Asus Eee Box B202 review

£196
Price when reviewed

The race to the bottom just got a new leader. Not content with undercutting – and in the process revolutionising – the laptop market with the Eee PC, Asus is now taking aim at the desktop with the predictably named Eee Box. But be warned: it’s a desktop PC in the very loosest sense of the word.

Yes, it sits on a desk. It’s a small, thin box that’s remarkably light, around the size of a textbook, and it balances delicately on a circular foot stand. It’s a little wobbly for our liking, although you could always just lie it down. It also comes with an interesting bracket for screwing the Eee Box to the VESA mounting holes on the back of any standard monitor, which is a great way to save on space.

But really the Eee Box is little more than an Eee PC in different clothing. The same 1.6GHz Atom N270 powers it, along with 1GB of RAM and an 80GB hard disk. Intel’s old GMA 950 integrated chip powers the graphics, Windows XP comes as standard – running without a hitch during our testing – and you get the same draft-n wireless. Notably, the shared core specification also means it lacks an integrated optical drive – a weakness almost unheard of in today’s desktop PCs.

In fact the only differences we can spot in the specification are the presence of Gigabit Ethernet, and the support for the Memory Stick format to add to the SD and MMC cards of the reader on the front. The chassis does allow for some extra ports, though, with DVI the main addition. Two USB ports sit on the rear with a further two on the front, and there are audio outputs for speakers and headphones.

Cool and quiet

There are cooling vents on the top and bottom edges, but the Eee Box didn’t rise above mildly warm during our intensive tests. And given the laptop components, it’s also remarkably quiet in use – it’s a good job the power button glows blue or you may struggle to tell if it’s on in all but the quietest of environments.

As you might expect given the use of the Atom processor, power consumption is impressively low. When idle we measured just 17W, and this only rose to 20W when pushed hard – the lowest figures of any PC we’ve seen.

The flipside to this is that the Eee Box performs pretty similarly to the Eee PC 901 and 1000H. It tiptoed through our 2D benchmarks with a score of 0.38, pulling slightly ahead of its laptop brethren only in the Office test.

The Atom’s Hyper-Threading is the closest we’ll get to dual-core until it is upgraded in the future, and for the first time this becomes a bit of an issue. When you’re working on a 9in or 10in laptop, opening several windows and multitasking is awkward, so by its very design you’re railroaded into not pushing the Atom very hard.

But connect the Eee Box to a proper monitor, even a small 17in or 19in one, and you inevitably start trying to use it as you would a normal PC – open several apps at once and you’ll very quickly find the Atom grinds to an unsatisfying halt. This is not a processor designed for the rigours of normal desktop life, and it shows.

When you add the price into the equation it all gets a bit more muddled. As it’s basically an Eee PC without a screen and keyboard we expected quite a hefty saving, but £170 just isn’t as low as we’d hoped. The inclusion of XP doesn’t help matters, and there’s currently no Linux option to save valuable pounds.

Linux front-end

it_photo_6028There is, however, the instant-on ExpressGate front-end. With the option to browse the web, play with photos, chat and use Skype, all without booting XP, the primary functions of a so-called “net-top” can be accessed in under 30 seconds – you may not need Windows at all. Whether many of the targeted market will be comfortable not using the familiar XP interface is a different matter.

Warranty

Warranty 2 year(s) collect and return

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 80
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Screen size N/A

Processor

CPU family Intel Atom
CPU nominal frequency 1.60GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots free 0
Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots free 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0

Memory

Memory type DDR2

Graphics card

3D performance setting High
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 950
Graphics card RAM 250MB
DVI-I outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Hard disk

Capacity 80GB
Hard disk usable capacity 80GB
Internal disk interface SATA
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical drive N/A
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A
Resolution screen horizontal N/A
Resolution screen vertical N/A
Resolution N/A x N/A
Pixel response time N/A
Contrast ratio N/A
Screen brightness N/A
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers N/A
Speaker type N/A
Peripherals N/A

Case

Case format Mini ITX
Dimensions 16 x 178 x 223mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 4
PS/2 mouse port no
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 0

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 2
Front panel memory card reader yes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard N/A

Operating system and software

OS family Windows XP

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 17W
Peak power consumption 20W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 0.38
Office application benchmark score 0.49
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.25
Encoding application benchmark score 0.39
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.39
3D performance (crysis) low settings 0fps
3D performance setting High

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