Compact desktop PCs like the Asus Eee Box EB1501P-B016E ($499.99 list) are popular among media-savvy users who like to stream their media onto a big screen. It’s one of the easiest and most convenient ways to display your digital photos, videos, and other entertainment on your HDTV in your living room. the EB1501P-B016E is a relatively complete package that comes with a mounting kit to hide it behind your large screen monitor or HDTV. however, heavy downloaders and Blu-ray enthusiasts may want to look at desktop more like the Dell Inspiron Zino HD (Inspiron 410) ($849.99 direct, 4 stars), which comes with better performance, a larger hard drive, and Blu-ray.
Design and Features the EB1501P-B016E has an elongated oval tube shape, like the Dell Studio Hybrid and Giada Ultra MiniPC DN2301 (stay tuned for our review). Like the Giada DN2301, the EB1501P-B016E is larger than the Dell Studio Hybrid, with room for a slot-loading optical drive and a plethora of I/O portsa good thing since the EB1501P-B016E lacks any sort of internal expansion. the I/O ports include 4 USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a SD/MMC card reader, eSATA, VGA, HDMI, and SPDIF. the desktop has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi built-in, and also comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse, so cable-clutter is at a minimum if you hook it up to a monitor via HDMI. the desktop comes with an IR remote to control media playback: the IR receiver is built-in. Audio output through the HDMI adapter is easy, but if you want true surround sound, you can hook up an AV receiver to the built-in SPDIF port. another big plus is the included VESA mount kit, so you could bolt the EB1501P-B016E to the back of many large screen monitors and HDTVs. If it weren’t for the lack of a Blu-ray drive, this would be the perfect PC to hook up to a HDTV.
The EB1501P-B016E comes with a DVD burner, and a 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive, which is a little small (and slow) for a multimedia system. I’d like to see at least 500GB so it can hold larger video files, even if it doesn’t have a TV tuner. I should also point out that the media card reader can only read cards in the SD family (MMC/SD/SDHC/SDXC), leaving out the similarly sized Memory Stick and xD formats.
The desktop has bloatware, and while the Media playback programs are fine, there are a few issues with the rest of the included software. the trial subscription for Trend Micro’s Internet Security app is a short 90 days, plus Trend Micro seems to be one of the more intrusive security packages when it comes to approving or restricting programs that access the Internet. the Internet Radio app wouldn’t load some of the included presets, and the app has a counterintuitive user interface. the EB1501P-B016E comes with some bloatware like Syncables Desktop SE, ads for Asus Webstorage, and the Asus @ Vibe program is yet another download store. Each of these is negligible on their own, but the negative points do add up.
Performance the EB1501P-B016E comes with a good CPU/GPU combination: the dual-core Intel Atom D525 processor and integrated Nvidia ION graphics. the ION processor helps the system perform better on tasks like video playback: 1080p videos played through Windows Media Player and ArcSoft’s Total Media Theater played back smoothly and in sync. unfortunately, QuickTime 1080p videos played back through iTunes and QuickTime Player played back at a lower frame rate (though they were watchable). Apple’s apps aren’t optimized for Nvidia’s GPU acceleration yet, therefore the Intel Atom alone handles the 1080p video decoding and playback. Our multimedia playback tests showed the EB1501P-B016E is faster at our Handbrake video test (11:20) and Photoshop CS5 test (19:17) than the older Giada Slim-N20 ($449 direct, 3.5 stars) (12:19 Handbrake, 23:29 CS5) and Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 ($399 direct, 4 stars) (12:31 Handbrake, 23:38 CS5), but not by much. for better multimedia editing and transcoding performance, you’ll need a model with a faster processor, like the Dell Inspiron Zino HD (Inspiron 410) or Gateway SX2850-33 ($549.99 list, 3.5 stars). Though, the ION GPU comes from 3D gaming powerhouse Nvidia, the ION is stronger at video decoding than 3D gaming; none of our game tests could run.
Compared with compact media-oriented desktops like the Giada Ultra MiniPC DN2301, the EB1501P-B016E is a bit less expensive, but also quite a bit weaker in the performance and features department. the Giada DN2301may have the same graphics, similar size, and DVD burner, but it also has a larger hard drive and faster processor. the Giada DN2301also has a few missing components (keyboard/mouse) and a much higher price tag (by $175), so the overall scores balance out. the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 is no speed demon either, and lacks an optical drive, but its much cheaper $399 price tag, miniscule form factor, and better feature set let it hold on to the standalone nettop Editors’ choice. On the lookout for a true HD-capable mini PC? Then take a look at our Editors’ choice for compact desktop PCs, the Blu-ray equipped Dell Inspiron Zino HD (Inspiron 410). the Dell Inspiron 410 may be $850, but it has all the features you’d want in a HDTV-connected desktop PC.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS Check out the test scores for the Asus Eee Box EB1501P-B016E
COMPARISON TABLE Compare the Asus Eee Box EB1501P-B016E with several other desktops side by side.
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