The next generation of Adobe Flash Player, version 10.1, offers hardware acceleration for the first time. That means netbooks with an Ion chip can stream YouTube and Hulu videos smoothly at full screen. (Broadcom has announced its own video acceleration chip for netbooks, but we haven’t yet had a chance to test it.)
With the beta of Adobe’s Flash Player 10.1 installed, we played the 720p Star Trek HD trailer and a 1080p Nvidia test video at full screen to measure the framerates. All four netbooks averaged 24 frames per second while playing the 720p clip. The real difference came when playing the 1080p clip. Here the Eee PC 1201N outshined the competition, notching a full 30 fps. The Mini 311 and IdeaPad S12 tied at a respectable 22 fps. Surprisingly, only the Samsung N510 couldn’t really handle full HD, chugging along at 7 fps.
WINNER: ASUS Eee PC 1201N. Right now there isn’t a lot of streaming HD Flash video content out there, but Ion allows standard-definition Hulu and YouTube videos to stream at a better frame rate, too. The 1201N is the most future-proof of these systems, easily handling all of the video we threw at it (with help from Flash 10.1).
One of the most fun advantages of putting Ion in a netbook is that it can handle mainstream gaming in something that’s portable. We tested several games, including Far Cry 2, World of Warcraft, and Spore. Gameplay on Ion netbooks isn’t going to blow you away, but it’s impressive for the size.
We only did formal testing of Far Cry 2 on the Mini 311 and the IdeaPad S12 and both managed a measly 10 fps at 1024 x 768 (autodetect mode) and 6 fps at the maximum resolution. Clearly, this DirectX 10 title is too graphics intensive for Ion and better suited to heartier rigs.
While playing World of Warcraft we measured the framerates of each netbook. Not surprisingly, the Eee PC 1201N’s more powerful CPU helped push the game to an average framerate of 48 fps in autodetect mode. The Mini 311 and IdeaPad S12 both made decent showings with scores of 35 and 36 fps, respectively. Once again, the Samsung N510 lagged behind, reaching 30 fps. The W.O.W. average for more expensive ultraportable notebooks: 36 fps.
At the maximum resolution, all of the netbooks scored 14 fps (8 fps above the ultraportable average) except for the N510, which brought up the rear again with 12 fps.
WINNER: ASUS Eee PC 1201N. You’ll want the 1201N when you join your raiding party or usher your single-celled organism into space-faring domination.