As I sit here and contemplate how best to present you with the veritable trove of information Asus has supplied to us about its new Eee Box systems, the low-cost desktop analog to the ultraportable Eee PC, the very worth of my existence is called into question. For what could be more helpful to you than passing along those specifications directly as they've come from from Asus?
Nothing, really. Sigh...
So here you have them, a complete run-down of the vitals (and peripherals) on the Eee Box, that sleek little device pictured on the right.
Name and Model: Eee
OS: Linux System/ Hardware Compatible with Windows XP
Processor: Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz, FSB 533)
Memory: DDRII 512 MB / 1 GB / 2 GB (see US configs below)
Storage: 80 GB / 120 GB / 160 GB / 250 GB (see US configs below)
Chipset: 945GSE + ICH7M
VGA: On-board Intel GMA 950, 1600 x 1200 maximum resolution
Networking: 10/100/1000 Mbps LAN, 802.11n WLAN, Bluetooth optional
SD/MMC/MS slot: SD, SDHC,
Audio: Azalia ALC888 Audio Chip
USB x 2
Card Reader x 1
Headphone-out jack (WO/SPDIF) x 1
MIC x 1
USB 2.0 x 2
Gigabit LAN x 1
DVI out x 1
Line-Out (L/R) with S/PDIF x 1
19Vdc, 4.74A, 65W power adaptor
VESA mount (optional)
Dimensions: 8.5” x 7” x 1”
Net Weight: 2.2 lbs.
Gross Weight: 6.6 lbs.
US Configurations and MSRP:
$269 1GB memory + 80GB HDD Linux edition
$299 1GB memory + 80GB HDD XP edition
$299 2GB memory + 160GB HDD Linux edition
Obviously, the Eee Box aims to do for desktops what the Eee PC has done for ultraportables. Now, I think this concept faces some real challenges, not least of which is the fact that the market for cheap desktop PCs doesn't have the same sort of pent-up demand that the low-cost ultraportable market did—low-cost desktop PCs are already pretty common. Still, the Eee Box has many things going for it, including a sleek profile, very quiet operation, and being really stinkin' cheap, an attribute one should not underestimate.
The Eee Box also benefits from the arrival of the new wave of low-cost PC components, specifically the Intel Atom processor and its Diamondville platform. Atom promises to make low-cost computing, well, less sluggish than before, I guess one could say. Or more acceptable, if you're feeling generous.
After using a pre-production Eee Box system briefly during a visit to Asus' offices recently, I was feeling generous. The shot above shows the Eee Box playing back an HD (720p, in WMV format, IIRC) video, complete with a Task Manager display of CPU utilization on the Atom in all of its Hyper-Threaded glory. As you can see, CPU utilization was considerable, but video playback was consistently fluid. Simply using the desktop to navigate on the Eee Box wasn't perceptibly slower than any other modern PC, either, for whatever that's worth.
The fact that it comes with upgradeable laptop-class parts, including dual SO-DIMM slots and a bay for an internal mobile hard drive, gives the Eee Box a reasonable amount of range in terms of potential configurations and upgrades. The 802.11n Wi-Fi and I/O capabilities are really quite robust, including optional Bluetooth. My only major wish-list item is a somewhat less anemic GPU, something that likely won't be coming to the Atom too terribly soon. That doesn't change the fact, however, that the Eee Box looks to be a very nice little basic computer for many tasks. I already have my eye on one as a replacement for our Kitchen PC. Asus even plans to sell a bracket that will allow an Eee Box to be mounted behind an LCD monitor, neatly tucking it out of sight.
Our kitchen counter should not have to wait too long for its new companion. The U.S. versions of the Eee Box are slated to hit our shores in mid-July, with the French Linux version coming for French Canadians in August. You can see some appropriately fuzzy pictures of the Eee Box prototype in the gallery below, if you're interested in the port layout and such things. Asus says the final production systems will have better fit and finish than what you see there.