You'd think after running into ASUS's next generation Eee PC 1018P and 1015PE over five months ago at CeBIT, our excitement may have waned for the stylish netbooks. Oh, but it's actually the opposite, and when the brand new netbooks arrived last week, we grabbed the X-Acto knife (safely, of course) and eagerly unboxed them to see if the aluminum clad little laptops were as svelte as we'd remembered them. Sure, the $350 1018P and 1015PE have standard netbook internals (an Intel Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM and Windows 7 Starter), but without a doubt they're some of the best quality netbooks ASUS has made in quite a while. Hit that read more link for an in-depth look at these two, and to see if they're all we had hoped for and more.
Both the Eee PC 1018P and the 1015PE are members of the Eee PC Seashell family, but they look more like first cousins than siblings. The 1018P happens to be our favorite in terms of aesthetics – it's got a black aluminum lid and palmrest (it's also available in silver) while the bottom is covered in a black matte plastic. It's only right to take a second to thank ASUS for finally getting rid of the glossy lids that have been plaguing Eee PC after Eee PC! But back to the 1018P, it has an incredibly professional, uniform look, and its battery is flush with the bottom. But above all, it's one of the thinnest and lightest netbooks we've ever had in hand – it measures .7-inches at its thickest point and weighs 2.4 pounds. Seriously, this is one slender looking machine.
The 1015PE is a bit more chunky and business casual with its soft-to-the-touch maroon aluminum lid, which is also available in black, navy, and white. Actually, the chassis design and size is reminiscent of the Eee PC 1005PE with its rounded corners and thicker base. Speaking of measurements, it's quite a bit thicker than the 1018P -- it's 1.4 inches at its thickest point and the six-cell battery does protrude slightly from the underside. You can see where we're going with this: the 2.8-pound netbook is attractive, but won't turn heads in the same way as the 1018P.
When it comes to ports, both machines have the netbook standards: three USB ports, VGA, Ethernet, headphone and mic jacks. They also have 4-in-1 card readers.
Keyboard, touchpad and screen
The chiclet keyboards on the 1018P and 1015PE are identical to each other, and in truth they're not any different from the keyboards ASUS has been using for the last year on its netbooks (see: Eee PC 1005PE and 1001PE). The matte keys are decently comfortable, but ASUS oddly continues to shrink the right Shift key. The full-sized left Shift key, however, has a total chip on its shoulder and laughs from the other side of the deck. It's not the best netbook keyboard out there – we still prefer that on the Toshiba Mini NB305 and the HP Mini 5102 – but we typed this entire review at a decent rate.
While the Eee PCs don't differ much in terms of keyboards, the touchpads are like night and day. (Sadly, ASUS seems to have retired the braille-like pads of the past.) We'll save the best for last, meaning we'll begin with the 1018P's incredibly stiff single mouse button. While the pad itself is wide enough to navigate the desktop and there's a dedicated scroll strip, the single metal button is a thumb's worst nightmare. We ended up double tapping on the pad to make selections to avoid having to jam our thumb on the button. We clearly prefer the 1015PE's soft aluminum-coated pad, which is flush with the palmrest and only set off with two silver lines. Thankfully, the single mouse button on the 1015PE was much easier to press. Both pads supported multitouch gestures – pinch-to-zoom and two finger scrolling worked quite well actually, and was smoother than other PC touchpads we've tested lately.
Both the 1018P and 1015PE have glossy 10.1-inch, 1,024 x 600-resolution screens. The 1018P's matte screen bezel actually makes it appear less glossy than the 1015PE. Either way, both screens were sufficiently bright, though -- as with most ASUS laptops -- viewing angles are narrow. When we watched a clip of the Today Show on Hulu on the 1018P, tilting the screen back on made it hard to decipher where Matt Lauer's head ended and the wall behind him began. The same thing happened when we watched a clip on the 1015PE. Both the screen bezels do have VGA webcams with nifty camera covers that can be slid on and off for privacy. No shame in confessing: it made us feel very Mission Impossible for some reason.
The 1018P's speakers are uniquely located in between the screen bezel and the keyboard, while the 1015PE's are on the front bottom lip. Both speakers aren't exceptionally loud, but were fine for listening to "Love the Way You Lie" in a small apartment. Though to Rihanna and Eminem's credit, no set of speakers could make that song sound bad.
Performance, graphics, and battery life
There's no doubt that the Eee PC 1018P and 1015PE have ripe looks, but we can't say the same of its internals. Both mini-laptops are powered by the 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM and run Windows 7 Starter. It's no surprise that both netbooks functioned like most we've reviewed over the last half a year – writing this review in Microsoft Word 2010 Starter, chatting with Trillian and surfing the web in Firefox was rather peppy. Not Core i3 peppy, but we certainly weren't waiting around when toggling between windows or tabs.
There's no change in terms of graphics, either: it's fine for playing back standard-def videos and streaming YouTube and Hulu videos, but anything high-def makes it break down and start limping. Those looking for an HD-capable 10-inch netbook should consider the AMD-powered $349 Acer Aspire One 521 – not only can it handle 1080p video and YouTube HD content, but it has an HDMI port. The 1018P and 1015PE have 250GB hard drives.
ASUS Eee PC 1018P
ASUS Eee PC 1015PE
ASUS Eee PC 1008P
ASUS Eee PC 1005PE
Toshiba Mini NB305
Acer Aspire One 521
Both the 1018P and 1015PE claim to get 10 hours of battery life. Uh, we're not sure how ASUS is testing these days -- perhaps with WiFi turned off and brightness turned all the way down -- considering we got about half that runtime. On our video rundown test, which loops the same standard-def video at 65 percent brightness, the 1018P's 44Wh six-cell battery lasted only 4:40 minutes. The 1015PE's 47Wh six-cell battery lasted a slightly longer five hours. No matter how you slice it, the runtimes are disappointing, especially when the Eee PC 1005PE ran for eight hours on that same test. To the 1018P's credit, it does run for about an hour longer than the 1008P, which has a similar slender design and battery integrated into the chassis design. In everyday use the Eee PC 1018P lasted about five and a half hours and the Eee PC 1015PE closer to six hours. Both would probably provide enough juice to last on a flight from San Francisco to New York, but not as much as other netbooks that could last the duration of some nine hour international flights.
Update: ASUS says its Eee PC 1015PED will have the same battery as the 1015PE so that model should last longer on a charge than our unit did.
The Eee PC duo come loaded up with a fair amount of ASUS software, including its EeeDock which is locked to the top of the desktop and contains shortcuts to a few ASUS utilities. Additionally, they boot the new ExpressGate Cloud OS when you hit the button above the left side of the keyboard. The new instant-on OS is more polished, but it seems more sluggish than the previous version. We know, we sound like a broken record on these pre-boot environments, but they seem quite pointless when you can just wait 30 seconds more to get into Windows. The laptops also came with Syncables for syncing files between computers and ASUS's EeeStorage, which includes 20GB of online storage.
Indeed, ASUS has done a really nice job in designing the most attractive netbooks on shelves today, and the best part is that you don't have to pay more than $350 (at least at Best Buy) for those premium designs, as the company has been known to do in the past. In the end, both the 1018P and 1015PE are very solid choices, though if you're looking for a netbook that lasts longer on a charge we have to recommend the Toshiba Mini NB305 or the Eee PC 1005PE. However, if you've got your mind set on one of these new very dapper Eees, we're more inclined to recommend the 1015PE over the 1018P because of its superior touchpad and battery life, but there's no denying the 1018P is the better choice for those that place priority on looks.