Saturday, January 29, 2011

Asus 1015PN Review

Like many people, I awaited the release of the 1015pn release with skepticism - how well it would function, what if any features would be cut out upon release, and when it would even come out.  Asus is about as unreliable as it gets when it comes to product releases (at least with the EEE line), and to be honest I doubted the 1015N (PN) would be out this year.  But here it is sitting on my desk.
asus 1015pn review
First things first, the touchpad.  It's the first thing any laptop user lays their hands on, until they can get their bluetooth mouse connected if that's their poison.  The touchpad on the 1015PN excels - it is both accurate and responsive, and has quite a nice feel to it.  It's also about 1.5x the size of the average netbook touchpad, which makes it way better than anything else that's been put out.  The multitouch functionality works flawlessly, and comes in handy, especially the gestures.  I find it much superior to have a gesture-based page scrolling as opposed to a dedicated touchstrip along the right side for such functionality.  The omnibutton is excellent, it reminds me of the magic mouse I use for my mac, in that there are not physically separated buttons.  It makes it a lot more comfortable to use.  Great touchpad, great feel.
The keyboard on the 1015PN is great.  No real complaints to be made - it's well layed-out and the keys are a great size, and aren't hard to type on unlike the Vaio W that I replaced with this netbook.  The only aggravation is the tiny right-side shift key, but I just stopped using it to no issue.
The Ion2 graphics engine is fantastic, and once I replaced 7Starter with 7Pro, the Optimus automatic switcher works phenomenally.  The only downside is with Steam - Steam does not work well with Optimus, and you must manually add the executable of steam games to Optimus' preferred list in the NVidia control panel.  My experience comes from Portal - on the Intel GMA 3150 alone, portal lags considerably on the lowest settings unless I disable portal transparency which pretty much breaks the game.  But on the Ion2, I can run the game on full settings (which is very, very impressive for a netbook) with a portal render depth of 2.  Full HDR also works.  Once the portal depth was placed above 2, however, the framerate dropped below a smooth level.  HD video displays beautifully, and 1080p output works as promised, with very few stutters.  720p video from youtube displayed perfectly.
The display is where I'm having problems.  The initial specs promised a 720p screen, so this 1024x600 LCD is really aggravating.  If you've seen my other forum posts I'm planning on upgrading it to an LG 1366x768 display provided it will work, and provided I can find out how to pop open the bezel on the casing.  Once that's done this netbook will offer a lot more from its Ion2 graphics.  To its credit, however, the screen is a nice matte finish, and looks very sharp (though the brightness leaves a lot to be desired.  It's too dim even at max brightness.)
In terms of speed, to be honest I'm left with a few complaints.  The processor is great, the n550 chip is fast and flexible, but only including 1GB of DDR3 is in irritating bottleneck - i've several times found myself waiting for things to load.  That's fixable, however.
Anyways, I hope this little review will help out any potential buyers.  In short:
Graphics:  GREAT.  Except for low-res and slightly dim screen.
Power:  Very powerful, very flexible.  But too little ram.  Upgradeable.
Input:  Great keyboard, Excellent touchpad.
Features:  Rare 3rd USB port and HDMI output are indispensable, Bluetooth and Wifi work excellently.  Surprised at the lack of USB 3.0, however.

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