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Initial impressions
If the blue LEDs behind the power button and hard disk activity light didn't glow, I'm not sure you'd have any idea the Eee Box was on. It really is that silent. Even when pushing the Atom processor and hard disk with high-definition video, you'll be hard pressed to hear anything unless you put your ear up next to the Eee's exhaust vent. Even the hard drive seek noise is completely inaudible. The B202 is easily the quietest computer I've ever used, and as someone who has gone through six laptops and used Antec Sonata cases for the vast majority of his desktop builds, that's saying something.

Unfortunately, my experience with the Eee Box took a slight downhill turn from here. The DVI output could be charitably described as quirky. I tested the Eee Box using two different monitors: a 24" LG L246WP-BN widescreen flat panel and a 17" Sony standard aspect, both over DVI. While the Eee Box had no problems with the Sony, it seemed to get more than a little confused by my LG, locking the monitor to 1024x768. In particular, the top and bottom of the BIOS screen was cut off, and no amount of fiddling in the monitor's controls could correct it. Again, the Sony had no problems, and once I plugged the LG back into my desktop machine, the monitor was right as rain. It's entirely possible that this is due to a limitation with the GMA 950; its specifications list display resolutions up to 2048x1536, but I've seen implementations that are capped at 1600x1200, and that may be the case here. Still, it's a limitation that bears mentioning for those who might have planned on using the Eee Box with a high-resolution display.

Beyond the resolution issues, I also found the quality of the image scaling at non-native resolutions to be somewhat poor. Perhaps I'm spoiled by the image quality of the Radeon HD 3850s I use in my desktop machine, but the GMA 950's scaled images look slightly duller and blurrier. If you've seen the middling scaling quality of the initial GeForce 8800 series, the GMA 950's unusually blurry edges will feel familiar.

Another issue I had with our review unit had to do with its speaker jack. The sound levels were remarkably low from that jack, while the headphone plug at the front produced normal audio levels. Based on a conversation with Asus, I suspect this is an isolated problem particular to the Eee Box we were sent, but it bears noting just the same.

Now, with those gripes aside, what the Eee Box does right, it does very right. I use a wireless mouse that I keep plugged into my USB keyboard, and the Eee Box had no trouble detecting and using both. This may seem like a small thing, but I've run into my fair share of instances where I had to to dig out a PS/2 keyboard to get a computer to work or to enter the BIOS. Seeing my slightly unorthodox solution have no problems whatsoever was welcome.

The silent operation of the unit is impressive, as I mentioned before, and overall responsiveness is as good as can be expected from this sort of hardware. Hard disk LEDs can be a potential source of irritation, but I found the light levels from the Eee Box to be reasonable, and I wouldn't mind keeping the system on a desktop right next to a monitor. I haven't seen the white version of the Eee Box in person, but I can tell you that the old adage "black goes with everything" is appropriate with the model we tested; our black review unit had no trouble blending in with its environment.

Living in Windows
The Eee Box's Windows XP boot times aren't terribly fast, but it's the processes loaded by the operating system that really drag on. The B202 takes upwards of a minute before it boots to a useful, fully loaded desktop, and the chief culprit is Asus's curious decision to go with a 90-day Norton Antivirus trial on our review unit. The program feels a bit too large and bloated to be running on a computer as pared down as the Eee Box, and the result is a substantial wait between when the desktop loads and when Norton finally appears in the system tray. Fortunately, Norton won't be included on retail Eee Box systems.


The rest of the processes the Eee Box loads into the system tray are all reasonable. Beyond the Windows defaults, the only additional applications are Asus' Easy Update software and Realtek's tray manager for audio.

Mercifully, Asus doesn't include the mountain of bloatware you would expect from a similarly priced system at your local Best Buy. Our review unit's software payload was very sparse, although Asus informs us that the shipping retail units will include StarOffice and Microsoft Works. Neither of these are unwelcome inclusions, and their addition should maintain a largely bloat-free install that other manufacturers would do well to emulate.

Windows XP remained relatively snappy and the wireless connectivity was solid and reliable, detecting my router with no trouble. The default Internet Explorer 7 browser felt a little sluggish, though, and you might want to install Firefox instead. Firefox seems to do a better job of handling YouTube videos, which, when viewed through Internet Explorer, tend to hiccup if you so much as move the mouse.

Windows certainly isn't as responsive on the Eee Box as on a modern desktop machine, but if all you're planning on doing is checking e-mail, instant messaging, surfing the web, and doing a little word processing, the B202 fits the bill just fine. If you used a desktop computer circa 2002, you'll find using the Eee Box is a similar experience.