Final Words

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.

General Usage Performance of the Atom w/ PCMark Vantage
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  • mauriceh - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    I am at a ASUS dealer in Canada.
    So far all we have had available is the model with XP , 80Gb, 1GB RAM.
    DEALER Wholesale on this unit is $349, and there is a kickback of $20 a unit if you buy 100 pieces.
    Further ASUS can not tell us of ANY ETA for the Linux model.

    It looks VERY much like M$ are throwing some weight against this.
    Reply
  • yuhong - Sunday, June 15, 2008 - link

    I wonder exactly what was the bottleneck that made Vista feel so slow on this system. Reply
  • Rza79 - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    It would have been great if you would have included results without Hyperthreading. Then i can get a better understanding in how the Atom performs in single threaded applications and how efficient Hyperthreading is.
    It would be meaningful to include a Via C7 1.6Ghz because then i could know how the Atom performs compared to the C7 (and Nano since Via released comparisons between them).
    Reply
  • hermunn - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    I miss having a Linux / FreeBSD computer on my own, and I really want something like the EeeBox. I will use it for text editing (emacs + LaTeX), web and email. My girlfriend hogs my old TiBook, and I would love to restrict the use of Windows as much as possible. My current employer (college) use Office and has supplied me with a Windows XP computer. I do not enjoy it. A Linux computer will allow me to do research (emacs + LaTeX for the win) in a safe environment. It will also be the base configuration for my small (tiny) programming projects.

    Why something like an EeeBox? First of all, I want a Linux box that is quiet and cheap, and the EeeBox is more then powerful enough for my needs (LaTeX, web, email, Singular, ..). I will buy an EeeBox if they manage to make the final version quiet, and nothing clearly better is available.

    I imagine a small but significant number of geeks who see one and two uses for the EeeBox as a third or fourth computer, and a horde of computer literates who see the EeeBox as a nice first Linux computer. The hardware is designed to be 100% compatible with Linux, and the distribution will be focused on usability. A less steep learning curve than most other ways into the Linux world.
    Reply
  • pmonti80 - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    Anand you say that EEE Box can't play better than 720p at 4.5mbps but wich codec where you using?. Core AVC codec is know to be very efficient and it would be interesting to know if buying this codec would be enough to make Atom a CPU to watch HD content. Reply
  • pmonti80 - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    A benchmark of a 1.6Ghz VIA C7 would be interesting too. Reply
  • JimmiG - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    I could easily find a third PC useful. I would set it up in the kitchen or living room or another convenient location, with a ~15" LCD and compact mouse and keyboard. It would be used for email, web browsing and maybe music (a simple analog cable to the amplifier aux in would be enough for me). However the next generation EeePC would also fill this function while taking up less space and being portable. Another option is the very stylish, but still somewhat overpriced (for the specs), Mac Mini. I think the Eee Box can be thought of as a cheaper Mini.

    With wireless networking, I could make the any one of those little machines access e.g. my mp3 or photo collection from the main rig.

    For it to be useful, there are some requirements:
    1. Fast boot times - if it takes minutes to boot, I might as well walk to my main PC or borrow my gf's.

    2. Near-silent operation. One reason to use such a PC instead of my main rig when just browsing the net etc. would be noise levels. My main PC is not extremely noisy, but it's far from silent. I'd prefer a passively cooled mini-pc with a 16GB or bigger solid state drive, to be able to lazily browse the web in peace and quiet.

    3. It needs wireless networking that works out of the box. It needs to be able to detect and use anything I might think of plugging into it, like cameras, mp3 players, input peripherals, printers (also networked) etc. There needs to be support for all the video formats and web functionality, and programs preinstalled for all common tasks.. and so on. It shouldn't feel like I'm using a PC.. It should be like using any other piece of consumer electronics.. turn it on and start using it.

    In my experience, MacOS is most likely to accomplish this, followed by Linux, then XP/Vista. XP is pretty "bare bones" when it comes to such functionality, requiring drivers and third party apps to do anything useful.. Vista Basic isn't much better. Linux distros tend to come bundled with pretty much everything you need. But the OS also needs to be "polished" and "work".. Not like the latest version of Ubuntu for example.. Very user friendly and polished.. until it was time to try and get online using my USB wlan dongle...no amount of friendly dialog boxes or big helpfiles would allow me get online... How useful is a computer if you can't even get online? It was the usual Linux routine of reading "howto's" and forums, then entering cryptic commands and editing textfiles, most of the time not understanding a thing of what you're doing. For the hobbyist, that's OK - but on a PC bordering on “consumer electronics”, it's not acceptable and it's Linux distro needs to be more polished and refined than that.
    Reply
  • Truxy - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    A small office of 25 PCs I consult for has been waiting for something just like this to come along for a while now. There's a room so small that is intermittantly used all day, with 3 full sized PCs that take up too much of the available space and cause way too much heat. We dabbled in using some shuttle PCs but it didn't work out (power supplies were blowing too often).

    I'll be ordering two to test drive ASAP and hopefully order more soon after.
    Reply
  • ATWindsor - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    I guess this is a pretty stupid question, but how does the monitor-mount work? Does one have to remove sthe existing foot of the monitor? Or can one just attach the computer on the back of a normal monitor?

    And to bad its not fanless.
    Reply
  • autoboy - Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - link

    I'm still waiting on the results for mpeg2 1080i decoding...

    The 945 has hardware acceleration for mpeg2 (VLD + iDCT + MC) so it should be more capable as a slim player for people who use mpeg2 more often than h.264. I use an HDHR to record my programs and an R5000 so everything is in mpeg2 720p or 1080i (or 480i SD but we know that works fine. Any chance we can add that to the benchmarks?
    Reply

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