Asus Ion-Powered Eee PC 1201N Review

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As with other Eee PCs, the 1201N also arrives with the Eee Super Hybrid Engine, which enables users to switch between Power Saving, High Performance and Super Performance modes by simply selecting a line of text through a taskbar icon. It's a simple inclusion, but it's one we've come to greatly appreciate, particularly on a netbook with an Ion GPU. Put simply, there are many times when users could find themselves needing to conserve energy one moment, then need peal performance the next. For instance, if you were running low on battery life at an airport, and then an AC outlet opened up in the row behind you; having the ability to quickly switch these modes enables you to better control the user experience based on your current scenario.


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Upon first booting the machine up, we were underwhelmed by the overall responsiveness of the machine. It was quite baffling, really. It honestly felt slower than the Atom N270-based Mini 311 that we had just finished reviewing. Turns out that the "Power Saving Mode" was active (we were computing on battery, not AC power), and as soon as we toggled the "Super Performance Mode" the responsiveness of the machine was excellent. The dual-core Atom 330 may still only be clocked at 1.6GHz, but it's astounding how much faster it feels in real-world use compared to the single-core Atom N270.


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Like the Mini 311, this one was also equipped with 2GB of RAM, which also goes a long way in improving the overall experience. Bootup was prompt, and while initial application load times were a bit sluggish, switching between them and multitasking was never an issue thanks to the extra breathing room enabled by having 2GB of RAM instead of the 1GB commonly included with other netbooks.


Eee PC 1201N Windows 7 Experience Rating

We will say, however, that despite a decent WEI rating, we weren't too keen on the performance of the hard drive. Even at 5400RPM, it felt a bit sluggish. It's very possible that we just expected more based on our lingering memories of using an SSD-based netbook, but still, it seems like every other aspect of this machine oozes quality. It was noisy to boot, and even though it's roomy at 250GB, we would've preferred a smaller SSD to accompany the relatively quick CPU and GPU.


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We will confess to missing an optical drive, and with a 12.1" frame, we're confident that Asus could've squeezed one in here if they wanted to. Sure, the resulting machine would've been a bit thicker and heavier, but considering how well this thing handled multimedia, we certainly found ourself wanting to try out a DVD or Blu-ray disc.


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Speaking of multimedia, this netbook handles video better than any other we've ever tested, bar none. We were impressed when we saw the Mini 311 play back 720p and 1080p material thanks to having NVIDIA's Ion onboard, but the 1201N managed to do so without even breaking a sweat. Even with 1080p movie trailers playing, the CPU never peaked above 50% utilization, which--on a netbook--is great. We could even multitask while a 1080p clip was playing, which has so far been impossible on netbooks (without making the video stutter, anyway).


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This was also the first netbook we've ever used where decent gaming was a real possibility. Even at 1280x720, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars was relatively playable with the details adjusted down a bit, and we're certain that some older/less demanding 3D titles could play on here just fine if you're okay with toning down the details and resolution. Don't expect to play Crysis (or any other leading edge game really) at native resolution with details maxed, but remember, this is a netbook. Typically, netbooks and gaming don't mix well, so we'd considering this a huge win for Asus.


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