Asus Ion 2-Powered Eee PC 1201PN Review

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Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: In our SiSoftware Sandra tests, the Eee PC 1201PN did well in comparison to the reference systems in the CPU benchmarks (versus other single core Atom variants), and it matched up fairly well against rival components in other areas too. That said, the Atom 330 in last year's Eee PC 1201N bested the netbook-centric N450 in a few areas, which makes this particular hardware configuration a bit of a toss-up. Just for some perspective;  again in the Windows 7 Rating for the 1201N, the CPU scored a 3.3, while the CPU score in the 1201PN was 2.3. Real-world performance felt very similar as on the 1201N, though. The 6-cell battery (4700mAh) lasted just under 4 hours in our "real world" test simulation, which is definitely respectable given the large screen and Ion 2 GPU, but it falls well short of the 7 hour maximum that Asus promises. We also found the machine getting rather warm even after just an hour of browsing the Web, and once it warmed up, it was pretty much impossible to get the fans to turn off. This one blew a bit of hot air, particularly for a netbook.

What's there to say? The Eee PC 1201PN is sort of the Eee PC 1201N, for all intents and purposes. The GPU is a little stronger, and the CPU is a little weaker, but at the end of the day, you end up with near-identical real-world performance in most cases. Both machines handle HD video. Both machines can only game with moderately taxing titles cranked down to the lower resolution, and both machines share the exact same chassis and port assortment. It's sort of hard to understand why the 1201PN even exists in a world where the 1201N is still being produced, but yet, that's exactly what has happened.

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The Eee PC 1201PN sounds promising, but then you realize that the vast majority of this machine is a simple copy-and-paste of the 1201N. The only major differences are the CPU and GPU. The 1.66GHz Atom N450 is said to provide somewhat better battery life, and while we found that to be true, it wasn't a huge leap (4 hours vs. 3.5 hours on the 1201N in our BatteryEater Pro test). The GPU is NVIDIA's GeForce 201M, otherwise known as the next-generation Ion, or Ion 2. It provides minimal gains in GPU benchmarks, but it's hard to tell there's a new GPU under the hood in real-world use. It's still not possible to play any fast-paced serious 3D action titles with the resolution cranked up, and HD video playback is just as seamless as it was on the 1201N.

Here's the real kicker: Asus probably should have held on releasing the 1201PN until Optimus was ready for the Ion 2 platform. Had Optimus come on this machine, we can imagine things turning out a lot better for the 1201PN. If we could switch off the discrete GPU and use the IGP when needed, we suspect battery life figures would've been far better. And what's a little bothersome, aside from the lack of Optimus.  The Ion 2 isn't a GPU that totally crushes its predecessor. If a GPU were included here that really smoked the competition, we might be able to forgive the fact that we can't switch between discrete and IGP easily; but as it stands, even the discrete GPU isn't one worth writing home about compared to the original. The first Ion truly took netbook graphics to a new level; Ion 2 simply takes a baby step toward an even loftier level, at least here on the 1201PN. We can certainly recommend this unit to new netbook buyers; it's one of the best netbooks on the market. But it makes no sense whatsoever to consider an upgrade, even if you have a netbook that's well over a year old. The performance of this machine, in the middle of 2010, is barely better than machines available in the middle of 2009. That's just a fact of the slow moving netbook world, but it's one worth paying attention to if you've been bitten by the upgrade bug and are considering scratching it.  All that said, there's no reason why Asus couldn't turn an Optimus enabled version of this machine around in fairly short order.  We'll be waiting for that day to come, hopefully in the not so distant future.

  • NVIDIA Ion 2
  • Spacious 12.1" Display
  • Three USB 2.0 Ports + HDMI
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (not Starter)
  • Decent overall performance
  • Glossy Casing Attracts Fingerprints
  • 5400RPM HDD Is Sluggish
  • Gets quite warm in use
  • Lackluster Trackpad
  • Ion 2 is no Ion 1-killer
  • No Optimus Currently


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