Without fail, Asus has packed the Eee Box with enough bloatware to keep you busy moving it away from cluttering your desktop. You get the usual suspects of Asus-branded apps, anti-virus, trials and a litany of other stuff that you would likely replace with your own preferences.
The Eee Box runs Windows 7 Home Premium very well, though it’s the 32-bit version, not 64-bit as you might expect. Windows Media Center comes pre-installed as well, and works beautifully with the included remote. Add in the Home Group feature that ties in all Windows 7 PCs in a home network, and it becomes very easy to share files between them, helping to offset the small 250GB hard drive.
While the Eee Box comes off as a sleek machine, we’re a bit unsure that the overall performance and limitations warrant the $450 price tag. A lot of this has to do with graphics-intensive apps and games. The Eee Box isn’t meant as a gaming machine, but it can handle older games up to a few years ago, depending on how much rendering is involved. For example, a first-person shooter might pose more challenges than a strategy game like Age of Empires or Civilization. There’s trial and error involved here, so it’s hard to pinpoint what type of game will work and what won’t.
It is important to note that the Eee Box can play 1080p video, though we found this isn’t an absolute. Some 720p movies we tested were fine, but we tried a Blu-ray rip, and the unit just couldn’t keep the bitrate up enough for smooth playback. That said, the nVidia Ion chip does an admirable job when you consider the specs under the hood. Being a dual-core Atom configuration, the CPU isn’t pushed as hard as it would be with a single-core setup. Watching video sites like YouTube and Hulu was a pleasant experience, though we highly recommend that you update both Flash and the latest Ion drivers to ensure a smoother view.
In addition, Asus offers three settings to use the unit: power saving mode, performance and super performance. Surprisingly, performance doesn’t seem to be all that different, no matter what you’re doing. As a desktop computer that be used for basic surfing, word processing and other simple tasks, the Eee Box performs just fine no matter what you use. And the slot optical drive made it easier to install software we had on disc.
However, once we started working with applications that required loading times and processes, like Photoshop and Audacity, for example, we noticed that it took much longer than it should to complete.
Despite the Eee Box’s good overall performance, it’s hard to see how this configuration makes sense long term. When compared to other nettops like Dell’s Inspiron Zino HD and even the cheaper Acer AspireRevo R3610, the Eee Box is in a bit of a predicament. It’s fairly elegant and a little expensive, yet it offers a level of performance that can be matched or outright surpassed by PCs that cost less and have better components.
HD playback also presents a conundrum. It can play some 1080p video, but certainly not anything at that resolution. This poses a problem, especially if your setup includes streaming an entire media library from another computer or network attached storage. With that part of its repertoire being inconsistent, the Eee Box doesn’t make the most compelling case for purchase.
It will fit perfectly in any home theatre setup aesthetically, but for sticklers of high-quality video looking to have something viable, there’s enough competition out there now to make the Eee Box look more ordinary than it should be.
- Sleek and refined design fits any décor
- nVidia Ion helps make high-quality video and gaming possible
- HDMI output for video, eSATA port for fast external hard drive access
- Useful remote included
- Windows 7 Media Center provides easy DVR functionality
- Can be mounted on the back of a monitor
- Expensive relative to competitors
- Can’t handle all HD video
- Intel Atom still anemic
- Hit-and-miss gaming capabilities
- Too much bloatware
- No built-in TV tuner