Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things I love and hate about the 1201N ASUS EEE PC

The 1201N Seashell EEE PC is my first experience of a netbook.  My boss at work kept telling me that netbooks don't have the grunt to peform as office machines and that they were only good for surfing the net.  My boss appears to have an allergy to Intel Atom processors.  Yet a good deal of my job was demonstrating websites.  I was after a machine that was smaller and lighter than the 17 inch Toshiba Tecra A4.  The Tecra was bought a couple of years ago and was dying - the battery was dying, the soundcard was faulty, Vista was constantly crashing and slow.  So it mostly either sat on my desk or gave me back pains carrying it around with its chunky size and perhipherals.  As I began commuting on long train trips I wanted a machine that was small and compact.  I also wanted a machine that was small enough to take with me whenever I left the office and could do presentations with.  He had some valid concerns about screen and keyboard size of the smaller netbooks.

So I waited a long time for the right combination of robust computing power, a reasonable size.  Of the models I looked at, including the Dell Inspiron, I chose the ASUS 1201N based on size, affordability and battery life.  For some time now I have held ASUS to be a highly underrated brand - I have used their monitors and projectors which were all of very high quality and lasted a very long time with little support in comparison to many other more prestigious brands.  It came installed with Windows 7, so this was my first use of Microsoft's new operating system.

My initial impression of the 1201N is great.  The keyboard is just the right size to be very typable.  The computer rarely crashes and has the capacity for high definition movie playbck which is great.The webcam is adequate although low resolution.  The netbook is packed with features I'll never use but not too much bloatware.  I use Open Office which appears to run without a hitch.  Most Internet browsers and applications perform significantly better than my Toshiba.

Things I love about the 1201N:

* Look and feel - the black model looks particularly slick and impressive under the arm.

* Screen and keyboard - 12.1 inch is just right.  Not too small and not too big.  The layout of the buttons and multimedia controls is just right.  THe ports including USB are in just the right places.

* Mousepad - I have always loved the tactile responsiveness of the EEE PC.

* Battery and charger - excellent life lasts a long time between charges and the charger is tiny compared to my old brick

Despite my love for this machine, a few still do bug me, and these are:

* The glossy screen - it is just far too glary and reflective.  I ended up buying a screen protector, however the thin stick on film wasn't a good solution so I went for an attachable anti-glare device and this also is less than desirable.  For a travel device a matte screen is definitely preferable.

* Sound - the earphone jack is ordinary and faulty.  Volume output is low and putting the device right into the jack you won't hear the sound out of both speakers - only if you pull it out slightly and jiggle it a bit  will it work properly.   A cardinal sin for a travel device IMHO.

* Mousepad - while I like the mousepad there are a couple of things I dont't like about it.  Firstly there is not a lot of space around the mousepad.  This causes a problem in that my left hand (I am right handed) sometimes rests over the detection.  With the touch commands activated this often sent the laptop into one or two finger scroll mode when I didn't want it.  A tweak of the mouse settings helped this, but it still ocassionally kicks in.  The second thing is the single metallic mouse button.  It is difficult to differentiate in the dark, it tends to click quite loudly, takes a bit of pressing and is so smooth that it is actually quite slippery.  Two buttons would also have been nice.

Overall I'd really recommend the 1201N EEE PC as a great little unit for travel and work.