The Asus Eee PC 1004DN is one of the first netbooks to sport an optical disc drive. But that’s not its only claim to fame. It’s also the first available mini-laptop to utilize the new Intel GN40 chipset. When paired with an Intel Atom N280 CPU, this chipset is designed to offer better graphics performance than you’ll get from Intel 945GSE chipset found on most netbooks. But how well does it hold up under real world conditions? HKEPC managed to pick up an Eee PC 1004DN in Hong Kong and put it through its paces.
The GN40 chipset supports DirectX 10, H.264 and VC-1 video decoding, and Shader Model 4.0 specifications. When HKEPC pitted the 1004DN against an Asus Eee PC 1000H and 1000HE, the 1004DN came out ahead in most benchmarks – but not by a huge margin. The GN40 chipset gives the new model an edge in most video and graphics tests. But some of the hardware video encoding features simply don’t work in Windows XP. The drivers aren’t available. You’ll need to use Windows Vista or Windows 7 to get the most out of this chipset.
The GN40 chipset is also more expensive than the Intel 945GSE chipset. And an Intel Atom N280/GN40 combo has a TDP of over 16 watts, compared with a TDP of about 8W for an Atom N280/945GSE pairing. All of which is to say, the GN40 chipset might not be all it’s cracked up to be. It might offer marginally better performance than you get from today’s netbooks. But that performance will come at a cost: Netbooks with this chipset could easily run $30 to $50 more than today’s mini-laptops, and the chipset will take a toll on battery life.