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Asus Eee PC 1215N And 1215T: Nvidia's Ion 2 And AMD's Nile

Quick Look At Asus' CULV Notebooks: The "Premium Netbooks"

Asus was the original developer of the netbook with its Eee PC line. This turned out to be one of the shining jewels in the company's mobile product lineup. However, there is a small catch: profits are razor-thin when it comes to budget-oriented purchases. The only way to make up for that fact is by moving lots of volume or pushing higher-priced alternatives. During the first year, Asus was all about volume. Once the company realized its design was popular and selling the Eee PC wasn't difficult, it turned its attention toward premium netbook offerings.

The selection of Eee PC netbooks makes the buying process a bit dizzying. The 10.1" form factor alone has seven different models and more than 100 SKUs. When you add in the 11.1" and 12.1" models, the choices become overwhelming. Fortunately, when it comes to CULV-based offerings from Asus' Eee PC family, there are only two models you need to look at: the 1215T and the 1215N.

The two models are based on the same chassis, battery, and look identical (right down to the port arrangement). If you were to remove the stickers, there would be no way to tell them apart. Things take a different turn under the proverbial hood, though. The 1215T is based on AMD's Nile platform: an Athlon II Neo K125 (1.7 GHz) and Mobility Radeon HD 4225 integrated graphics. Meanwhile, the 1215N is an Nvidia Optimus-powered notebook that mates a dual-core Atom D525 processor to a second-generation Ion chipset.

Keep in mind that while they look similar, the two netbooks are priced differently. The 1215N fetches a market price around $476, while the 1215T is more budget-oriented at around $404.

The ABS casing on the 1215-series Eee PC is what we've come to expect from budget-oriented configurations, as polycarbonate increases the price tag. While the bottom of the notebook employs a carbon fiber weave design (similar to what we saw on the 1001P), we want to emphasize that this is still ABS plastic. It has simply been molded into the texture of carbon fiber.

The top of the notebook, meanwhile, has a standard polished finish, which is a relief, as it forgoes that high-gloss sheen that attracts fingerprints. Although this is an improvement, it's in no way a clear win, as the polished finish can still show fingerprints and generate the oil buildup-sensation over time. The only difference is that it isn't as apparent as a high-gloss finish, and it takes longer for the sensation to materialize. This is why it is a disappointment to see the casing around the keyboard employ a high-gloss piano black finish Asus also chose to use a high-gloss finish around the display.

Given the size of this notebook, Asus chose to implement a full-sized keyboard. But this is only part of the story. When we discuss keyboard size, this is a reference to the length of the keyboard in relation to a desktop computer. It says nothing about individual key sizes. While the full-sized keyboard is there, Asus' chiclet design makes it necessary for the company to use smaller keys, which may be a problem for anyone with larger-than-average hands. 

The whole wrist-rest area and touchpad is actually fabricated as a single piece, with the touchpad clicker and outline bars inserted after fabrication. The whole portion of the chassis comes off as a single piece when you access the hard drive, and it shares the same texture as the back of the display (except that it has a slightly more aggressive polish).

As the touchpad is integrated, it shares the same polished texture, which is exactly what we dislike. Integrated touchpads offer the benefit of a seamless aesthetic appearance. But designed incorrectly, they can create a poor experience. Why? Most integrated touchpads extend from the polished or high-gloss texture, which makes for incredibly poor tracking when even a little bit of finger oil builds up. This is our biggest problem with the 1215T and 1215N. The polished surface is still better than high-gloss, but it could be even better. Gateway's LT2120u is a great example of how an integrated touchpad can be done right. After a year of use, smooth touchpads like the one seen here tend to get a noticeable "wear patch" on them, which only makes tracking more frustrating after the warranty expires.

Despite the misgivings we have on the touchpad, the clicker bar is a pleasant surprise. Made of plastic, with the appearance of brushed aluminum and a smooth polished finish, the it has no loose resistance and good tactile feedback. Our only problem relates to the one-click phenomenon. When you press down close to the middle, you either perform a right-click or a left-click. This also occurs if you click at an angle, which can be a problem, depending on how you situate your hands. Ideally, there should be two buttons with a slightly raised profile. Instead, the clicker bar is partially recessed.

Servicing the notebook is fairly straightforward. Once you remove the four screws under the memory cover, you can remove the wrist-rest part of the casing. After that, you are just few screws shy of removing the keyboard.

This caused a bit of a surprise for us, as we discovered the chiclet keyboard doesn't actually insert from below the keyboard bezel. Instead, the bezel and keyboard come off as one piece. This is a great thing, as it means a spilled Coke or coffee shouldn't damage anything below the keyboard.

The internal layout is shared between the two models, minus one small detail. The 1215T has only one memory slot, which is why it only ships with 2 GB of RAM.

If you're an aftermarket tinkerer, you're going to be disappointed here. Any servicing beyond cleaning the keyboard and touchpad is going to void the warranty. And yes, Asus can tell when you've gone too far in your modding efforts. We already broke the seal for our AMD Fusion: Brazos Preview.

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