Like the netbook, the nettop PC has a cute look to it that makes it easy to envision sitting anywhere from sitting on a desk to next to an HDTV. Asus, the manufacturer that inadvertently started the netbook craze, is betting that there is some longer-term viability to these diminutive PCs. The Asus Eee Box 1501 is one of the few nettops that doubles as a DVD player, but it’s the way it handles all other video that makes it a bit of a conflicted device.
Our Asus Eee Box 1501 review unit was running on an Intel Atom 330 processor at 1.6GHz, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 250GB hard drive, nVidia ION Integrated video card and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit for the operating system.
The Eee Box 1501 has a slick design, even if the included optical drive makes it slightly bigger than comparable nettops. We felt there was a bonus in that the Eee Box didn’t feel too hot, nor make a lot of noise, except for the times it would take in a CD or DVD.
Ports and Connections
The Eee Box 1501 has a number of ports, which seem to fall in line with other nettops on the market. The slot-in DVD player is the most unusual. There are six USB ports in all, two in the front, with another four in the back. The front panel also has a memory card reader that takes SD, Memory Stick and MultiMediaCard, along with headphone and microphone jacks. There’s also an IR-receiver for use with the included remote control. On the back are a gigabit Ethernet port, eSATA port, HDMI output, VGA port (couldn’t they make it DVI instead?) and a S/PDIF coaxial output for supporting 7.1 surround sound.
Wi-Fi up to 802.11n is in the mix, but Bluetooth isn’t. Ditto for the lack of a TV tuner, a feature that should be a practical no-brainer for a unit like this. You can get around this by using a USB tuner, but some of them are so thick that they end up taking up two USB ports.
The included wireless keyboard and mouse run on AAA batteries, and communicate with the Eee Box through an included USB receiver. The keyboard is actually quite nice, and doesn’t feel cheap when compared to those found in competitor models, but the mouse feels quite the opposite. Just as with Acer’s AspireRevo R3610, the included mouse pales in comparison to the superior tracking you get with an aftermarket mouse like Microsoft’s Bluetrack mouse. Being able to navigate on just about any surface made it easier to use the Eee Box with an HDTV.
The remote is a nice addition, particularly when using software that makes it easy to navigate through menus for your media. But there’s also the added benefit of playback controls for CDs and DVDs, and a number pad, which makes it a lot easier to change channels when watching TV through a digital tuner.
As seems to be common with nettops, Asus also included a bracket for mounting the Eee Box behind a monitor.