Asus Eee PC 1015PED review

The Eee PC 1015PED is one of several new 10 inch netbooks Asus launched late this summer. It doesn’t have an HD display or high performance graphics like the upcoming Asus Eee PC 1015PN, and it doesn’t have a dual core processor like the Eee PC 1015PEM. What it does have is an identical case design, decent performance, and a reasonable price tag of about $350.

Asus sent me an Eee PC 1015PED demo unit to review. It features a 1.83GHz Intel Atom N475 CPU, 1GB of memory, a 250GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth and Windows 7 Starter Edition.

Overall, I was reasonably impressed with the performance from this laptop. It’s not vastly superior to an average netbook, but that 1.83GHz CPU seems to make a slight difference, with the Eee PC 1015PED edging out netbooks with slower chips in most of my benchmarks. On the other hand, while getting decent battery life, under real world conditions the Eee PC 1015PED doesn’t come anywhere close to the 13 hour battery life that Asus promises.

Design

Asus netbooks have come a long way since the humble Eee PC 701. While most Eee PC models released since mid-2008 have 10 inch displays, the company subtly tweaked its design with each new generation of netbooks, adding an island-style keyboard, a curved 6 cell battery that barely sticks out from the bottom of the laptop, and dedicated buttons above the keyboard for toggling the wireless and CPU throttling functions.

Overall, the Eee PC 1015PED doesn’t look that much different from the Eee PC 1005-series netbooks released late last year and early this year. It retains the same “seashell” style design, which means that when you look at the netbook sideways, it looks a it like a seashell since it’s round and wide in the back, and narrower near the front.

But there are a few new elements in the Eee PC 1015 series of netbooks. First, there’s now a cover for the webcam. You can slide the switch above the webcam to the on or off position to cover the camera.

The touchpad has also been redesigned so that the texture is exactly the same as the texture in the palm rest area. There are thin metallic bars separating the edges of the touchpad from the palm area though, so you don’t accidentally start swiping the wrong area.

The power button features a textured pattern that almost seems nail file-esque, and there’s a blue LED next to the power button to let you know if the computer is on or off.

The Eee PC 1015PED also has a matte display. That’s not exactly a new feature for Asus, but the company seems to favor matte screens on some netbook models and glossy on others.

Around the sides of the laptop you’ll find 3 USB ports, a VGA port, an Ethernet jack, SD card slot, mic and headphone jacks, and the power adapter jack. There’s also a small vent on the left side of the netbook.

The speakers are located on the bottom of the netbook near the front. The audio is surprisingly loud, although I noticed a bit of distortion at times when the volume was cranked all the way up.

There’s also a single access panel on the bottom of the computer, allowing you to upgrade the RAM. If you want to upgrade the hard drive or other components you’ll need to crack open the netbook case.

While the 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display has a matte finish, the bezel around the display is made of shiny black plastic as is the area around the keyboard, even though the palm rest and lid of the model featured in this review are blue. The netbook is also available with an all black finish.

The lid has a matte finish, but it still managed to retain some fingerprints.

Overall I like the design — but that’s not surprising, since it really hasn’t changed all that much from the design of the Eee PC 1001P, Eee PC 1008HA, or Eee PC 1005PE which I’ve previously reviewed. I guess I’m getting kind of used to this form factor.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Eee PC 1015PED features a chiclet-style keyboard, which means that the keys are flat and square, with small gaps between them. If you’re used to keyboards with concave keys, this can take a little getting used to, since there’s no indentation for your finger to fall into, but it makes good use of the space on a 10 inch netbook and even though the keyboard is slightly smaller than full-sized, I was able to tap out about 100 words per minute in a typing test.

Like most notebook keyboards, this netbook recruits some keys to serve double duty as Fn keys. For instance, pressing FN+F5 or F6 will adjust the display brightness. Fn+ Left Arrow = Home, while Fn+ Right Arrow = end.

Given how many different function keys there are, it  was nice of Asus to find a way to fit two separate Fn keys on the board — one on the right and one on the left. The arrow keys are a bit on the tiny side, but at least each key arrow key is the same size, which is more than I can say for the default Acer netbook keyboard.

The touchpad has a smooth, matte finish and matches the palm rest area. The texture is pleasant enough, although it does seem to collect oil from your fingertips.

You can perform multitouch gestures including two-finger scrolling using the touchpad.

The single large button beneath the touchpad is responsive but feels a bit like it’s made of cheap plastic — probably because it is. The button has a metallic finish though, so it looks better than it feels, for what it’s worth.

Performance

The Asus Eee PC 1015PED isn’t by any means a speed demon, but it does have a 1.83GHz Intel Atom N475 processor which is a tiny bit zippier than the 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450/N455 processors found in most netbooks released earlier this year.

For instance, a typical netbook with an Atom N450 processor gets a 2.3 processor score in the Windows Experience Index. The Eee PC 1015PED got a 2.6. On the other hand, the HP Mini 5103 with a 1.5GHz dual core Atom N550 chip got a score of 2.9.

I also ran a series of tests to see how the netbook compared to similar machines when running CPU-intensive tasks including transcoding video, transcoding audio, and creating a ZIP file from a folder containing over 2,000 files.

