Asus Eee Box B202: An Atom-based mini PC

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September 8, 2008 by Mike Chin

Product Eee Box B202
Manufacturer Asus

We've covered the launch of the original Asus EEE PC and how it popularized the sub-notebook market. We've also discussed the rapid emergence of an entire class of truly small PCs, often described as nettops, in our coverage of the Intel Developers Forum last month. In the same IDF report, we also covered the amazing success of the Intel Atom processor, which was at the core of the Intel D945GCLF mini-ITX board reviewed a few days ago. The Asus Eee Box touches on all of these various elements: It is an expansion of the Asus Eee line of products into the desktop market, it is a tiny nettop PC, and it features the Intel Atom processor.

Like the Eee PC, the Eee Box is sold as a complete PC. It was shown at Computex Taipei in June. We ran a preview of the product then. At that point, the anticipated price was lower: $269 for a 1GB memory + 80GB HDD Linux edition, $299 for a 1GB memory + 80GB HDD XP edition and $299 for a 2GB memory + 160GB HDD Linux edition. The sample that came to SPCR is the second of the configurations mentioned above, but the price has gone up by $50, and the Linux versions have been eliminated.

The basic technology inside is similar to Intel's Atom-based mini-ITX board, the D945GCLF which we reviewed last week. The CPU is a mobile variant, although how much less power that would draw is questionable, as the "desktop" Atom 230 maxes out at 4W. The Intel board uses the relatively inefficient 945GC chipset, which was first used on the Mac Mini. Apparently, the chipset in the Eee Box is the 945GSE Express, designed for mobile PCs, but still equipped with the same Intel GMA 950 video chip. Being a mobile chipset, the 945GSE Express may have lower power requirements than the 945GC, which is promising. Given the 945GSE Express chipset, the Eee Box is actually closer to the Eee PC than to the Intel D945GCLF m-ITX board.

Eee Box measures just 8.5” x 7” x 1”.

The shape, size and weight of the Eee Box are compelling. Not that it's the first very small PC; there have been many over the past few years. But it's also sleek and stylish in a way that the Mac Mini or the AOpen Mini PC computers are not. The slim box, angled slightly on its minimal stand, looks elegant enough to go on any desktop. The 1" thinness is made possible by excluding an optical drive, a move that seems justified in this age of ubiquitous flash memory sticks. With four USB ports, memory card reader, gigabit LAN and Wi-Fi 802.11n, the Eee Box is not lacking in inputs. Most compelling is its ability to mount on the back of your LCD monitor, becoming invisible in the process.

So does the Eee Box have what it takes to replace a standard desktop PC? Is its performance up to being a home entertainment hub as the Asus Eee Box web page submits? And is it quiet enough for SPCR to recommend?

Asus Eee Box B202 Specifications
OS Windows XP Home
Processor Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz, FSB 533)
Memory DDRII 1 GB
Storage 80 GB
Chipset 945GSE + ICH7M
VGA On-board Intel GMA 950, 1600 x 1200 max resolution
Networking 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN, 802.11n WLAN
SD/MMC/MS slot SD, SDHC, Mini SD, (Micro SD through adapter) ; MMC, MMC plus, MMC4.x, RS MMC, RSMMC4.x (MMC mobile through adapter);MS,MS PRO
Audio Azalia ALC888 Audio Chip
Front Ports USB x 2, Card Reader x 1, Headphone-out jack (WO/SPDIF) x 1, MIC x 1
Rear Ports USB 2.0 x 2, Gigabit LAN x 1, DVI out x 1, Line-Out (L/R) with S/PDIF x 1, WiFi antenna
Accessories 19VDC, 4.74A, 65W power adapter
Mouse (optional)
Keyboard (optional)
VESA mount (optional)
WiFi antenna
Dimensions 8.5” x 7” x 1” or 223×178×26 mm (w/o stand)
Weight Net: 2.2 lbs; Gross: 6.6 lbs.

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