ASUS 12.1" (250 GB, Atom, 1.6 GHz, 2 GB) Notebook - EPC1201NPU17BK

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The ASUS 1201N, ultraportable, NVIDIA powered, netbook is the Apple iPad killer for 2010!

Mar 29, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:Dual channel memory, 8Gb Maximum RAM, NVIDIA ION graphics, ergonomic keyboard.

Cons:Slow hard drive, no built-in cellular modem options, yet…

The Bottom Line:

The ASUS 1201N netbook now has dual channel memory and NVIDIA ION graphics processing power to make this the ideal choice for the student or business executive on the go!


The ASUS 1201N is the result of good communication between manufacturer and end users.  We asked for more graphics power so that we can play our favorite games and they listened by integrating the NIVIDIA ION chipset in their netbook line.  If you told me a year ago that I would do all my gaming on a 12” laptop and store all my files on a 16Gb Mini-SSD drive, I would have called you crazy!  Yet, here I sit writing a review on a computer smaller than a 5 subject notebook and browsing three different websites simultaneously in Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 32-bit.  I invite you to consider all the tasks that I can do with this product compared to the keyboard limitations and reduced application compatibility of the Apple iPad. 

Reasons To Buy The ASUS 1201N Rather Than The Apple iPad:
Home Media Center - use a wireless mouse and HDMI cable to turn your high-definition television into a video game arcade with digital audio pumping out pulse pounding bass!  The Apple iPad cannot do this.

College Work – with this product you get a full keyboard and seamless integration with Office 2007 Student Edition.  The Apple iPad does not have an integrated full, physical, keyboard.  You will be able to type notes much faster with the ASUS 1201N!

Gaming - you can play nearly all your favorite 3D games due to the NVIDIA Ion.  Since most video games are released for the IBM PC market, the Apple iPad is left out in the cold wishing it could join in on the fun!

LCD Display Protection – since this is still a netbook, you can fold the screen down and carry it around to protect the screen from damage.  The Apple iPad requires some sort of protection to prevent damage while traveling.

Purchasing
I purchased my ASUS 1201N from BestBuy.com for $425 earlier this year as part of a promotion.  The netbook was on backorder but arrived via FedEx just a week later in excellent condition.

What Do You Think Of Windows 7 On The ASUS 1201N Netbook?
I already have a laptop, but realized that my favorite places both have digital televisions.  I bought this computer to make the screen much easier to see, interact with and enjoy.    After you turn off the indexing features and other services that consume all your available system cpu resources in Windows 7, the netbook works much faster for you.
Except for the mouse driver, if you have worked with Vista, you should be able to get around in Windows 7.  The keyboard is larger than I expected and allows me to easily touch type anything I want at 80 to 100 words per minute.

The 12” WXGA LED Widescreen Display
The NVIDIA ION graphics processors pumps out 1366 x 768 resolution to your 12” LED monitor making for one of the best viewing experiences I have ever seen on a sub 15” computer monitor.  The detail is easily discernable while playing video games or just simply reading an email from a coworker over Windows Terminal Services connection.  Although the screen is small by laptop standards, it shows fine detail.  I noticed this when I put on the game Defense Grid.  On my old laptop, the graphics had been "dumbed down" to the point that you couldn't make out the fine details.  On the ASUS 1201N EeePC, every detail was available with a deep contrast ratio.

Outputting the EeePC to the Samsung 63" television was simple.  I took a short, 3” HDMI cable and connected them together.  I adjusted the television to the HDMI source and there it was. 

Built-In Speakers
If you're looking for great audio, don't count on the EeePC's speakers.  The sound comes out of the left side in a 1/2" X 2" space.  Headphones and HDMI work great with no lack of quality.

Video Game Performance On ASUS 1201N Netbook
My main reason for buying this netbook was to get video gaming ability on my favorite computing platform.  The Video Card in this system is a NVIDIA nForce 730i.  As a quick conclusion, I can now play video games on my Samsung PN63B550 63” television with integrated audio thanks to the HDMI port on this product.  To say that playing these games in 1080P resolution with digital audio is awesome would be an understatement!  I can hide the little netbook behind the television and still play games or interact with Windows 7 during commercial breaks.  To show you how fun this little gaming computer really is, I provided a list of games and their average frame rates below.  Please take note of the mention over overclocking since many people run their ASUS netbooks in Super Performance mode.  If I say do not do it for a game, then turn it off!

