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Notebook has dual-core Atom, discrete graphics

Sep 1, 2010 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Asus announced a mini-notebook featuring both a dual-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.8GHz and an Nvidia Ion GPU (graphics processing unit). The Eee PC 1215N has a 12.1-inch screen, up to 4GB of RAM, a 250GB hard disk drive, an HDMI output, and optional USB 3.0 ports, according to the company.

With its 12.1-inch, 1366 x 768 pixel screen, Asus' new Eee PC 1215N is larger than the 11-inch and smaller netbooks we typically cover. What's more, the only Linux installation available with this Windows 7 system is DeviceVM's minimalist, fast-boot "ExpressGate" (see farther below). However, we consider the device worthy of note because of two technical distinctions.

The Eee PC 1215N

The first interesting point is that Asus has fitted its Eee PC 1215N (above) with a dual-core "Pine Trail" Atom from Intel that nominally targeted desktop devices, not portables, when it was introduced earlier this month. The Atom D525 has a 1.8GHz clock speed, supports DDR2 or DDR3 memory, and has a 10-Watt TDP, according to Intel.

With a smaller portable it introduced last week, the Eee PC 1015PEM, Asus used an even newer dual-core Atom "meant for" netbooks in the form of the Atom N550, which clocks at 1.5GHz and has a 8.5-Watt TDP. Presumably, the company reasons purchasers of a larger device like the 1215N will value the slight increase in processing power and not mind any shortfall in battery life.

The second interesting aspect of the Eee PC 1215N is that it also includes Nvidia's Ion 2 GPU. Thanks to Nvidia's Optimus technology, special Windows 7 drivers, and a related control panel (below), the GPU is called upon only when applications that would benefit from it are run, the chipmaker says.

Nvidia's Optimus control panel
(Click to enlarge)

According to Nvidia, the Optimus "copy engine" is capable of copying frame buffer data from the GPU via PCI Express to system memory, where it can then be (re)sent to the display by Intel's integrated graphics processor within three milliseconds. As a result, the screen never goes blank during a switchover, and power consumption is minimized, the company says.

Asus claims that compared to the Eee PC 1015PEM, for which run times up to 13 hours were claimed, the Eee PC 1215 can operate cordlessly for around six hours. Reviews of the device by Laptop and Engadget — see later in this story — both cited cordless operation of approximately five hours and 40 minutes when the GPU was off, or, in the latter's case, two hours and 45 minutes when it was on.

According to Asus, the 1215N comes with a 250GB hard disk drive, plus DDR3 memory that starts at 2GB and is expandable to 4GB. Like the 1015PEM, the device is said to be available with either three USB 2.0 ports, or one USB 2.0 port and two USB 3.0 ports. The latter provide 4.8Gb/sec. data transfer — faster than SATA II, the company claims.

USB 3.0's transfer rates relative to others
Source: Asus

The 1215N is also said to include Bluetooth 3.0, which allows devices to discover one another and "shake hands" using a Bluetooth radio, then switch to 802.11 networking for faster file transfers. We've thus far encountered only a few other netbooks to be so equipped (last week's 1015PEM, plus Samsung's N230 and Dell's Inspiron Mini 1018, for example).

Other connectivity includes 802.11b/g/n wireless networking and an Ethernet port, according to Asus. The netbook is also said to have an MMC/SD card reader, audio jacks (mic in and headphone out), a VGA port, and a HDMI port.

The 1215N runs Windows 7 Home Premium, but may also be booted into Express Gate, a cut-down version of Linux that has also featured on other Asus devices. A variant of DeviceVM's Splashtop technology, Express Gate starts up in about five seconds and allows quick access to a photo viewer, the Firefox web browser, an instant messaging program, and the Skype VoIP client, according to Asus.

Specifications listed by Asus for the Eee PC 1215N include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom D525 clocked at 1.8GHz
  • Chipset — NM10
  • Memory — 2GB of DDR3 RAM (expandable to 4GB)
  • Display — 12.1-inch screen with 1366 x 768 pixel resolution
  • Webcam — .3 megapixel
  • Storage — 250GB hard disk drive (5400rpm presumed but not stated)
  • Expansion — MMC/SSD card reader
  • Networking:
    • LAN — Ethernet (speeds n/s)
    • WLAN — 802.11b/g/n
    • PAN — Bluetooth 3.0
  • Other I/O:
    • 3 x USB 2.0, or 2 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x VGA
    • 1 x HDMI
    • audio — mic in, headphone out
  • Battery — six-cell lithium-ion battery provides six hours of operation
  • Dimensions — 11.6 x 9 x 1.4 inches
  • Weight — 3.19 pounds (1.45kg)

Further information

Pricing and availability for the Eee PC 1215N were not detailed, but further information may be found on the Asus website, here. The device appears to be available from the retailer, here, for approximately $550.

The Engadget and Laptop reviews of the 1215N may be found here and here, respectively.

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