Sunday, January 16, 2011

# 6: ASUS Seashell Eee PC 1215N-PU17-BK 12.1-inch Netbook with 6 hours of battery-black

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

210 of 216 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary upgrade to the 1201N; still can't run Crysis, but can play Starcraft 2, September 16, 2010 When I first reviewed the Asus 1201N in January 2010 (see my Amazon review for that netbook), I stated that it was the best netbook on the market. A lot of time (in the consumer electronics world) has passed since that review, and Asus has released the upgrade to the 1201N, in the form of the 1215N. Does the 1215N take the crown from the 1201N, and is the 1215N the best netbook available today (September 2010) on the market?

In a word, YES! The major gripe about the 1201N was of course the limited battery life, approximately 3.5 hours on average. Even though I primarily used my 1201N near an electrical outlet, there were times when I had to go portable with it, and the short battery life was painfully insufficient. Asus has upgraded both the processor and the graphics technology for the 1215N. The processor is the desktop grade Intel D525 1.8 GHz dual-core processor, a step-up from the dual core Atom 330s powering the initial 1201N. While I would've liked to see Intel's new N550 dual core Atom processors on the 1215N instead, the D525s are more than sufficient. I suspect that Asus will release their next version of the 12XXN series with some sort of new lower power dual core processor and graphics technology.

Note, the N550 processors are a new generation of 1.5 GHz low power dual core processors, and suffice it to say, the days of single core N450 type processors are quickly disappearing. Asus has announced a 1215P netbook, which is equipped with the N550 but NO Nvidia ION2 technology, and relies solely on Intel's GMA3150 integrated graphics solution, which is increasingly antiquated when used as a standalone. The 1215P is intended as an upgraded to the previously poorly received 1201PN, and while it will have an improved battery life, it will have difficulty handling games and high definition 1080P media.

CPU wise, the general variety of the dual core powered netbooks on the market presently are as follows; D525, N550, AMD Athlon II Neo K325.

Base on clockspeed only, the general order of CPU ranking is as follows;

D525 > N550 > K325

The Athlon IIs are powerful adversaries, but according to other online reviews, suffer from poor battery life, on par with that of the original 1201N, ~ 3.5 hours. Such Athlon II Neo equipped platforms include the 11.6" Dell Inspiron M101z (K325) and the Acer Aspire One (K125). But a Dell M101z with Neo K325, 4GB of RAM, and 320 GB HDD will cost you $579; $100 more than the 1215N, and with its poor battery performance, is really just a faster 1201N.

The N550s are found on platforms such as the HP Mini 5103 and are good low power competitors to the D525s, but are crippled because they appear to be bundled with the Intel GMA 3150s. A comparably optioned Mini 5103 and Crystal Broadcom HD Chip will likely run into the $500-$600 range. And the Mini 5103 only has a 10.1" screen.

Where does that leave the D525 then? While the desktop/nettop chip is quite powerful, Intel has intentionally embedded some features which limit the maximum potential of the 1215N. The D525's embedded memory controller limits usable RAM to 2.8 GB, meaning that it is probably NOT advisable to purchase the 4 GB version of the 1215N. The RAM runs in single channel mode only, and the D525 is limited to 32-bit addressing, which may render installation of 64-bit Windows 7 moot. However, don't let these nitpicks drag you down; they are limitations you might want to consider if you're extremely critical about your netbook, but for the average user like myself, they don't bother me, since I'm not interested in using the 1215N as a 64 bit powerhouse.

Asus has paired the D525s with the Nvidia Ion 2 graphics solution, which gives the 1215N comparable battery performance to the lower power N550 matched with integrated solutions, an incredible feat. The Ion 2 used in the 1215N comprises the G210 GPU with integrated GMA3150, and when combined with Nvidia's Optimus switching technology, allows use of the G210 for intensive gaming sessions, while using the low power GMA 3150 for more mundane tasks. The result is a battery life nearly double that of the 1201N. The Ion2 uses all 16 cores of the GT2XX chip and is clocked at 475 MHz. The original Nvidia Ion is comparable to a 9400M, and the Ion 2 is roughly 60% faster than the Ion. However, there is a potential bottleneck, again due to intentional limitations from Intel. The Ion 2's potential is hindered by Intel refusing to share its DMI interface with Nvidia, forcing the Ion 2 to operate on the PCI-e 1x lane, where it cannot operate at full bandwidth. Again, like the caveats with the D525s, this is a limitation you might want to consider if you're extremely critical about your netbook, but for the average user like myself, they don't bother me and the effects aren't noticeable. Make sure you use the latest Nvidia drivers, otherwise the Optimus switching may not turn on correctly.

Enough about the history and theoretical considerations of the 1215N. How does the 1215N look, operate, and compare to the 1201N?