Here is a list of frame rates for some common PC video games on the ASUS 1201N using 1080P on the Samsung television:
Half Life 2
115 FPS in deserted areas, 20-35 FPS while fighting, make sure you use stock clock speeds for game.  Since you have a Nvidia graphics card you can get the game for free at http://www.steampowered.com/nvidia/
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
30-52 FPS in Northern areas with 10-20 FPS in the busy cities
Plants Vs. Zombies
No visible frame rate issues at all.
Defense Grid
No visible frame rate issues at all.  Game takes about a minute to load due to hard drive though.
Left 4 Dead 2
Runs just fine but make sure you have no overclock settings on.
Call Of Duty 2
Has an average of 45 FPS, some fighting scenes slow down with lots of action but overall it works quite well.
Fallout 3
Game will run at about 25-35 fps if you set it to medium settings

Adobe Flash Video Games
Unlike the ASUS 1005HA netbook which does not have an NVIDIA graphics processor, the ASUS 1201N can rock almost any Adobe Flash Video game that you will find online.  The only caveat that I must warn you about is to avoid any game which requires a lot of processing power.   If you do have a problem, downloading the latest version of Adobe Flash from their website usually solves it.

How To Overclock Your ASUS 1201N NVIDIA ION Netbook!
First, overclocking your new netbook can result in complete system failure.  I am not responsible for any damages.   ASUS has a utility called the SuperHybridEngine which gives you one of three choices for system performance:  Super Performance Mode, Power Saving Mode and Auto Mode.  I left out High Performance Mode because in Windows 7 it is not an option.  The odd thing is that these modes have wildly different effects on video game performance.  If your game is not working correctly, try changing the SuperHybridEngine mode first.

Wireless Mouse Complications With Windows 7.
In order to use the gaming features with a high definition television, you are going to want to use a wireless mouse.  We have a large inventory of wireless mice at the workshop but unfortunately since they do not have Windows 7 drivers, they did not work with the ASUS 1201N netbook.  I left several messages on the Logitech message boards asking for help but never got a response from them.  Even though the wireless mouse was less than one year old, Logitech may not have the Windows 7 driver available for you either.

To be honest this review was delayed by over a month while we purchased and tested the Microsoft Mobile Memory Mouse 8000 to ensure it would work with the netbook on the television in wireless mode.  Once we had the mouse, we used the 1Gb of memory in the adapter to store a copy of the Windows 7 drivers from the included installation disc.  Once connected to the netbook, we were able to use the built in Windows driver install utility to setup the driver and use the mouse with no problems. 

Connectivity And Expansion Options Of The ASUS 1201N Netbook
You can add up to 4Gb of DDR2 RAM in the 2 x SODIMM Slots to this computer.  ASUS is rumored to offer support for up to 8Gb of DDR2 Ram in the future through a BIOS update.  The hard drive is of the 2.5” SATA II standard which means it can support a wide variety of disk solutions on the market today.  On top of upgrading the core system components, you can also use the HDMI or VGA slot to connect to your television.  On right side of the netbook you will find the SDHC slot, two USB 2.0 ports, headphone, microphone jack and an ethernetport for those land line lovers.  Inside, is an 802.11G wireless network card and a 0.3 megapixel webcam that works quite well in night conditions.

Intel Atom 330 1.6Ghz Processor Performance
ASUS gave us dual channel memory in the 1201N which helped increase the benchmark speed over their previous release, the ASUS 1005HA.  I mention this because many ASUS 1005HA fans love their netbooks but have always wanted a little more processing power.   One of the main reasons why this netbook works so well for daily tasks in Windows 7 is that it has two physical and two virtual or Hyper threading cores.  The total of four cores available to Windows 7 means that you can allow multiple games to stay running or paused while playing on the internet. 

The Intel Atom 330 processor has a 45nm die with two physical cores that each have 512Kb of Level 2 cache.  The Atom 330 runs at a Rated FSB (Front Side Bus) of 533 Mhz on this system.  The DRAM Frequency is 408Mhz when the system is running in Super Performance mode.  For the purposes of benchmarking my daily computing style, I left the netbook in Super Performance mode.  The results below are going to be disappointing but remember the true heart of this system is the NVIDIA ION graphics processor.

Super Pi
Super Pi V1.1 is an application that extrapolates the specified digits of PI into a text file.  Since the task is both processor and file system intensive it can give you an idea of how fast your cpu is.  The Intel Atom N270 processor in the ASUS 1005HA netbook can do the same calculation in 1 minute 28 seconds.  The Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 processor can do this in just 13 seconds.  The benchmark results are certainly not impressive but remember this processor was designed for maximum power efficiency.

