In an age when every laptop manufacturer is in a race to create the thinnest, sexiest Ultrabook on the market, it's a surprise to see a new netbook hit the scene. The $299 Eee PC 1025C Flare, the company's latest 10-incher is out to prove that maybe--just maybe--the age of the netbook hasn't ended. Can the Eee PC 1025C carve a niche for itself, or will it be relegated to obsolesence by devices like the iPad? Read on to find out.
ASUS hasn't changed the design of the Eee PC much since we reviewed the Eee PC 1015B in June 2011. The 1025C Flare netbook still features plain -- if not unattractive -- matte black plastic on the lid and palm rests, accentuated by a chrome finish on the sides and on the single long mouse button. The 1025C also comes in other colors, including white and pink.
Although pleasant to feel, the soft-touch plastic on the lid easily picked up fingerprint smudges, giving the laptop a slightly greasy look after a few hours of handling it. The screen's bezel sports a slightly texturized black plastic finish.
Aside from its price, the Eee PC 1025C's light weight and compact size are clearly its main selling points. At just 10.3 x 7.0 x 0.8-1.3 inches and 2.4 pounds (the same weight as the Toshiba Portege Z835 Ultrabook), the netbook is small and light enough to easily fit inside a messenger bag, backpack or even a large purse. It's lighter than its predecessor, the Eee PC 1015B (10.3 x 7.1 x 0.9-1.4 inches, 2.8 pounds), as well as the HP Mini 1103 (10.6 x 7.5 x 0.9 inches, 2.8 pounds), and on a par with the Samsung NC110 (10.4 x 7.4 x 0.97 inches, 2.6 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
Like the Eee PC 1015B, the Eee PC 1025C Flare sports a compact chiclet-style keyboard. The keys offered a nice amount of tactile feedback and are slightly textured, making them easy for our fingers to grip. Nevertheless, the keys' small size make it difficult to touch-type with both speed and accuracy. On the Ten Thumbs typing test, we achieved only 59 words per minute with a 2 percent error rate, far below our normal typing speed.
The 3.1 x 1.5 inch touchpad on the Flare is the same size as the Eee PC 1015B, slightly larger than the HP Mini 1103 (3.1 x 1.25 inches), and just a hair smaller than the Samsung NC110 (3.2 x 1.5 inches). Tracking was smooth and accurate, and the cursor moved effortlessly from one side of the screen to the other with a single swipe of our finger. Still, the 1.5-inch height made the touchpad feel cramped at times, particularly when trying to select something at the bottom of the screen. Gestures have not been significantly improved since the release of the Eee PC 1015B -- two-finger scrolling still suffers from occasional stuttering.
The single long touch mouse button on the Eee PC 1025 is accurate, although it requires a bit more force to depress than we'd like. The chrome finish on the button, like the soft-touch lid, easily picks up fingerprints.
Display and Audio
The Eee PC 1025C's 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600 matte display offers acceptable -- if not particularly vivid -- visuals. Watching the official launch trailer for "Mass Effect 3" on YouTube, the purples and blues of space as the Normandy traveled at faster-than-light speeds did not appear as lustrous as on other machines. Still, the 1025C's matte display offers generous viewing angles. We could move almost 45 degrees in either direction before the screen started to wash out.
The low resolution is the biggest adjustment, especially for those who haven't used a netbook before. You have to do a lot more vertical scrolling when surfing the Web, for example, than on a higher-end netbook with a 1366 x 768-pixel screen.
The speakers, located on the bottom of the netbook, pump out sound at a decent volume but suffer from poor audio quality. When listening to "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin, for instance, Robert Plant's lilting vocals filled a small room but the driving drum beat sounded tinny and slightly distorted. Placing the Eee PC 1025C on our lap caused the sound to become slightly muffled.
The Eee PC 1025C Flare runs fairly cool. After streaming video from Hulu for 15 minutes, the touchpad and center of the keyboard registered only 83 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Although the underside became slightly warmer at 92 degrees, you can still use the netbook on your lap comfortably. We consider anything above 95 degrees to be too hot.
Ports and Webcam
The Eee PC 1025C features a standard spread of ports. Located on the right side are an Ethernet port, a Kensington lock slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone/mic jack and a 2-in-1 SD card slot. On the left are the AC port, VGA, a third USB 2.0 port, and HDMI.
