Because it can handle HD video and includes a DVD writer, this media centre can also replace your desktop computer, with the added advantage of a 70% reduction in energy consumption according to Asus.
Hardware: lots of options and quiet
The EeeBox PC EB1501 doesn't just look sleek it and elegant, it really is small. Despite being made entirely of plastic, the finish is good and the whole thing doesn't feel too cheap. An aluminium stand is included, and the computer sits at an angle in it, which increases the impression that it's light.
It's very quiet when you use it for office work, and doesn't make itself heard when you give it more difficult tasks like photo editing or video games. The fan is more audible, but not loud enough to become annoying. When we watched DVDs, we were pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was.
Despite the small size of the unit, the connectivity is very complete. At the front, there's a slot-loading DVD drive, two USB ports, a five-in-one memory card reader, two mini jacks and an infrared receiver. At the back, there are another four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA video inputs, eSATA, RJ45 and a S/PDIF optical audio output. The WiFi antenna is outside the case and can be rotated to get better reception. A VESA stand is included, allowing you attach the PC to the wall, slotting it in behind your TV for instance. A USB infrared receiver is also included so you can use the remote wherever you put the box. The remote itself is backlit, well made and a treat to use.
The EeeBox PC EB1501 comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is very small and looks like it comes from a laptop, but the keys are well spaced and typing is pleasant. It's small enough to use in the front room and balance it on your knees to type. The mouse just about does the job, but don't count on using it for gaming or for hours on end. You can do a lot better without spending much more money: take a look at our Buyer's Guide if you don't believe me.
You can only up the case using specialist tools and you need to be very careful. You can't access any of the components directly.
|Slot-loading DVD drive, card reader, USB ports and analogue audio
||WiFi antenna, USB ports, VGA, HDMI, eSATA and RJ45
|Mouse, keyboard and remote control
||Remote and keyboard: side view
Processor Power: dual-core Atom speeds things up--but not by much
Windows 7 index: 3,3. Details: CPU 3.3 - Memory 4.5 - Graphics 4.4 - Gaming graphics 5.3 - Main hard drive 5.9.
Like a lot of other mini PCs, the EeeBox PPC EB1501 has an Intel Atom 330 processor, and so it's logical enough that it achieved a similar score. Atom CPUs just aren't cut out for video editing or working with 3D files. To give you an example, it took 29 minutes 42 seconds to finish our Cinema 4D test, whereas even an entry-level chip like the AMD Phenom II X2 550 only needs 6 m 53 s. We found a similar discrepancy across our whole range of tests, with this computer coming in between three and five times slower than others we've tested. The CPU's two cores don't really help with heavyweight jobs, but they do make things run more smoothly when you're multitasking.
Playing 1080p HD, Blu-ray equivalent video doesn't give the EB1501 any problems thanks to the hardware acceleration provided by the Nvidia ION graphics chipset that some apps can make use of. We would cite Boxee or Media Player Classic HC (as long as you have the right codecs) as two free examples, or the paid-for version of PowerDVD. Other software, including Badaboom (which converts video files), SuperLoiloScope (for editing HD content) or Photoshop CS4 can also use the hardware to speed up their handling of images and video. As useful as that might be for some specialists, all of these apps are only likely to apply to a very limited number of users.
The energy consumption starts off at 1 W and reissues to 21.5 W when displaying the Windows desktop (or 20.5 W with WiFi turned off). If you're watching video, the hardware acceleration saves 2.5 W, bringing consumption down from 30 W to 27.5 W, but reduces the load on the CPU from 80% to 10%.
With the 32 bit version Windows 7 Home Premium Edition, the EB1501 takes 46 seconds to reach the Windows desktop, and around ten seconds more to finish loading the main software (without including antivirus). It switches off in 13 seconds.
3D Gaming: older games with details turned down--or else 2D
Unsurprisingly, the pairing of an ION chipset and an Atom CPU is still as limited as ever when it comes to playing 3D games. You can forget about recent games and instead stick to older titles. If you do, it's possible to start playing with the minimum level of details as long as you don't increase the resolution too much. That goes for games like Half-Life 2 or Team Fortress 2.
Audio Quality: great optical audio out
The analogue audio inputs and outputs are decent enough, but their limits soon become apparent. The mic input is OK for chatting online, but isn't good enough to use to record music for instance. The front-facing audio input is useful if you want to listen to music or play a game without disturbing other people, but you can't turn the volume up too high without adversely affecting the quality. If you want to enjoy your favourite movies, use either the S/PDIF digital audio output or the HDMI output if you want to enjoy a movie without the headphones.
- Lots of inputs and outputs and DVD writer
- Low energy consumption and HD video support
- Quiet and stylish
- Small and can be wall-mounted with a VESA stand
- Remote control, wireless keyboard and mouse all included
- Limited performance
- Analogue audio connections uonly just up to scratch
- Keyboard and mouse made from glossy black plastic and easy to get dirty
Small but packed with features, the Asus EeeBox PC EB1501 is just at home in your living room as it is on your desktop. Despite its fairly modest performance, it's perfect for video and could easily replace a Home Cinema PC or dedicated media centre, but isn't as easy to set up or use.