INITIAL THOUGHTS/DIFFERENCES WITH 1201N: The biggest and most welcome change from the 1201N is the new matte top lid. This helps tremendously in preventing your netbook from becoming a fingerprint magnet. The black matte lid still acquires some fingerprints, and I'd recommend the silver color as the way to go. Amazon does not appear to sell the brown and red colored variations at this time, and I assume those also have a matte finish. The wrist rest has a semi-glossy appearance, and picks up some grease, albeit much less than the 1201N. The SD card reader has been moved from the right side (1201N) to the left side (1215N).

The keyboard appears to have the same layout as the 1201N; some users complained of keyboard flexing, but I didn't notice any flexing. In fact, it seems to have much less flex than the 1201N and seems quite rigid. The 1215N's keyboard is a pure chiclet style; whereas the 1201N's keyboard was contained in a plastic well, the 1215N's keys are raised above the base surface of the netbook. This does not appear to cause any functional differences, but the visual difference is apparent when compared with the 1201N. The 1215N also features a sturdier power button, which feels of higher quality.

The trackpad is no longer dimpled, and this makes the mouse cursor significantly easier to move around. The same one-bar button selector is used (as found on the 1201N, which I actually liked), but the one-bar could've benefited from a matte finish as it picks up fingerprints easily. I strongly prefer the new trackpad on 1215N; navigation is significantly easier now.

The hard drive is only a 5400 rpm spec model, but I found it to be as quiet as the one on the 1201N.

Lastly, the web-camera has a shutter that protects it when not in use; the resolution is the same as that of the 1201N.

I was disappointed to find that the package did not come with a Windows 7 Home Premium installation CD. Didn't I pay for the CD?!

BLOATWARE: Unfortunately, like the 1201N, the 1215N also comes pre-installed with a lot of bloatware. It seems a bunch of random wireless card software programs are installed, even though some of those wireless cards aren't even installed into the machine! The bloatware is easy enough to remove though; just remove them under the remove programs tab in Control Panel.

GRAPHICAL PERFORMANCE: I tested the 1215N against my 1201N. I achieved a 3DMark06 benchmark score of 1583 (CPU Score 811) on my stock 1201N. By comparison, 3DMark06 on the 1215N achieve a score 1100 points higher, 2692! Playing a 1080P media file on the 1201N using the CoreAVC codec required 60% CPU utilization. Playing the same 1080P media file on the 1215N using the CoreAVC 2.0 codec required just 16-20% CPU utilization!!

BATTERY LIFE: So far, I'm eking out around 5-6 hours of battery life on light to moderate usage.

GAMING: I haven't had a chance yet to extensively test gaming capabilities of the 1215N, but from what I've read, the 1215N can handle the following games;

Starcraft 2 @ 15-20 fps, 1280 x 720 pixels, medium settings (various youtube videos confirming this)
FIFA 2010 @ 20 fps, lowest resolution and details
Call of Duty: Modern Wafare 2 @ 30 fps, provided there aren't a lot of scripted scenes/characters.
World of Warcraft @ 45 fps, 1366 x 768 pixels, low details
Left 4 Dead @ 20 fps, 1366 x 768 pixels, low details
Half-Life Episode 2 @ 28 fps, 1280 x 720 pixels

Also, bear in mind that since the Ion 2 is relatively new, not many games are supported yet. Make sure the drivers are up-to-date. If you overclock the 1215N, assuming it is overclockable, then higher framerates and performance may be possible. Note, I am not suggesting or advising anyone to overclock their machine.


- Great performance for the price
- Ion 2 battery saving graphics
- Fast processors
- 12.1" size with 1366 x 768 resolution
- Solid build quality
- New matte lids minimize fingerprint collection
- Comes with Windows Home Premium (rather than Windows Starter)

- 2.8 GB usable RAM limit
- RAM runs in single channel mode only.
- No USB 3.0 capability on US models for now (though this doesn't bother me since I don't have any USB 3.0 devices anyway, and by the time 3.0 devices become mainstream, Asus will have released another netbook by then).
- No Bluetooth (though this doesn't bother me since I don't use BT with my netbooks,... Read more ?

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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful: 4.0 out of 5 stars Great Second Computer/Netbook, September 22, 2010 This review is from: ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1215N-PU17-BK 12.1-Inch Netbook with 6 Hours of Battery Life - Black (Personal Computers) First let me preface that I DO own this product and I will actually put forth my review after this paragraph.

Before I get started, if you're looking at this computer make sure you're getting it for the right reasons. This is NOT a replacement/main computer. Whether netbooks can be or not isn't the point. The current built-in limitations from Intel make it so that their philosophy is essentially the rule. They are the company at "fault" and when looking at what Asus has done with what Intel has allowed, this really is a great computer. A lot of the more critical reviews seem to expect a bit more out of this than what it's advertised for. That said, it's very hard to not judge this as a normal laptop. The combination of the potential power of the machine, along with its form factor, have it walk the line between netbook and ultra portable. And if you know this going in, I feel like you'll be more than satisfied.

