Pros+ Very fast, a netbook for people who don’t like waiting+ Excellent touchpad, soft and responsive+ Large, bright screen which should be the new standard for netbooks+ Keyboard keys are well laid out, pleasure to type on (but check cons below)Cons– Overall look and feel is a bit plasticy– Keyboard has a worrying amount of flex– Display viewing angles aren’t great– Can get quite hot with extended use so not great for on your lapDetailed SpecificationIntel Pinetrail 1.8GHz dual core processor12.1-inch 1366×768 LED-backlit displayIntel GMA 3150 and a Nvidia ION 2 (1.2GHz 16-core GPU) switching controlled by Nvidia Optimus250GB hard drive2GB RAMWindows 7 Home Premium 32-bitWiFi 802.11b/g/nBluetooth0.3MP webcam6-cell Li-Ion 5200 mAh, 57W/h battery (rated 7 hours, realistic: 5 hours)1.46Kg / 3.22lbs3 USB 2.0 portsVGAHDMIMicHeadphone outEthernetChiclet keyboardMultitouch touchpadNote: The 1215N netbook used for this review was provided by Asus as a test unit and has since been shipped back to them. Choosing a netbook over a laptop used to mean making a compromise in order to save some cash. Screen size would be limited to 10-inch, the processor was a single-core 1.6GHz solution, and graphics came from a just-good-enough Intel integrated solution. This was done to protect the laptop market as much as it was to allow a lower price point to be offered to consumers.The gap between netbook and laptop continues to blur, though. Screen sizes are getting bigger, Nvidia ION is now used as a more powerful graphics solution in many netbooks, and the Atom processors are being updated and now include a dual core option.The Asus 1215N reviewed here is definitely a cross-over machine rather than a pure netbook offering. This is made clear from the basic specs:Intel Pinetrail 1.8GHz dual core processor12.1-inch 1366×768 LED-backlit displayIntel GMA 3150 and a Nvidia ION 2 (1.2GHz 16-core GPU) switching controlled by Nvidia Optimus250GB hard drive2GB RAMWindows 7 Home Premium 32-bitAs you can see, this is not a typical netbook, and the price Asus set reflects that at $485. It’s more common to see a netbook priced around $300, but then they don’t have the screen size, processing, or graphical performance on offer here. In that regard you may see the extra $185 as worth it, particularly if you’ve been struggling to watch HD video on your current netbook.And that’s clearly one of the reasons Asus has decided to release its latest update to the Eee PC Seashell line. This is a netbook aimed at users who want to use it for entertainment purposes as well as a device for surfing the web.As well as sporting an updated dual core processor, and plenty of RAM, the 1215N uses Nvidia’s ION 2 platform along with Optimus. This is significant because it means the 16-core GPU running at 1.2GHz allows for playing games. At the same time, Optimus, which turns off the power-hungry GPU automatically when not required, means battery life is increased significantly. The only quirk to this system is your battery indicator will jump around depending on what you are doing with your machine. One minute it will say you have an hour of battery left then the next it will say two hours because you stopped watching that HD video stream.Asus quotes a 7-hour battery life from the 57W/h 6-cell Li-ion battery. On extended, heavy use doing a range of tasks including surfing the web, playing Flash games, watching HD video, and listening to music, I achieved just under 5 hours. Quite respectable considering the hardware running and the screen size. If you intend to use it for gaming then expect that figure to drop to more like 2 hours.The battery life of this netbook is even more impressive considering how fast it is. Not once have I been left tapping my fingers waiting for content to load in a browser. Video playback is without fault, and the games it can handle put most netbooks to shame. If you are an avid World of Warcraft player then you’ll have no problems here. I installed Bioshock and Portal with both racing along at very playable frame rates when set to 1024 x 768 resolution. On a 12.1-inch display that’s more than acceptable.As far as the build-quality and connectivity options go the 1215N is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. There’s 3 USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI out, mic and headphones, and Ethernet ports are included. The casing overall is solid if a little bland and plasticy in feel. It does fall down in two areas, though. The lid does not feel very strong at all and flexes easily under your finger. That’s a common issue in netbooks that can be forgiven. What is more concerning is the flex in the keyboard.Usability-wise the chiclet keyboard is great. It hasproperly spaced keys, a full-size keyboard, and a layout that is easy to get used to. But try tapping any of the keys near the center of the keyboard and the whole area starts to flex. Worse still, you get a secondary plastic-hitting-plastic tapping sound when you release a key. This doesn’t stop the keyboard being a pleasure to use from a typing standpoint, but the sound does get annoying and the flex makes you wonder as to how long it’s going to be before something breaks. I’m hoping this is just a fault on the unit I received, but suspect the flex will be present on all 1215N units even if the secondary sound isn’t.Asus has done a very good job with the touchpad. It’s large so you never find yourself hitting the edges, and it’s very responsive while being soft to the touch. This combination gives you very accurate movement with your finger flowing easily across the pad. The multitouch feature also works well, especially when you want to quickly resize a web page to make the text easier to read.The buttons below the touchpad are overly stiff. You can’t just tap one and expect to get a response. You need to push them down until you hear a click. Fast mouse button tapping is not something you’ll achieve with these buttons. It may be something that gets better as the buttons get used more, but this is something Asus need to work on for the next Seashell netbook. It’s a real shame as it takes away a little from the great touchpad.We musn’t forget about sound on the 1215N, which is definitely above average. The speakers are mounted on the underside of the case near the front. The small feet allow enough room for the sound to escape with both speech and music coming across clearly.As someone who appreciates more screen real estate the 12.1-inch display was very welcome. I cannot use a 10.1-inch netbook without getting very frustrated, and my current Compaq netbook has an 11.6-inch screen. The 12.1-incher is just better and seems like the perfect size that all netbooks should be. At a resolution of 1366 x 768 it can handle HD content, and the image is very crisp and bright. Unfortunately the viewing angles let it down a bit, and anyone trying to view the screen from the side is not going to have the best experience. But this is a netbook and such considerations are secondary.It’s a testament to the performance of this netbook that I would forgive the keyboard flex and choose this model if I was in the market for a new machine. I have not used another netbook that’s as capable for web browsing, media playback, and games while at the same time having good battery life. The larger screen is icing on the cake while the whole unit remains very portable. At 3.22lbs it’s quite heavy for a netbook, but then not so heavy you will mind carrying it around.