Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review: Asus Eee PC 1215N

I treated myself to a new netbook recently. I picked up an Asus Eee PC 1215N from Amazon. After having played with one at CES this year, I decided that it was the netbook for me. I also grabbed a few accessories: a KWorld USB TV Tuner, a carrying case, and a Windows Media Center remote. My reason for upgrading from my beloved Eee PC 901 is that the 901 doesn't do HD video. I wanted something that I could take on the road that was a little faster than the 901 and could function as a mobile media center for airplanes and hotel rooms.

The first thing I did when it arrived was wipe Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit that came with it and install my copy of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. The 64-bit OS proved to lag the machine a bit much for my liking, so I moved to Ultimate 32-bit. I also had a lot of trouble with reinstalling the video drivers. This machine has the Nvidia Optimus system, where if you're watching HD video, it uses the Nvidia Ion chip instead of the default Intel 3150 video drivers for better performance. The latest official Nvidia Ion drivers do not work on this machine. Neither do Asus' Intel drivers. So I needed the following driver configuration, in this order: Intel's 3150 drivers, then Asus' Nvidia Ion drivers. Any other configuration borked either the resolution or HD video or both.

The machine's stock hard drive was a bit noisy for my liking, and the RAM at 2GB is a bit low to run Windows 7 at full speed, so I purchased 4GB of RAM and an OCZ Vertex 2 solid state drive (SSD). I finished installing both last night, and I have to say that this little bugger is humming along very nicely. It boots to completion in under 30 seconds, which for a machine with an Atom CPU, is very impressive. All app and network stuff I do is very responsive, even when multitasking. Media Center has minimal menu and app lag.

My only major complaint thus far is watching Live TV with my tuner stick via Windows Media Center. Even after the upgrades, HD and SD TV stutters every 8-10 seconds. This is definely not due to the graphics card, hard drive, or RAM. It's either caused by the CPU (prob not), video drivers, mpeg decoders, or my tuner stick. I'll be running some experiments this week to find the root of the issue. The picture does look great, though. Some people have knocked the keyboard for flexing, but it's not that bad, though it does flex a little while typing. UPDATE:  Turns out the TV stuttering issues was a result of the cheap KWorld tuner, and not my PC. I tested with a Hauppauge HVR-850, and Live TV was smooth and beautiful.


Nice screen size and resolution
Fast (after upgrades)
Attractive case
Good battery life
Good feature set


Shows fingerprints badly
Minor keyboard flex