Asus Eee Box EB1501 review: Asus Eee Box EB1501

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 5.0
  • Service and support: 5.0

The Good Clean, understated design.

The Bad Can't play 1080p QuickTime files smoothly; caught in an uncomfortable pricing middle ground between cheaper Web-enabled Blu-ray players and slightly higher-end slim tower PCs; weak tech support.

The Bottom Line We like the looks of Asus' Eee Box EB1501, but it's pricier than Blu-ray players that stream content from the Web, and not as powerful as slightly more expensive slim tower PCs that offer significantly more speed and power. Asus made a decent attempt at the Nettop-as-set-top-box replacement with this system, but it's crowded out by too many alternatives.

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Nettops like the $475 Asus Eee Box PC EB1501 aren't meant for getting work done. Instead, they promise an end-around to the closed environment of your cable box, opening up your living room to the near-infinite amount of content available via various online video sources. With its clean, understated design, the Asus Eee Box EB1501 not only looks the part of a living-room component, but it also has the technical chops to play almost any kind of content, including most 1080p video sources. We could almost recommend this system if it wasn't caught between new, more affordable Web-enabled Blu-ray players, and more capable slim-tower PCs that cost just a little bit more.

The Asus Eee Box PC EB1501 is the second-generation Nettop from Asus and is the first we've seen from the vendor with Nvidia's Ion chipset. While the Ion chipset brings an assortment of underlying technologies to low-power Netbooks and Nettops, the most relevant piece of graphics hardware is its Nvidia GeForce 9400M chip, a budget 3D chip designed to provide basic video and 3D graphics capabilities, including, according to Nvidia, support for high-definition video playback at 1080p.

We've seen a few GeForce 9400M-based desktops that can play 1080p content smoothly, namely Apple's most recent Mac Minis. This Asus system has its limitations--it plays 1080p QuickTime files with noticeable choppiness--but, unlike the Dell Inspiron Zino HD and the Acer Aspire Revo R1600 (the $199 model), it can at least play 1080p files in Windows Media Player and from YouTube smoothly. QuickTime is a major file type to-be-sure, and iTunes-based video in particular will give this system trouble. Still, until Apple has its way with the rest of the Internet, Flash-based sites like YouTube and Amazon Video on Demand, and Microsoft Silverlight-powered Netflix.com will hold as much weight as iTunes, if not more, and this Asus handled all of their content with no trouble.

Despite its general suitability to online video, the Eee Box EB1501 is caught in an uncomfortable middle ground in terms of its price. New Blu-ray players from Sony and LG offer wireless network connections and built-in support for a variety of online media services, Netflix and YouTube among them. While those devices don't offer the full breadth of content available via the Web, they supplement the services they do support with Blu-ray playback and cost between $250 to $275. On the other end of the price spectrum, Gateway's $550 slim tower SX2840-01 is a significantly faster computer than the Asus, and will play anything you throw at it, including QuickTime 1080p. It's a bit larger than the Asus and it lacks Wi-Fi; however, we suspect the enthusiasts most willing to stick a PC in the living room would be willing to make those trade-offs in exchange for smooth HD playback regardless of file format.

Thus we find the Eee Box EB1501's primary appeal comes with its design, which would look at home next to any TV or AV component. The system is meant to stand upright. When it is attached to its stand, it measures 10.25 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide by 10 inches deep. You can remove the single screw anchoring the Eee Box to its stand, and it gets a smaller profile: 1.5 inches tall by 7.75 inches wide by 7.625 inches deep. In addition to its tiny dimensions, the Eee Box's mostly white plastic exterior and slot-loading DVD burner give it a clean, muted appearance. It might disappear entirely next to a large screen, if not for a white LED illuminating the power button.

  Asus Eee Box EB1501 Dell Inspiron Zino HD
Price $475 $468
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Atom N330 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e
Memory 1GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 64MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chip 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3200
Hard drives 250GB 5,400 rpm 320GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

In contrast with the Eee Box, the Dell Inspiron Zino HD is a bit larger, likely to accommodate higher-end options Dell makes available via its online configuration tools. As a fixed-configuration system, the Eee Box needs no extra leeway for more RAM or a dedicated graphics chip. In terms of pure capabilities, the Asus and the Dell Zino configuration we reviewed are very similar. The Dell has a slightly larger hard drive, more system and graphics memory, and, in general, fares better than the Asus system in day-to-day applications. Arguably, the Asus merits a premium for its bundled wireless mouse and keyboard set. Given their similar price and the minimal differences between their specs, we find the Asus a fair deal in relation to the Dell.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee Box EB1501
606 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee Box EB1501
813 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Eee Box EB1501
2,268 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway SX2840-01
10,085 
2,773 
Apple Mac Mini (2.26GHz)
4,842 
2,599 
Dell Inspiron Zino HD
2,304 
1,329 
Asus Eee Box EB1501
1,528 
537 

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Where to Buy

Asus Eee Box EB1501

Part Number: EB1501-B0167

MSRP: $479.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Environmental standards EPEAT Gold
  • Graphics Processor NVIDIA ION shared video memory (UMA)
  • Capacity 1 x 250 GB
  • Color modern black
  • OS Provided Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Installed Size 2 GB / 4 GB (max)
  • Monitor Type None.