Asus dual-core netbook blurs the line

Asus’ latest addition to the Eee PC netbook line is, when you consider its specs, not very netbook-like at all.

Most notable in the 12.1-inch Eee PC 1201N is the dual-core 1.6 GHz Intel Atom 330 processor. The chip usually finds its way into mini desktop PCs or all-in-ones, such as MSI’s Wind Top, and it has hyper-threading, which makes Windows 7 think it’s a quad-core processor. The trade-off for all this extra power is reduced battery life compared to Asus’ Atom N270-based netbooks, running for up to five hours on a charge.

asusee1201n

Asus has packed some other not-too-shabby specs into the Eee PC 1201N as well. There’s an NVidia Ion graphics processor, which should allow for HD video and some gaming, plus 3 GB of RAM and a 250 GB hard drive. Asus also provides 500 GB of online storage. Screen resolution is 1366-by-768, and there’s an HDMI port on board.

The netbook costs $500, which is $100 to $200 more than most other netbooks. But at this point, you have to ask whether the comparison is fair. The Eee PC 1201N is larger than an average 10.1-inch netbook, it has a dual-core processor, it goes far beyond the 1 GB of RAM and 160 GB hard drive found in most other netbooks and it’s more expensive. So is the Eee PC 1201N really a netbook at all?

Save for the Atom processor type, no. It’s more in line with ultra-low voltage PCs, such as Asus’ own UL30 series, but a tiny bit smaller and a little less expensive. It’s a $500 laptop with decent specs, and calling it a netbook makes the category harder to distinguish. I’m torn as to whether that’s a good thing.