My reason for buying this netbook was to find something to use in class for basic typing, with at least a 12" screen (but not bigger than 13.3"), decent battery life, the potential to play 720p movies, and maybe some extra power left over. As a PC gamer, I bought another Asus laptop (the really big one) for gaming, but as a student that laptop proved too unwieldy for class/transport. Ultraportables are frankly too expensive for students as a back up computer, the iPad was overpriced for the hard ware (or conversely under spec'd for the price, since 500 was my limit). Here's a break down of the pro's and con's from my viewpoint, after having used it for about a week.


Battery life - about 6 hours is actually accurate, with wireless on and the display at about 50% I get around 5:30 to 5:00 hours. Six would be easy to squeeze out if you turned off the wireless and dimmed to about 30%.

Processing Power - In comparison to my HP mini 210 (my original solution to my problem), the thing is a beast. It's not i7, but the D525 pulls its own for what I use it for (notes, light gaming).

Ion 2 - There's a few reviews out there that show what this thing is capable of, but I'm able to play games like Left 4 Dead and Half Life 2 at native res with medium details. More modern games will require either a performance loss or tuning down the visuals, but for a NETBOOK this thing has some oomf. It plays 720p and 1080p just fine (make sure you're using a program that uses graphics decoding, since the atom still sucks for 1080p and also make sure you update to flash 10.1). Update the drivers to the beta ones as well, you'll see a noticeable increase. It won't play crysis, but it will play many of the more "consolized" games that have come out recently. If the game pushes a gaming computer then it won't run on this netbook. It is, after all, a netbook.

Screen - This has by far the best screen I've seen on a netbook. Not only the resolution (which is miles about the normal 10.1), but just the sharpness and brightness is great. At max brightness, it can actually strain the eyes a bit. I stay around 50-70% depending on ambient light. There's some backlight bleed, which is kind of sad at this size, but it's not noticeable unless you're looking for it and you've got a dark movie/game going.

Gigabit ethernet - I've read mixed things, before I bought it, on whether or not the netbook has gigabit. My model does indeed have it. i.e. 10/100/1000 ethernet. Amazon lists only 10/100, this may be incorrect but I bought mine I don't know what theirs comes with. I'd assume they're all the same. This is huge, since it allows for a high speed file transfer. Without a disc drive for installs, file transfers become critical and the added speed is very welcome.

While I do like this machine, it's not without its flaws.

Keyboard - I read someone saying it was kind of like typing on a trampoline, while maybe not that bad there is some flex to it. It's not horrible, definitely not a deal breaker, but it's there. More of a 'meh thing for me, but I could see it being a con for some.

Bloatware - I have never worked with a computer with so much bloatware pre loaded on it. This thing had crapware out the wazzoo. Took me three runs of PC Decrapifyer to finally get everything off. Since it took me nearly half an hour to get everything off the computer, after the initial 25 minutes of it starting to go, I docked the product one star. If Asus had left off the bloatware, or included discs for a clean, crapware-free install, I would have given the product 5 stars.

Finger Prints - This thing can be a finger print magnet. Just wiping it down doesn't help, so find some of those PC cleaning wipes that evaporate, or use something else electronics safe, and keep her clean. A microfiber camera cleaning cloth also works. But PLEASE don't use the wipes that walmart sells. They're no good, leave behind residue and bits of cloth, and I've actually seen them short out circuitry, despite being advertised to not do that.

Some middle ground, "meh" things:

Build Quality - it isn't phenomenal, nor do I feel like it's horrible. Outside of the keyboard, it's seems very well put together. I haven't tried opening her up yet (though I will once I get my 120gb SSD in), but apparently the seashell build from Asus is quite a pain when it comes to user service outside of the RAM.

Asus - Not exactly the easiest company to get in touch with, nor are they the most out going company. From my experience, they'll fix your problem, but it may take a bit more effort than normal. Not nearly as bad as the run around some companies give, but they're not amazing either.

No install Discs - Speaks for itself

All in all, I'm very happy with my purchase. It does exactly what I want it to. It's a supplemental computer meant to bring at least a few features that my main computer doesn't have, namely portability. I definitely recommend this as a netbook, since it offers plenty of power for that. But for a main computer/as an ultra light laptop, there are much better options at only slightly higher price points. It can play movies and do light gaming for when I travel and it's the perfect class room companion in class.

