We also like the Eee Box's start-up software layer, called ExpressGate. Approximately 7 seconds after you power the system, ExpressGate presents you with a pre-Windows operating system with applications for browsing the Web, instant messaging, looking at photos, and making VoIP calls with Skype. The ExpressGate screen gives you a button to load Windows XP if you need to go into the more robust operating system, and if you do nothing once ExpressGate loads, it will move on directly to XP as well. This software is so handy we'd like to see it on every PC.
We mentioned the removable hard drive bay, which is probably the most interesting hardware feature of the Eee Box. The removable stand comes off easily enough with a single screw. You get plenty of external inputs as well, with four USB jacks between the front and the back, a 4-in-1 media card reader and headphone and mic jacks on the front, and DVI, digital audio, Gigabit Ethernet, and Wi-Fi antenna inputs on the back. The small external power brick that comes with this system is a testament to its low power consumption, common to most small PCs. And also like those others, the Eee Box is almost completely silent. On start-up, the fans spin audibly for a second or two, but that's the only noise we heard from it.
Asus backs the Eee Box with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty, which is average for the industry. You'll also find the usual array of help online, including driver downloads, a FAQ, and a user forum; however, there is no remote support capability. Asus has phone support, but it's not toll-free, and it's only open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Asus Eee Box
Windows XP Home SP3; 1.6Ghz Intel Atom N270; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM; 32MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 80GB, 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics chip; 250GB 5,400rpm Samsung hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E2180; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB shared Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8450; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X4 8450; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.