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I had never heard of Eee Box and I had only barely heard of ASUS. So, when the phone rang and the voice on the other end asked me to come look at the new Eee Box and see what I thought, I showed up not expecting much.
It doesn't look like much. The Eee Box (the extra e is so nobody mispronounces it when one of the "e" get capitalized) is what Toyota would build if they were looking to expand the Prius line into computers. Sure, it is small and it will never win a drag race with a more powerful computer, but if you give it a chance, you'll realize it has everything you really need for most occasions, and its small quiet and energy efficient too. It is also really tiny. The box says it is only 1 liter. I have no idea what that means if I'm not measuring soda, so I borrowed my friend's tape measure (and by tape measure I mean that red plastic thing you wrap around your waist) and got a ballpark sense of size. It is 8 3/4 x 7 x 1 inches. So, yeah, like I said, small. According to the box you can mount it on your monitor.
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But Wait, What's That?
Small is easy. That funny looking 3 wheel car from Europe is small. You wouldn't take it on the Interstate without a healthy death wish though. So, we fired it up to take it for a spin, but it ended up impressing me before I could even try it out. When you boot the Eee Box you get something called Express Gate. I was ready to blow this screen off as some time wasting marketing gimmick when I noticed that one of the choices was booting into Windows XP. Well, if booting into XP is a choice, then that means the other choices are NOT booting into Windows XP. This is getting interesting.
Turns out you can book the Eee Box without XP and just connect up to the network. Then, you are off and running with your Firefox Internet browser without waiting for all that time it takes XP to start up (and without waiting for all that time it takes XP to shut down either). Bam! Internet surfing machine ready to go. There is also a photo viewer, a boot option for chatting, and one for Skype. I'm seeing some potential.
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Can It Do Stuff?
After being sold on the Eee Box before even booting into Windows, we eventually went into the "real" computing mode. Let's face it, you don't buy a Prius to street race against Vin Diesel, and you don't by an Eee Box to play full screen high-end video games. But, the Eee Box is plenty snappy for someone, like my friend, who just wants to be able to use the Internet and Microsoft Office. If that is you, it is worth checking this thing out. The low power components are slower (much slower) than high-end PCs, but in some respects it is faster than some of our laptops (our oldest only have 512MB of RAM). Never once did I feel like I was using a junk computer. Specifications list 1GB RAM, Intel Atom processor, and 80GB hard drive. It supports 802.11n (draft) and has 4 USB ports so you can hook up your phone, iPod, printer and an external hard drive all at once. It also has a hardwired Ethernet connection.
According to the box, it uses 20 watts of power and is less than 26dB loud. I don't have a way to measure that, but it was so quiet you can't hear it without putting your ear up to it. That means no heat, no noise, and you can leave it on all the time without feeling like you are jacking your utility bill higher.
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For the power user, this is a no go, but I can think of a hundred things that it would be great for, including kid's Internet computer, college computer, or anyone who just needs Microsoft Office and other applications. It might make a solid media computer for the TV room as well.This is NOT a gaming computer by any stretch. Otherwise, it can be a great addition to the computer room for anyone who already has a monitor laying around (it doesn't come with one) and just needs a basic computer with network access.
Frankly, you can get a lot more computing power at the same price, but if you would rather have small, cool, and simple over power, then I would recommend the Eee Box.