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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful: 3.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Netbooks You Can Currently Buy For This Price, But Don't Have High Expectations, December 2, 2010 I can tell you that much of my day is spent fixing someone else's computer or computer problems. So when it comes time to make a computer purchase for myself, I spend countless hours going over the specs, prices, and value of different netbooks and ultraportable laptops. I read every comment (especially the negative ones) and poured over reviews and sites providing detailed information. I enjoy playing games, but I know the limitations of this souped-up netbook. My goal was to buy the best netbook that gave me the most bang for the buck. So that means I'm not going to just waste my money and overspend on some Alienware M11x gaming laptop. I did not want to spend much money so after deciding this was the netbook for me, I waited for it to go on sale during Black Friday for $423.54 and was able to pick up the silver version which is better than the black version due to how easy it is to get finger prints and smudges on the black netbook. Also, if it did not go on sale, you wouldn't be reading this review right now. There are a lot of cons for this netbook (which I will detail later), but at that price point, I was willing to overlook it.

Now, there were a few ultraportable laptops that were better suited for playing the latest games, but they were either a few hundred dollars more than the ASUS 1215N, weighed a few more pounds, had less battery life, and/or had a smaller screen. What I really liked about the ASUS 1215N (besides the price I got it for ;) ) was that it had a large screen compared to the other netbooks, it still weighed less than the ultraportable laptops, and has a better CPU and GPU than most of the other netbooks that are similarly priced.

Now for the Cons, starting with what scares me the most:

The horrible power plug design. There is a small pin in the power port that can easily break off and render your netbook useless due to not being able to charge it. This is a huge turn off and my heart goes out to all those people who had this happen to them and had to take advantage of the warranty, but had to deal with the bad customer service at ASUS and the ~1 month wait to get their laptop repaired and shipped back for them. Just remember, you have to pay for the shipping when sending your broken netbook back to ASUS to get it repaired. I have no idea why ASUS just didn't fix the poor power plug design by implementing the standard power plug design that other laptops and netbooks use that don't share this problem!

Intel put a lot of limitations on the ASUS 1215N netbook that didn't have to be there, but they did it because they're greedy. Intel makes higher profit margins when consumers purchase the more expensive laptops rather than the cheaper netbooks. So because of this, Intel refused to share the DMI interface with the Nvidia's Ion 2 GPU, forcing the Ion 2 to operate on the PCI-e 1x lane. Not only that but, the 64-bit Intel Atom D525 CPU is only capable of 32-bit addressing. So forget about installing Windows 7 64-bit due to the 32-bit addressing making that pointless. Oh yeah, the RAM runs in single channel mode only. And if you do decide to buy more RAM, there are countless posts where the RAM people are buying is not compatible with the ASUS 1215N (even though it may have worked for someone else) so the netbook is extremely finicky. If you do get the netbook to boot up with the new RAM, you will only see ~2.74GB of RAM in Windows due to the limitations of 32-bit.

Others mention there is some flex in the center of the keyboard and that the mouse button on the netbook is not that great. I'm not too worried about the mouse because I purchased a Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse and also got a Logitech V220 Cordless Optical Mouse for free at the time of purchase. I also went with the larger Case Logic Slimline Case 12.1" (10.6" - 13.3") to store my netbook in.

One thing I would recommend if you are going to purchase this netbook is to also purchase a Transcend 16GB Class 10 SDHC Card (TS16GSDHC10) and leave that in your netbook's SDHC flash card slot and configure it for ReadyBoost. It's not that expensive, one of the fastest / best SDHC Cards for that price, and you may notice a performance increase due to the memory limitations on this netbook (a few more FPS in games).

Don't expect this netbook to have great performance in the latest games or to play these games at high settings due to the limitations I listed, but for what I will be using this netbook for and for the majority of games I play, I can see myself being very satisfied and happy with this purchase. Especially since I got it on sale. ;)

Oh yeah, I didn't forget about the no USB 3.0 capability, no BlueTooth, or the 0.3 megapixel cam. I'll admit, BlueTooth would've been nice, but I guess I can live without that. The cheap cam doesn't matter to me (I do like the security lens cover though) and the USB 3.0 is not a big deal for me at this moment. There's a lot of things this netbook should have, but we do not live in a perfect world. Hopefully in the next version of this netbook, they will address some of these issues. My greatest concern is the poor power plug design and Intel's imposed limitations due to their greed.

*** UPDATE 12/13/2010 ***
I have some very exciting news! Win7 on my ASUS 1215N Netbook is now showing 2.74GB of usable memory from the 3GB of RAM I just installed! Why spend more money on two 2GB sticks when one 2GB stick will suffice while saving money and still attaining the same results? I was on the phone with Crucial customer service telling the rep. exactly what I wanted, and not only was the customer service excellent at Crucial, but I got a part that works for my finicky 1215N! Here's the million dollar answer, Enjoy!
Crucial Part # CT25664BC1339

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