Gearing Up, Road Warrior Style

Asus Eee PC 1201 N

I already know what you’re thinking: what power user would want or use a netbook? In most cases, your skepticism would be well-received, since the majority of netbooks aren’t good anything besides surfing the Web and using office software. However, the Eee PC 1201N from Asus is a different animal altogether.

The 1201N is available in black or silver, and both versions look very slick. Most people who’ve tried typing on a netbook agree that it is unenjoyable, but the 12.1-inch 1201N and its chiclet-style keyboard beg to differ. Typing this review on the machine was comfortable, and the extra room one gets over an 11.6-inch netbook is noticeable. There is even enough room for full-size shift and arrow keys. The 1201N’s trackpad is flush with the body, and the left and right-click buttons are on one solid silver bar.

Asus’ 1201N is one of the only netbooks currently available with the dual-core Atom N330 processor from Intel. At 1.6 GHz, the N330 isn’t a speed demon by any means, but with two cores/four threads, it will give you a serious performance boost over single-core netbooks in many different categories.

More important than the CPU is the GPU. The 1201N uses ION graphics from Nvidia, which allows for seamless 1080p video playback and halfway decent gaming. Sure, the 1201N isn’t going to tear through Crysis like a bat out of hell, but Counter-Strike: Source, Quake Live, StarCraft and World of WarCraft all run on medium or low at 30fps or better.

A 12.1-inch netbook, the 1201N is one of the larger netbooks in the category. That said, the machine is still only 3.21 pounds and 1.31-inches at its thickest point. The 1366x768 display is crisp and performs well when you remember the machine’s $490 price tag. For connectivity, you get three USB ports, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, mic and audio connectors, a 0.3 MP webcam, and an SD card slot.

Combine the above with 2 GB of DDR2 memory, a 250 GB hard drive and Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit, and Asus has created the most powerful netbook currently available in the U.S. today. The only “netbook” that promises to best the 1201N in the future is the $800 M11x from Alienware. Of course, the latter is hardly a netbook, but its 11-inch size is sure to draw comparison.

To be clear, I am not recommending the 1201N as a primary computer. The fact remains that it is a netbook, so the power user in me wants it as a secondary machine. Most people—including students and young entrepreneurs--who have a top-shelf gaming rig in the den at home can’t afford to spend an additional $1000+ on a gaming laptop, and the 1201N is the perfect solution to that problem. When my Core i7/4870 X2 rig at home is out of reach, the 1201N does a suitable job of satisfying the gamer in me.

The 1201N is available at Newegg for $489.99.

Read customer reviews of the Asus Eee PC 1201N