Asus Eee PC 1215B notebook review

The Asus Eee PC 1215B is a notebook with a 12.1 inch display and it looks an awful lot like all of the other recent 12.1 inch laptops from Asus. It has the same keyboard and touchpad layout, and generally has the same ports, and software. Even the power adapter looks like the one you get with other Asus Eee PC notebooks. But it’s what’s inside that counts, because the Eee PC 1215B is the first Asus laptop to ship with an AMD Fusion chipset.

This chipset offers better-than-netbook performance for day-to-day tasks and support for 1080p HD video playback and 3D graphics acceleration. At the same time, the AMD chip uses just 18W of power, which helps the laptop get decent battery life.

Asus loaned me a test unit for the purposes of this review. The Asus Eee PC 1215B-PU17 has a 1.6 GHz AMD E-350 dual core processor, Radeon HD 6310 graphics, 2GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB hard drive, and runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. It includes 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, and a 0.3MP camera and comes with a 56Whr battery.

This configuration retails for around $450 or less. Asus also offers a cheaper Eee PC 1215B-MU17 model for around $380 or less which has a slower 1 GHz AMD C-50 processor, Radeon HD 6250 graphics, Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit, no Blueooth, and a lower capacity battery.

So how does the Asus Eee PC 1215B stack up against other Eee PC notebooks, or the HP Pavilion dm1z, a notebook with nearly identical specs? Read on to find out.

Design

It’s been a while since Asus has dramatically redesigned its 12.1 inch laptop case. If you’ve seen any Eee PC 12xx notebooks in the last few years, you already have a pretty good idea what the Eee PC 1215B looks like – a large netbook. In fact, from a distance you’d be hard pressed to tell the laptop apart from one of the company’s 10 inch netbooks such as the Eee PC 1015PN.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Asus has done a pretty good job of making inexpensive yet easy to use thin and light laptops over the past few years. The keyboard is one of the best around, at least in terms of layout, and the touchpad is nice and wide — although I’d prefer to have two buttons below the touch area rather than one.

The case is made of plastic, but it feels relatively durable, and the matte lid isn’t as prone to showing off your fingerprints as some glossy laptop lids.

The display, on the other hand, is glossy, and while it offers decent viewing angles, it turns into a mirror when you shine a light directly at it. The plastic bezel around the screen is also rather shiny.

The laptop has a sort of elongated teardrop shape, making it thicker in the rear than at the front when the lid is closed. When you open the lid, the bottom of the lid moves down behind the back of the laptop, which prevents you from opening the lid very wide.

Around the sides of the laptop you’ll find VGA and HDMI ports, 3 USB ports, (including one USB 3.0 port), Ethernet and audio jacks and an SDHC card slot.

There’s a single access panel on the base of the laptop which you can open to replace or upgrade the RAM.

The keyboard features flat chiclet-style keys with small gaps between each. On the right side of the keyboard there’s room for a dedicated row of Home, Function, Page up and Page down keys, while the arrow keys in the lower right corner serve double-duty as media playback controls when you hold down the Fn key.

The touchpad is nice and wide and supports two-finger gestures. It has a matte finish and matches the palm rest in color and texture, but it’s easy to detect the edges of the touchpad with your fingers thanks to the chrome borders. There’s a single large button below the touchpad which you have to press a little harder than I’d like to register left and right-click actions.

Performance

While the Eee PC 1215B looks like most other recent Eee PC notebooks, it’s what’s inside that counts. Asus has opted for a 1.6 GHz AMD E-350 dual core processor with Radeon HD 6310 graphics in lieu of the usual Intel Atom chip. The result is a computer which is much faster than most Atom-based netbooks. I ran a series of benchmarks to see just how much faster.


The first set of tests involve CPU-intensive tasks such as converting a video from AVI to Xvid, transcoding an audio file from WAV to MP3, and creating a ZIP archive from a folder with over 2,000 files.

As you can see in the chart above, the Eee PC 1215B was noticeably faster than the Eee PC 1015PN in all of these tasks. The Eee PC 1015PN is a 10 inch netbook with a 1.5 GHz Intel Atom N550 dual core processor and NVIDIA ION 2 graphics. Since these tests all relied on the CPU rather than the graphics capabilities, the new model was the clear winner.

I also threw in comparisons with two other AMD-powered laptops, the HP Pavilion dm1z which features nearly identical specifications to the Eee PC 1215B, and the Acer Aspire One 522 which has a 1 GHz AMD C-50 dual core processor and Radeon HD 6250 graphics.

