Considering the 1201T's performance picture so far, we were curious to see how well its Athlon Neo and Radeon HD 3200 tandem would handle videos. To assess playback performance in Windows 7, we kept an eye on the Task Manager while viewing each clip. In Linux, we whipped up a little shell script to record the CPU utilization of either Firefox (for Flash videos) or Totem (for QuickTime clips) every few seconds. We also jotted down our subjective impressions.
First, in Windows 7, we tried QuickTime for our HD trailers, Flash 10 for the windowed YouTube test, and Windows Media Player for standard-def DivX playback:
|Alice in Wonderland QuickTime 720p||55-100%||Frequent dropped frames|
|Avatar QuickTime 1080p||72-100%||Slide show|
|DivX PAL SD||27-67%||Perfect|
|720p YouTube HD windowed||61-98%||Smooth, occasional dropped frames|
That's not very good now, is it? QuickTime evidently doesn't play well with the Radeon HD 3200, and the Athlon Neo doesn't quite have what it takes to play back non-hardware-accelerated HD Flash video.
We then tried playing the QuickTime trailers in Windows Media Player, and we installed Flash 10.1 RC4, which has hardware acceleration:
|Alice in Wonderland QuickTime 720p||10-24%||Perfect|
|Avatar QuickTime 1080p||3-93%||Smooth, occasional dropped frames|
|720p YouTube HD windowed||67-100%||Frequent dropped frames|
WMP's accelerated renderer did wonders for our HD clips, even if the 1201T still stumbled occasionally in the 1080p Avatar trailer. Surprisingly, though, the Flash 10.1 release candidate actually made performance worse. We tried grabbing the latest Catalyst drivers from AMD's website to see if they would help, but the installer would only update the Catalyst Control Center. The latest AMD chipset drivers on Asus' website, meanwhile, date back to December 2009. For now, this looks like the best the 1201T can do with Flash 10.1.
Last, but certainly not least, we booted up Ubuntu and attempted the same round of tests. Here, we used the latest version of Flash available via the Ubuntu Software Centre, and we viewed the other clips in Totem, which conveniently fetched and installed the relevant codecs automatically.
|Alice in Wonderland QuickTime 720p||38-52%||Perfect|
|Avatar QuickTime 1080p||44-77%||Frequent dropped frames|
|DivX PAL SD||20-35%||Perfect|
|720p YouTube HD windowed||16-64%||Smooth, occasional dropped frames|
The performance picture here is more or less similar to what we'd get using Windows Media Player and Flash 10 in Windows 7. That said, Totem did drop more frames than WMP in the 1080p Avatar trailer.
Each laptop's battery was run down completely and recharged before each of our battery life tests. We used a 40% brightness settings on all displays except for the Aspire Timeline's, which we cranked up to 50%. (We found the Timeline's 50% setting more directly comparable to the 40% settings of the K42F, UL80Vt, and Studio 14z.)
For our web surfing test, we opened a Firefox window with two tabs: one for TR and another for Shacknews. These tabs were set to reload automatically every 30 seconds over Wi-Fi, and we left Bluetooth enabled on systems that include it (the U30Jc does not). Our second battery life test involves movie playback. Here, we looped a standard-definition video of the sort one might download off BitTorrent, using Windows Media Player for playback. We disabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth across the board, too.
Just like that, Ubuntu reveals its greatest weakness on the 1201T. The free operating system fared pitifully in our web browsing test, racking up a miserable 2.9 hours of run time. The 4.2 hours we got in Windows 7 might not be particularly worthy of praise, either, but a 31% drop from one operating system to the next is still a very big deal. There's a real mobility cost to skipping that Windows license.
Now, since we're talking about Linux, it's entirely possible that battery life could be improved by recompiling the kernel with different flags or some equally esoteric maneuver. Unless you're buying this laptop specifically to tinker with, though, we don't know if that's a particularly appealing proposition for anyone except die-hard Linux enthusiasts.
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