Asus Eee 1201N ION Review - The Netbook. Supercharged.
The design of the 1201N is very clean and elegant with curved lines and rounded edges throughout. The lid is a glossy plastic with an attractive appearance that combines different colours to look like silver seashell. When closed, the Eee 1201N has a very slim profile that occupies very little space (11 3/4" width x 8 1/4" depth x 1" thick).
While the lid looks beautiful, it flexes a bit too much when pressed near the hinge edge - this causes the lid and the console surfaces to rub together causing scratches to the unit. In everyday handling, there's a good chance you'll grab the Eee 1201N by the hinge side (imagine just picking it up off a desk) and damage your computer, albeit cosmetic.
Above: Scuff marks caused by the flexible lid rubbing against the console.
Unfortunately there's no real avoiding this since it's a structural design issue. I'd recommend to take special care of the 1201N and keep it in a case and keep it away from tight spaces with other hard objects. A hard case will help keep the netbook from being crushed, but sort of defeats the purpose of having a super portable computer.
Opening the lid reveals a simple console layout that is slightly smaller than your your standard notebook keyboard, and a bit bigger than the cramped key mashers on netbooks. The keys have a very mild affirmative feel when pressed, but may be considered too soft for some.
Special function keys are mapped on the keyboard F1-F12 keys, in addition to Fn+C for Asus' Splendid video profile switching, Fn+V for CyberLink UCam video recording software, and Fn+Space for Super Hybrid Engine power profile switching.
More on these different tools when we examine the bundled software a little later in this review.
The trackpad on the 1201N is pretty unique because it uses a capacitive touch pad - as a result, the traditional black tracking surface you're accustomed to is gone. In its place is a dimpled region that responds to user's single and multi-touch gestures. This keeps the 1201N's console clean and beautiful.
There is a factory sticker that covers the tracking area (seen in the above image) which actually helps give a smoother surface and less resistance.
The multitouch input only works in a small number of applications currently (scrolling in MS Word, zooming in Photo Viewer), and doesn't work reliably in other applications. Although multitouch input leaves a lot to be desired at the moment, the capacitive tracking area tracks a lot smoother on the UI than the traditional trackpad, and appears to be a little more responsive with single touch tracking gestures.
Multitouch is nice, but not many apps support it.
The screen is a bright and crisp LED backlit display at 1366x768 resolution. The view angles to the left and right were superb even at nearly a 180-degree angle.
12.1" LED backlit screen.
The lid itself tilts back about 135-degrees, not quite 180-degrees to have the lid nearly flat to the surface.
A 0.3MP webcam is integrated into the lid which is good enough for basic web conferencing.
On the right side of the 1201N are two USB 2.0 ports, a memory card reader, audio jacks, a gigabit ethernet port, and a security lock port.
On the front of the 1201N, there are only 5 small LEDs that tell you the state of your computer: power, battery, HDD activity, wireless, and caps lock. The lack of any jacks on the front helps keep your work area clean and free of tangling wires.
Connectivity includes the often missing HDMI port.
On the left, you have your video output: VGA and HDMI out, the 3rd and final USB 2.0 port, the power jack, and the air vent for the system's cooling mechanism. The air coming out of the 1201N can get pretty warm, even under a light load - so be sure to keep the base well ventilated. We'll take a closer look at heat a little later.
On the back you find a battery which sits flush to the bezel.
Flipping the over the computer, you will see that the battery does portrude a little from the base of the system. This in itself isn't bad as it helps encourage free-moving air into the cooler.
There is a removable cover which reveals a pair of DIMM slots. The 1201N comes loaded with 2GB - a bit more than your standard netbook. Normally on PC Perspective we'd like to see the real dirty stuff like hard drives and cooling mechanisms, but all of that is hidden under the keyboard on the Eee 1201N.
Above: Two accessible DIMM slots. Dual-channel, baby!