ASUS Eee Box Preview & Intel's Atom Benchmarkedby Anand Lal Shimpi on June 3, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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ASUS has done surprisingly well with the Eee Box. The machine actually performs very well and is priced low enough that it stands in a league of its own without spending at least another $100.
What we’re most surprised by is the form factor and style of the Eee Box, in its final shipping form this is going to be a simple black or white box that looks like something you’d expect to find in a modern home. With the Eee PC you could get something much faster but you do sacrifice form factor.
The performance aspect of the Eee Box is entirely due to Intel, whose Atom processor delivers as promised. At 1.6GHz the Intel Atom offers somewhere around the performance of a 800MHz - 1.2GHz Pentium M depending on the task at hand. What's even more impressive is that the Atom will offer this sort of performance in handheld devices before the end of the year and in high end smartphones by 2009/2010.
If you do have the funds to spend more, the cheapest consumer Dell PC - the Inspiron 530s will give you more than 2x the performance of the Eee Box but at a 40% higher cost. The Inspiron 530s also can’t compete in terms of form factor or power consumption.
Where the Eee Box falls short is in its connectivity and in its use of the Atom processor. This thing absolutely needs HD video decode acceleration and a HDMI output, given the popularity of hacked Apple TVs for streaming content around the house this would be the perfect replacement (especially if you could turn it into a Hackintosh...). The Atom processor gives the Eee Box extremely desireable thermals and very low power consumption (the whole system uses less power than some energy efficient lightbulbs), unfortunately ASUS didn't capitalize on that and refrained from passively cooling the machine. The Apple TV is passively cooled and we see no reason that the Eee Box couldn't be as well. While fan speed can be adjusted, we'd much prefer a system that didn't make any noise at all.
Much like the Eee PC, the Eee Box is going to be very much a love it or hate it machine. Where the Eee Box differs from its sibling is that the complaints of a cramped keyboard and small screen don't apply here, not to mention the lower overall cost. If you've got a spare monitor, the Eee Box isn't a bad way of putting it to good use. It's a great entry-level PC for parents or children, or a secondary/tertiary computer for use around the house. It's cheap enough where it could easily be a good kitchen PC, but the kicker is that you'll need a display.
With the second generation of Eee PCs debuting at Computex this year, we're also seeing competing devices from other companies. It's very likely that the Eee Box will incite a similar response from ASUS' competitors while solidifying ASUS' position as a leader in doing something innovative in the low cost PC market. What Apple does for the high end, ASUS is set on doing for the low end and it's that sort of balance that we need in the industry.