Here are the results of three runs at 1,000,000 digits of PI at 1.63 Ghz:
#1;  1 minute 34 seconds
#2;  1 minute 34 seconds

BOINC Manager
The benchmark is designed to stress every available thread on your computer to see how many computations per second it can perform.  An Intel, dual processor, Xeon 3.4Ghz 2Mb Irwindale computer was able to complete this test with 1540 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 2770 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu.

Here the result of three runs at 1.63 Ghz:
#1; 705 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 1711 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu
#2; 703 floating point MIPS (Whetstone) per cpu, 1703 integer MIPS (Dhrystone) per cpu

POV-Ray 3.7 Beta
A new version of the freeware 3D animation utility has been released that offers SSE2 enhanced processing extensions.  POV –Ray stresses the floating point unit and memory bandwidth of the processor to render stunning 2D images.  As comparison, the AMD (ADA4000DAA5BN) Athlon 64 4000+, 2.4 GHz processor completed this test in 26 minutes 2 seconds at stock clock speed.

Using the benchmark.pov file at 512x384 NO AA, I ran the following traces at 1.63 Ghz:
#1;   58 minutes 50 seconds
#2;   59 minutes 11 seconds

Power Consumption And Battery Life
One of the most obvious signs of a good computer or laptop is its power consumption when compared to peak performance.  Using a P3 International Kill A Watt P4400 power consumption meter, I was able to get the following wattages for the netbook:
26 watts while idle with laptop display and HDMI television connection on.
24 watts while running the BOINC system benchmark.
28 watts while recharging a drained battery and playing the game Plants vs. Zombies.

The ASUS 1005HA netbook actually pulls more peak power, 31 Watts, than the ASUS 1201N.  I was surprised at this since the 1201N has a larger screen and uses a true dual core processor.

The battery on this netbook is fairly good considering the power draw of the overclocked processor and large 12” inch screen.  The first battery drain took 3 hours and 31 minutes until the computer shut off due to low power, recharging took 5 hours to get a 100% charge again.  The second battery drain took 4 hours and 15 minutes until the computer shut off due to low power, recharging took 5 hours and 17 minutes.

Extra Features To Make The ASUS 1201N Better
One of the most obvious drawbacks to this netbook is that you do not get a cellular phone modem.  My father uses this netbook while camping and I bought it for him to be able to use on the go to send new digital photos of his vacations.  The solution is to connect a Blackberry cellular phone via USB cable to the computer but this ties him down because of the cabling and charging cord required to keep the phone’s battery charged.

Also the hard drive is very slow which affects how the netbook performs when loading business applications and video games.    If you are brave, I strongly suggest replacing the SATA hard drive in this product with a 7200 RPM model or going with a solid state hard disk quickly. 

Summary
A true, complete, entertainment package the ASUS 1201N is a netbook that should not be overlooked if you are wanting a portable computer than can also be used to play video games.   The ability to connect the computer to the Samsung 63” Plasma television via HDMI cable and experience all the video with sound was to tempting for me to pass up.  My only problem with the ASUS 1201N netbook is that fact that the hard drive was to slow for me to load video games at a very fast clip like I could on my desktop computer.  The good news is that you can buy a solid state hard drive (SSD) to solve this problem but the cost is nearly that of the netbook!
 
This review is dedicated to my father who helped me in a unique collaboration that gave me another perspective on writing hardware reviews.  We worked hard to find a wireless mouse that would work with the ASUS 1201N netbook on Windows 7.  He tried two mice and I bought one that eventually helped us get this to work.  His electronics experience is an amazing exercise in concentration when you realize that he has never installed an operating system on a computer!  Yes, he was able to do this computer repair on a new operating system by having the confidence from years of knowing how to read error messages and quietly make his own decision based on experience.  The ability to do this shows a deep strategic understanding of how the world works around him. 

I sat back and did my best to turn this into an interview of a talent at work rather than a study of hardware components with mundane amounts of performance.  Yes, I said it.  I did not appreciate Intel socking us all with another pathetic netbook processor.  Intel you can increase the front side bus of these netbook processors to 1333 FSB and reduce the clock speed to only 1333 Mhz.  The result will be an instant communication to the RAM which with no heat at all.  See, if realize the sham they are selling us you will get upset to and chastise them for doing this to the world.  Thank you.

In all I would give the ASUS 1201N two thumbs up!


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 425
Operating System: Windows
Processor: Intel Pentium
Processor speed: over 1000
Screen Size: 12 inches
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: SuperDisk
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50

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