The 0.3-megapixel webcam offers clear images. When talking to a friend via Google Video Chat, the camera delivered crisp colors and smooth motions for the duration of the call.
As one would expect from a laptop with a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N2600 dual-core processor and only 1GB of RAM, the Eee PC 1025C Flare outperformed fellow netbooks. On Geekbench, the laptop scored 1,127, beating the 1,006 average score for netbooks as well as the score of 932 on the ASUS Eee PC 1015B (1.2-GHz AMD C30 processor, 1GB of RAM). The Eee PC 1025C also performed well when handling everyday tasks. We were able to stream TV shows on Hulu, listen to music on iTunes and type documents without seeing any slowdown.
The Eee PC 1025C loaded Windows 7 in just 55 seconds, beating the average boot time by 11 seconds. This time also beats the ASUS Eee PC 1015B (65 seconds) and ThinkPad X130e (59 seconds), but falls just short of the Samsung NC110 (54 seconds) and HP Mini 1103 (52 seconds).
Unfortunately, the 320GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive didn't fare as well when compared to other netbooks. It took the Eee PC 1025C 4 minutes and 28 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed multimedia, a rate of only 19 MBps. This is slower than the category average (23.5 MBps).
On the OpenOffice spreadsheet test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses, the Eee PC 1025C took a leisurely 33 minutes and 53 seconds to finish the test. This is slower than the already sluggish Lenovo ThinkPad X130e (24:09).
Although we can't recommend editing video on the Eee PC 1025C, it did manage to transcode 1080p video using Cyberlink MediaEspresso in 11 minutes and 33 seconds, half the time it took the average netbook to complete the same task.
Netbooks have never been regarded as graphical powerhouses and the ASUS Eee PC 1025C Flare is no exception. With its Intel GMA 3600 integrated GPU, the 1025C isn't capable of handling even the most basic games. On 3DMark06, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall graphics performance, the netbook scored a mere 382, almost 400 points below the category average of 765 and far below the Eee PC 1015B (AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics), which achieved a lofty score of 1,719. The Samsung NC110 (Intel GMA 3150) and HP Mini 1103 (Intel HP Graphics) both performed more poorly than the Eee PC 1025C, turning in 154 and 149, respectively.
When we attempted to run "World of Warcraft" on the Eee PC 1025C, the netbook managed to squeak out only 2 frames per second on both Good and Ultra settings.
While it might not be the fastest netbook on the block, the ASUS Eee PC 1025C Flare lasts longer than any of its competitors by a wide margin. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous surfing on the Web over Wi-Fi), the netbook's 6-cell Lithium Ion battery lasted a whopping 9 hours and 41 minutes. This beats the average netbook by 3:14, and outlasts the Eee PC 1015B (6:35), Samsung NC110 (7:08) and HP Mini 1103 (8:27).
The Eee PC 1025C comes preloaded with the standard selection of ASUS utilities, including one free year of ASUS WebStorage, which allows you to store up to 3GB of data online; ASUS @Vibe, a portal for games, music and other multimedia entertainment; and Eee Docking, a service that allows you to share media and access apps in the cloud.
Also included are ASUS's much-touted Super Hybrid Engine II, which allows the netbook to resume from sleep in a little more than 2 seconds and gives it a 21-day standby time, and Express Gate Cloud, ASUS's version of the Linux-powered Splashtop instant-on environment. While Express Gate Cloud delivers on its promise to load quickly (our system took just 13 seconds to boot into the environment), the lack of a dedicated power button for the OS -- a feature found on other ASUS systems -- limits the service's utility.
For security, the Eee PC 1025C comes bundled with a free trial of Trend Micro Titanium antivirus software. Adobe Reader 9 and Microsoft Office 2010 Starter are also on board.
Warranty and Support
The last of a dying breed, the ASUS Eee PC 1025C Flare demonstrates why tablets have superceded netbooks as the lightweight computing device of choice -- pound for pound, slates offer faster performance, sleeker designs and more intuitive touch interfaces. Still, if you're in the market for a compact laptop that costs a third of the price of an Ultrabook, the Eee PC 1025C is worth a look. It can handle basic tasks with ease, weighs only 2.4 pounds and lasts more than three hours longer on the charge than the average netbook. Not bad for a laptop that costs less than $300.