The 1201N is Asus’ first netbook to sport NVIDIA's ION graphics chip for gaming and HD video. But does it stray too far into laptop territory?
The Asus 1201N is notable for being the company's first netbook not to carry the vowel heavy ‘Eee’ branding, but that's the least of its claims to fame.
Like the Lenovo Ideapad S12 and the Samsung N510 it's one of the first netbooks to sport NVIDIA's ION graphics chipset, giving it far more power for video decoding and games than previous models.
The 1201N breaks more new ground, partnering the updated graphics processor with a dual core Atom CPU, so far only seen in low-cost desktop machines.
Like the S12 and N510, the 1201N is much bigger than a standard netbook, with a 12inch LED backlit screen capable of a sharp 1366x768 resolution. The Seashell design is very similar to existing the existing Eee range, but the extra space means more room for a larger keyboard, too.
It's not just wider than other Eee netbooks. It's almost a centimetre deeper than the flagship 1008 model, and 300g heavier too. It's by no means huge, though, comparing well to most netbooks in the bag space test.
That extra space inside is almost certainly being used for a more heavyweight cooling setup than a standard netbook. Two CPU cores and the discrete graphics chip run hotter than the infamously low-power vanilla Atom, and that does, unfortunately, make the 1201N noisier than its older, less able rivals. It's bearable, but it's consistently audible, where silence has long been one of the charms of a netbook.
It also reduces the battery life down from the double-digit achievements of the Eee 1008 to just over four hours in our tests.
Is it worth it?
Windows 7 is more responsive thanks to the extra CPU core, and the ION graphics mean it's even possible to get Call of Duty and Far Cry 2 up and running, albeit in low-resolution mode with quality settings down low.
The dual core processor isn't as big a step up as you might expect, though. The Atom still lacks an out of order execution unit, so performance is similar to the single core Athlon L110 in the cheaper Packard Bell dot m/a. Like that machine, the 1201N blurs the lines between a 'proper' laptop and a netbook, but that cuts both ways.
We fell in love with netbooks because they were almost disposably cheap and tiny enough to take anywhere. In a certain light, the 1201N is just as much a bad laptop as it is an excellent netbook. For example, Asus' own CULV-powered UL30A is twice the machine for just over £100 more.
It's an odd conclusion, but while this is a lot of laptop for £400, it's almost too much. If it came with a smaller screen and better battery, we'd prefer it. If netbooks have so far been a no-go for you but you do want a cheap second portable, though, the 1201N could be exactly what you're looking for.
Asus Eee 1201N review
Leaves other netbooks in the dust, but strays too far into laptop territory to be a must buy