I should point out that while the laptop offers better-than-netbook performance, it’s not necessarily the fastest machine I’ve ever tested. The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11, for instance, with an Intel Core i3 processor was faster at most tasks I threw at it. But the Edge 11 isn’t available in the US and most laptops in its class carry higher price tags than the Asus Eee PC 1215B.

OK, so the laptop is pretty good at CPU-heavy tasks. But what about graphics performance? I ran the 3DMark06 benchmark, and again the Eee PC 1215B virtually tied the HP Pavilion dm1z.

The laptop also came out well ahead of the Eee PC 1015PN and the acer Aspire One 522 in these tests, which measure gaming performance. It’s worth noting that the Eee PC 1015PN has a stripped down version of NVIDIA’s ION graphics card though. The version used in larger laptops and desktop computers comes out ahead of the Radeon HD 6310 chip. But the difference isn’t all that great.

Basically, you should have no problems watching 1080p HD video content with this laptop. It should also be able to decode Blu-ray discs if you have a USB drive. And many modern video games should play smoothly. But if you’re looking for a gaming rig, you could probably do better.

The Eee PC 1215B was one of the few laptops I’ve tested that received a passing grade in the Street Fighter IV benchmark. But that grade was an E. When I ran the benchmark at a screen resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, Street Fighter played at 26.03 frames per second. That jumped up to 32.94 frames per second when I reduced the screen resolution to 1024 x 600, but that’s not exactly the best way to experience a game.

Battery

The laptop has a 6 cell, 5200mAh, 56 Whr battery. In my tests, I was able to get between 5 and 5.5 hours of run time while surfing the web, listening to music, and maybe watching a few YouTube videos. Your results will likely vary depending on what you’re using the laptop for, but I consistently got under 5.5 hours of run time which is decent but not spectacular.

 

I was a little surprised when I put together my battery life comparison chart to note that the difference between the four laptops I’ve been comparing throughout this review is pretty slim. In fact, because battery life can vary from situation to situation, I’d say that these four laptops all basically run for about the same amount of time on a charge.

There are laptops, such as the Asus Eee PC 1001P which will offer substantially more run time. But it’s tough to find one that offers the combination of price, performance, and battery life that the Eee PC 1215B offers… unless you go with another AMD Fusion-based system such as the $449 HP Pavilion dm1z.

Verdict

The Asus Eee PC 1215B is a solid little laptop. If you’re looking for something with a little more oomph than a typical Intel Atom-powered machine, you could certainly do a lot worse. The Radeon HD 6310 graphics won’t offer quite the performance you would get from the latest NVIDIA ION chip, but the CPU more than makes up for that.

The HP Pavilion dm1z is another good choice, but there are three good reasons to consider the Asus notebook over HP’s model. The Eee PC 1215B features a much better touchpad. The laptop also has a USB 3.0 port, if that’s the sort of thing that matters to you. And the Asus notebook is typically a bit cheaper than HP’s model unless you happen to pick up the Pavilion dm1z when it’s on sale.

The Asus Eee PC 1215B is also available in a variety of colors. While Asus sent me the solid black model, you can also find the laptop with white and red cases, although the screen bezel and keyboard are black on all three versions.

  • http://twitter.com/drumboy_ Aaron H

    Hey Brad,
    Thanks for the review!!  After reading the review, I think I’ll be retiring my 1201N here this summer! :)

  • MonkeyKing1969

    What about fan noise?  The HP dm1z has a good bit of fan noise in that the fan is almost always, on unless you are typing in a meat-locker.  ;-)

  • sv

    I’ve never had the opportunity at a b&m store to compare side-by-side an 11.6″ vs. 12.1″.  Is the size difference noticeable?   

    • http://liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Barely. I personally prefer 12.1 for windows machines because the text and
      graphics are a little less headache-inducingly sharp, but the difference is
      pretty small.

    • Michaelpaulpenang

      A bit of difference. The 12 is really nice, like Brad said, no need to strain your eyes. A plus point, Asus seems to have set the standard for low price 12 inches. In Asia, they bundle the above with a Windows 7 Starter, and the price drops even further. To be honest Starter and Premium is the same thing! Honestly, W7S is really worth it when the prices fall drastically.

  • Michaelpaulpenang

    battery life is so crap. In today’s world, where tablets are giving 10 hours, netbooks and notebooks have really not improved. Most light netbooks and notebooks give more or less 5 to 6 hours and that is crap. And this has been going on for years now. Whilst mobile phones, camcorder, digital cameras battery life has improved substantially, manufacturers of notebooks and netbooks have stalled the past few years.