Of the four mini-laptops featured in the chart above, the Eee PC 1015PED handled audio and video transcoding jobs the fastest — even faster than the dual core HP Mini 5103. It was a bit slower than the HP when it came to zipping a folder, but faster than the Eee PC 1005PE which was released earlier this year with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 single core processor.

Just for the heck of it I also threw in the Acer Aspire One 521 which is another 10 inch mini-laptop, but one with a 1.7GHz AMD Athlon K125 single core processor. As you can see, it was much faster at these CPU-intensive tasks than any of the Atom powered netbooks. Not bad a for a computer that sells for just about the same price as the Eee PC 1015PED.

In terms of everyday performance, like many netbooks with Atom processors, I had no problem surfing the web, watching standard definition web video, or listening to audio. The netbook struggled with 720p or higher resolution HD video, and when I had more than 6 browser tabs open I noticed that the Google Chrome web browser started to feel a bit sluggish when scrolling through web pages or flipping between tabs.

Battery

Asus claims the Eee PC 1015PED should get up to 13 hours of battery life. That’s what it says on the official product description, and there’s even a sticker that says “13 Hours Battery Life” next to the space bar.

That sounded a bit high to me, but since the Eee PC 1005PE got more than 10 hours of run time, I was willing to believe that the 1015PED might get at least 9 or 10 hours of battery life. It didn’t.

In my tests, the battery ran down after just about 7 hours of moderate use. During one test, the WiFi was enabled and I was surfing the web on and off for about 7 hours. I know that computer makers regularly give optimistic battery life estimates that are only achievable under ideal conditions — but I was a bit surprised to get just barely more than half the estimated run time, so I ran a second test.

This time I double checked to make sure battery was fully charged when I started. I left the WiFi on for the full test again, but this time instead of web surfing, I streamed audio from an internet radio station until the battery died, while leaving the display at about 50% brightness. The battery ran out after 7 hours and 10 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong — 7 hours of run time is actually pretty good for most notebooks. I’m just disappointed that the real world battery life falls so short of the claim listed on the sticker.

Verdict

The Eee PC 1015PED offers slightly better performance than a typical netbook for a reasonable $350 price. I like the physical design, and the keyboard is one of the better netbook keyboards I’ve used.

On the other hand, if you were thinking about picking up this netbook based on the claim that it can run for up to 13 hours on a charge, you’re likely to be disappointed. Under real world conditions, you’re much more likely to get about 7 hour of battery life from the Eee PC 1015PED.

  • RobBrownNZ

    I’ve got one of these, and it’s not bad but it’s got a severe blue LED overload – half a dozen of the damned things on the keyboard surface, and even one on the power supply!
    More seriously, I bought a 2GB SODIMM to put in it, which doesn’t work. The specs say 2GB should OK, the timings on the memory I bought should be compatible, but the Eee won’t boot with the new memory. Asus really needs to make RAM compatibility information available, because I have no idea what’s going wrong.

  • Scottg52

    If Asus still has the instant boot in the bios you will need to disabled it,
    Nothing in the bios will change unless to change it, making it so it can’t see the new ram. Put the old ram back in, make the bios setting and THEN put in the new ram. That is how my older Asus 1005ha works anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Well, whaddayaknow – yesterday Asus released a BIOS update (0701) that adds support for “DDR3 Raw Card F” (whatever that is). And yes, now my 2GB SODIMM works. Nice job, Asus!

  • Scottg52

    Asus and other company’s release a new product and then fix it later through bios updates. Taking care of customers comes in second to profit. I can’t tell you how many updates the Asus 1005ha bios has had not related to a new OS. But still overall they sell good computers if your willing to put up with all the B.S.

    • aftermath

      It’s true that most companies are looking out for their shareholders’ best interest and not their customers. However, I can tell you for a fact that most technology companies budget 2-3 times as much calendar time to supporting hardware or software compared to developing it. That used to be done because it was fiscally advantageous (and companies with a consulting business model who later launch their own product or service are essentially doing this), but now it’s just a reality of the competitive landscape. You have to launch NOW. Reid Hoffman famously asserted: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” In today’s business climate, we can’t afford to ship perfect products. We ship broken products and then try to keep them going until they EOL or try to repair them in the spirit of “updates”. This is why marketing is so important, and if you can think of companies with a major television or mall presence, then you can probably identify those who do this the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

  • naked and famous

    Am I the only one who thinks this would be the PERFECT netbook if only it had a 1366×786 screen? I would pay up to 150$ if the upgrade was an available option.
    i’m sad

    • Anonymous

      The sister laptop, 1015PN is essentially the same, with the dual core processor, hdmi, nvidia ion, and 1366×768 screen. I’m with you, I have as mini 5101 (and completely hate HP and it, but needed the high res screen). Looking forward to the 1015PN.

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  • http://www.vivaserver.com vivab0rg

    At last available in Argentina! Hooray!

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/LQUJHNTGTAIHF7EQOWVD6KLWTA bradtwotrees

    I’ve been using my 1015PED since school started in August. I’ve been getting around 9 – 10 hours of use taking notes, recording lectures, using the internet. I like the battery life. Don’t even carry the (small) brick around at all.