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My time with the Eee Box was enjoyable, and the device is full of great ideas. It's the kind of thing I'd recommend to less computer-literate family and friends, but the limitations of the Atom platform at present—specifically the underwhelming video decoding performance of the processor and the GMA 950 graphics core—make it a more conditional recommendation than I'd like.

Eventually, we have to talk about the value proposition, and here things get a little foggy. Asus is releasing the Eee Box on August 11th, packaged with StarOffice, Microsoft Works, and a keyboard and mouse for $349. Asus is targeting students, and I think that's a great strategy, but $349 doesn't take into account the cost of a monitor and speakers. Suddenly, you're getting into the range occupied by complete desktop systems on sale at your local Best Buy. I was able to find a complete Acer desktop with 19" monitor and printer on Best Buy's website for $549, and that's with a 3GHz AMD Athlon X2. At that point, you have to ask if the slower but sleeker Eee Box is preferable to a more feature-rich desktop machine. It really comes down to your needs and priorities, and the Eee Box's value proposition becomes potentially less than ideal for a student who may want a more robust system for multimedia work, high-definition video playback, media encoding, or gaming. However, I'd recommend the Eee Box over the Acer desktop in a heartbeat for my folks and my grandparents, or for anyone who just needs a simple Internet and word processing appliance. The Eee Box takes up very little space, draws very little power, and makes no noise—attributes that the average desktop system can't match.

This incarnation of the Eee Box may not revolutionize the desktop market the way the Eee PC did for notebooks. The Eee PC introduced a reliable ultraportable notebook in a price range where none existed. Low-end desktops are already very affordable, and the form factor of a desktop PC is much less important. After all, you have to carry your notebook around with you, but how often do you have to move your desktop PC? Still, a capable and well-rounded machine like the B202 has an excellent chance of finding a niche with users who want a computer designed to tackle the simple tasks the Eee Box handles best. For those folks, I'd have a very hard time finding a better alternative.TR

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