Asus Eee Box £199
15th Aug 2008 | 10:28
We review the desktop version of Asus' super-successful Eee PC
Good things come in small packages, well, the Eee PC certainly proved that to be true. And judging by the number of Eee PC clones out there today it's obvious that small computers are big business now.
But the very nature of ultraportables means that they need to be small and light enough to carry around. Desktops don't have the same requirements.
So it's an odd choice to see a Windows XP machine with an 80GB hard drive that takes up less space than your average external storage device!
Asus obviously believes there's a market for desktop PCs with very small footprints and the company is clearly buying into the ideal slim, sleek and tidy living room and office peddled by the iMac generation.
Whilst the Eee Box is essentially the Mac Mini for Windows PCs, there's a few reasons why it can't quite match the feeling of desire most of us had for the original Eee laptop.
The Eee Box sports the same Intel Atom technology used in the new Eee 901 laptop and the MSI Wind U100 we looked at last month – a 1.6GHz dual core processor.
For running XP and using the internet, this hardware makes for a great computing experience. If you intend to have a setup, which includes an external hard drive, printer or scanner you'll find the Eee a capable PC which lets you reclaim much needed desk space.
In theory the Eee Box should also be the perfect living room media centre (after all it looks like a Nintendo Wii), but there's only basic onboard graphics here and Window XP Home Edition rather than Media Center Edition, which would have benefited the Eee Box greatly and made it a real contender for king of the lounge PCs.
Performance is very good, and true to Asus' claims, the Eee Box has an astonishingly fast seven or eight second boot time thanks to the Express Gate technology tied into the Eee Box's motherboard.
That's something only Linux distros can boast and it's nice to actually observe that speed on a Windows system – it's been a long time coming.
Remarkably, the box also stays very cool after long periods, even though it's smaller than most laptops and appears to have very little in the way of ventilation.
Under tests, the Eee Box is clearly no console though. Despite its looks, its GMA 950 onboard graphics are suited to basic tasks at best and the 1.6GHz Atom chip won't knock your socks off, but it's swift enough for XP.
Box of tricks?
So it's small, cheap and fairly fast running Windows XP, but beware – it has no optical drive, so you'll have to buy an external one for reading and burning CDs/DVDs.
There are four USB 2.0 ports though, so connectivity is well catered for, but given that two of these will be your keyboard and mouse, you'll soon find yourself needing a USB hub too.
The Eee Box also has wireless built-in. Just attach the provided aerial, and it supports the latest 802.11n technology as well as the ubiquitous wireless G flavour.
This means the tiny little Eee Box is about as cable-free as it can be and the stand makes it point up at a helpful angle so it's easier to access the front panel for the on switch, card reader and front USB ports.
If you're looking to get rid of an ageing machine, but want to save money by keeping your existing peripherals, the Eee Box comes highly recommended. That said, it will always remain in the shadow of the irresistible Eee PC.