    • http://liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      I don’t know about that. Just a fee years ago notebooks that ran for 2-3
      hours instead of 5-6 seemed to be the rule rather than the exception,
      especially on the budget price range.

      • Michaelpaulpenang

        netbooks have become worse actually. My first Asus 3 years ago, the Asus 1000H gave 8 hours. Now, the latest netbooks, give lesser or same.

        So, in 3 years, no improvement.

      • http://liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

        Really? Did you have a 1000H or a 1000HE? I still have a 1000H and I’ve never gotten more than 5.5 hours out of it.

        The Eee PC 701 got about 2-3 hours of battery life. The first models I tested that actually got up to 10 hours or more were Pine Trail models with Atom N450 chips. Things haven’t really gotten much better since then, and I find that most Atom powered netbooks today tend to get between 5 and 8 hours of battery life.

        But overall my point is that you used to have to spend well over a thousand dollars to get anything with more than 5 hours of run time. Now you can get that for $400 or less. 

      • Michaelpaulpenang

        I forgot, as I sold of the machine some time back. But like I said before, different regions give different capacity batteries, maybe mine was like CyberGusa said, a higher capcity. But it used to give a good whole day’s performance. I remember going to work woth it and from 9am to 5 pm continuous surfing the net. The Atom Z5xx cpu’s were great, especially on the Asus 1101. I heard they advertised 14 hours and yet had a 11 inch screen.

        What I am trying to say is that, even way back then, we had 8 hours and 14 hours. So, things really have not imporved in the netbook seen.

        True, prices have gone down and I am glad that its more affordable. Also, it has stopped the sales of $5000 12 inch notebooks by Sony and Fujitsu. Nowdays, nobody bothers even looking at them. I wonder whether people even bother going to Dynamism’s website nowadays ever since netbooks started catching up.

        Still ever grateful to netbooks for giving us light, affordable machines.

      • Anonymous

        Thing to understand is back then we only got long run times with large capacity batteries.  Now the cost to provide the same run time is less and systems can actually be made to run longer but the industry by its nature balances cost and weight versus battery capacity.

        Many Z5xx systems, despite requiring less power than N series ATOMs, for example had less than average run times because they were given smaller batteries.  A necessary exchange for doing things like putting them into ultra light systems and smaller devices like UMPC’s.  Since batteries are not cheap and can take up a lot of space to provide a given run time range.

        So often run times are limited to what the industry feels is the minimum to satisfy demand and balances performance versus run time.

        For mobile devices the emphasis is more on run time than for portable devices you are more likely to have plugged in.  So they sacrifice performance and capabilities for longer run times.

        But the technology is always improving and there is only a matter of time before you see significant improvements in both the mobile and portable device ranges.

        AMD Fusion is just one example of the rest of the industry pushing for more energy efficient solutions, while giving a better balance in performance. Something that leads to the other factor, which is competition. Since up till now Intel had none in the netbook market and now they’re being pushed to improve or the market will move to better alternatives.

        Cedar Trail being just the first of even more impressive improvements we can see in the next few years.

      • Anonymous

        Well, let’s get some facts straight… It was the HE, with it’s higher capacity 8700mAh, battery that gave up ~8.5 hours.  The regular H got the regular 6600mAh battery and unless system was optimized for minimal power use then usually wouldn’t make 8 hours.  Those getting even longer used higher capacity 3rd party batteries that usually extended out the back or bottom of the system.

        Problem is battery technology hasn’t really improved but system efficiency has and that’s where improved run times are coming from.

        The Pine Trail was only a little more energy efficient than the original ATOM line but systems sold with it had advertised run times of up to 14 hours.  Though of course actual run time was a little less but these were still more than offered by the 1000x series with the same size capacity batteries.

        The upcoming 32nm Cedar Trail should give a much more significant boost to available run times.  Though keep in mind that to keep weight and cost down they often reduce the battery capacity but given the same capacity they would run much longer than existing systems.

        More immediate examples include the Panasonic J10, based on the Sandy Bridge i5, and is advertised for up to 12 hours of use.  Compared to a similar pre-Sandy Bridge i5 used in the Asus Eee Pad Slate that only gives a few hours of run time, and thus showing how they are already improving run times.

