and both SO-DIMM slots are easily accessible for RAM upgrades.
At $500, the 1201N hits the upper end of the netbook range. But that buys you Ion graphics, dual-core processing power, 2GB of RAM, a real version of Windows 7, and a screen that can display 720p video. Next-gen Ion systems will have better battery life, but will they be dual-core? We’ve gotta give Asus credit for releasing a 12-inch netbook with moxie and proving that Atom isn’t dead yet.
Dual-core performance; thin profile; comfortable keyboard; Ion graphics; 2GB RAM.
Middlin' battery life; hard drive not easily upgradable; smudge-prone.
|Asus Eee 1201N |
|Processor||Intel Atom 330 Dual Core @ 1.6GHz|
|Chipset||Nvidia Ion LE|
|Graphics ||Nvidia Ion LE |
|Display||12.1-inch LED-backlit WXGA LCD @ 1366x768|
|RAM||2GB DDR2/533 |
|Storage||250GB 5,400rpm HDD|
|Ports||Three USB 2.0, HDMI-out, VGA-out, SD reader, audio|
|Wireless||802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR|
|Lap/Carry||3 lb, 3.5 oz / 3 lb, 11.5 oz|
| Zero Point||Asus Eee 1201N |
|Premiere Pro CS3||708 secs||550 |
|Main Concept ||251 mins||151 |
|3DMark3||710||4,070 (+473.2%) |
|Quake 3||60.9 fps||121.4|
|Quake 4||3.6 fps||33 (+816.7%)|
|Battery Life (mins) ||255 mins||191 (-25.1%) |