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The display and the controls
Now that the nitty-gritty hardware details are out of the way, we can talk about the ergonomics of the Eee PC 1201T's display, keyboard, and touchpad. Few laptops manage to get all three of these items to look and feel just right. That's too bad, because unlike desktops, notebooks don't give you an opportunity to upgrade to a nicer monitor or throw on a nice, clicky keyboard. The best you can usually hope for is being able to carry a Bluetooth mouse along. How does the 1201T fare on this front?

With a moderately bright LED backlight, a TN panel, and a glossy finish, the 1201T's display wouldn't exactly make George Takei recoil with an amazed gasp. As we've noted before, glossy finishes really ought to go together with powerful backlighting, lest reflections impede usage in brightly lit environments. Considering this machine's ultraportable credentials, however, we're willing to make concessions if they can help portability and battery life. You'll probably want to use a battery-saving, display-dimming power profile when on the go, anyway.

I just wish Asus hadn't also made the display bezel glossy. Shiny, almost mirror-like display bezels may look gorgeous in product photos, but they seem to attract dust in an almost magnetic fashion. Unless you're willing to wipe the thing down with a microfiber cloth every few days, we can pretty much guarantee that a gross-looking dust frame will build up around the LCD panel and the hinges.

  Total keyboard area Alpha keys
  Width Height Area Width Height Rough area
Size 280 mm 97 mm 27,160 mm² 159 mm 48 mm 7,632 mm²
Versus full size 98% 88% 86% 92% 84% 78%

The 1201T's keyboard has a relatively small surface area, as one would expect from a 12.1" laptop. Nevertheless, Asus has managed to deliver a full layout and comfortably wide alpha keys. Typing effectively on this puppy might involve a little adjustment, but not to anywhere near the same extent as some of the more lilliputian netbook keyboards.

If we have one gripe here, it's that, as with many ultraportables, the 1201T's chiclet keyboard flexes. That makes typing a little mushier than it should be, impeding tactile feedback especially in keys like T, Y, and H that sit near the center of the keyboard. We wouldn't have a problem with an extended typing session on this machine, though, especially if the battery keeps up.

Asus has unfortunately gone with a glossy finish on the palm rest, the touchpad button, and the touchpad surface itself. Those little raised dots you see above draw attention away from some of the oily fingerprints and, more importantly, make the touchpad stand out from the rest of the palm rest, since there's no other physical separation between the two. However, this design basically dooms users to having the lower third of their laptops covered in smudges.

Looks aside, we're pleased with the size of the palm rest—it's not narrow enough to make typing uncomfortable—but we're less happy with the touchpad's ergonomics. Asus has used a pretty solid capacitive multi-touch design from Synaptics here, but it's given it a frustratingly small, poorly defined surface. The little dots don't do a very good job of delimiting the tracking area, and I often found myself outside of it when attempting to drag and drop a file. Would it have killed Asus just to move the button closer to the edge of the laptop and make the tracking area a little taller, wider, and more clearly defined? As it is, the touchpad almost seems to serve more of a decorative purpose than a functional one. Good thing the Eee PC 1201T has built-in Bluetooth, so at least carrying around a small wireless mouse is an option.