        There are also the Sandy Bridge models from companies like Lenovo with their Thinkpad X220, with both a 9 cell battery and optional battery slice that combined can give up to 23 hours of use for a i5 based system.

        The comparison to ARM tablets are simply wrong though.  The iPad for example is basically only running the hardware you would find in a Smart Phone like the iPhone but with a battery taking up most of the internal space of the iPad.

        You’ll need a battery nearly the size of a laptop to give equivalent capacities and netbooks on up are offering far more raw performance than any ARM tablet presently gives. 

        Many ARM tablets are just running very light weight OS like Android and iOS, which is like comparing cat to a lion compared to Windows and OSX and both the software and hardware power requirements for netbooks on up are significantly more than any ARM system.

        So you’re basically comparing apples to oranges if insisting on matching run times for such dissimilar devices.

      • Michaelpaulpenang

        90% of netbook users use their netbooks to surf the net. Just that. They hardly use their netbooks for other purposes other than surfing the net. Most cpu intensive work is always done at work or at home on their primary machines, be it a desktop or a notebook.

        So, netbooks and tablets can be identified as the same as it has a similiar purpose ie surfing the net. In fact, nearly every netbook user I know who jumped into the ipad bandwagon, never looked back. They said their ipads serve the same purpose, enabled them to surf the web, watch movies, check their stocks, check their emails etc.

        Maybe netbook makers should just drop the Atom cpus and move to ARM and with a keyboard, bring back the Smartbook back again. Ever wondered why the Transformer is selling so well?

      • Anonymous

        Sorry but that’s not true, mobile devices only account for about 19% of what people use computers for and ARM tablets can’t do everything even a netbook can. 

        Even with just browsing there is a difference between the browsing experience of a full browser and the mobile browsers used by mobile devices.

        Never mind it doesn’t matter because Windows or OSX is a far more resource heavy OS than Android or iOS, and unlike ARM tablets regular PC’s have to support more peripherals and can’t just turn off things not being used like USB ports. 

        Many tablets for example require special OTG USB cables to even allow host mode to connect devices to the tablet.

        ARM processors also can’t run Operating Systems made for x86 systems.  Even when Windows 8 comes out it may not be able to run x86 software on ARM outside of possibly emulation.

        The performance of ARM processors also won’t rival Intel ATOM’s until the upcoming next gen processors come out.  Even the Tegra 2 just comes to the level that it can run say Ubuntu without being too sluggish but something as heavy as Windows 7 would be slow.

        So there is a world of difference.

        Really, if you want to discuss this in detail then open a topic up in the Eee User Forum and I’ll be happy to give you as many details on the differences as you want…  I go by zeo on that forum…

  • Vanamonde

    I’ve got the European version of the HP DM1Z, the fan may be on all the time but it still runs far cooler than my old Asus 1201N.

  • JustSayin

    I know there are few CULV based netbooks but the

    Acer Aspire AS1430Z with the Pentium U5600 seems like a good machine to throw in the mix with the the AMD E-350 and dual core Atoms.  While weaker in graphics the U5600 is close to the same level of performance as a similarly clocked i3 (i3 330UM @ 1.20GHz score 1,200) according to PassMark score and scores significantly higher (1,163) than AMD E-350 (734).

    Other than the HP DM1 at Best Buy I think the AMD Fusion offerings to date, especially by Lenovo, are priced too high for what they are really offering.  Once the hype subsides I think the market value will adjust downward but I hope they will raise the bar for highly portable offerings in the < $450 price class.

    All manufacturers should cut the crap on making bluetooth an option.  It likely costs them less than $5 to include and should be considered as standard as WiFi.

    • JustSayin

      Just snagged a discontinued Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-6478 11.6″ with 1st generation Corei3, 3GB, 320GB and higher capacity battery than model mentioned above for 450.

      The “new Egghead” had a DDR3 4GB SODIMM on sale for 30.99 shipped.

      Groovy baby!

  • Anon

    at least there is support for “two-finger gestures” LOL

  • Anonymous

    I use a small Sony 11 inch AMD Fusion Notebook and have been satisfied with its performance. Its nothing spectacular but battery life is good and its lightweight. Because the clock speeds of the E350 AMD are still only 1.6Ghz. I still find it sluggish compared to anything but a Atom CPU which is slower still. 

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  • rykellim

    Hi, I have a ASUS EeePC 1215B with a sticker which says “8 hrs Long Battery Life” on its bottom right corner, but I cannot find a way to make it last that long. May I know if it is a misleading advertisement?