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Asus Eee Top ET2002 review: Asus Eee Top ET2002

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MSRP: $599.00

The Good Nvidia graphics chip gives games and 720p video a helpful nudge; HDMI video input.

The Bad It's a Nettop; better, low-cost video and gaming options out there; atrocious general computing performance; labyrinthine online support.

The Bottom Line Nvidia's Ion graphics chip gives the Asus Eee Top ET2002 better-than-average video performance for a Nettop, but that does little to spare this system from its weak overall performance and the variety of competitive, more well-rounded alternatives for low-cost video and gaming. Nettops might be competitive someday, but for now this category as a whole is a disappointment.

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6.1 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Support 5

Nvidia wants us to tell you that its GeForce 9400M graphics chip, aka Nvidia's Ion technology, pulls Asus' Eee Top ET2002 up from the depths of Nettop misery by imparting it with better-than-terrible graphics and video processing. We agree that the 9400 chip improves the ET2002's visual chops, but a Nettop by any other graphics chip is still a Nettop. Regardless of the Ion chip and a few unexpected extra features, the Eee Top ET2002 is too slow, and its $600 price tag is too high. This might be the most versatile Nettop we've reviewed, but we're still not sold on the sacrifices it makes to standard computing performance. You'd be happier in the long run with a more capable budget slim tower and a standalone LCD, which you can find for the same price as this Eee Top.

Aside from its hardware components, the Eee Top ET2002 includes the basic external features we expect in a low-cost all-in-one, along with a few surprises. The 20-inch (non-touch), 1,600 x 900 LCD, a built-in Webcam, and the DVD burner are all more or less standard features in a $600 budget all-in-one. We haven't seen an HDMI input in a sub-$1,000 all-in-one before, and we don't normally see a wireless mouse and keyboard set in lower end all-in-ones, either. Credit to Asus for adding them here.

The mouse and keyboard are decided Apple rip-offs, which is fine, but the keyboard's function key wouldn't toggle off. You'd be smart to swap in a set of your own. The HDMI input is more interesting. By allowing for HDMI in, Asus lets you connect game consoles, HD camcorders, and other HDMI-equipped external devices to the Eee Top ET2002. A clunky-but-functional menu system lets you swap between video sources. It's not as elegant as the one-button source toggle we've seen on higher-end all-in-ones from Sony and HP, but it's still a reasonably effective means to make the ET2002 more versatile as a digital entertainment hub.

That brings us to the meat of the ET2002, the idea that because it's an all-in-one with a respectable video chip it can work as a secondary digital media hub anywhere you can plug it in. While this is true, we don't believe it's the best solution for the job.

We can speak well enough of the capabilities of this system's Geforce 9400 chip. It played 720p video content from the Web with no hitches, and we were even able to dial up Unreal Tournament 3 up to reasonable image quality, at full native resolution, with a more or less smooth frame rate. Call of Duty 4, a more popular game Nvidia likes to cite as playable with Ion, was choppy at 1,600 x 900, and even when we dialed the resolution down, we found no setting smooth enough to allow for a satisfying multiplayer experience. No serious gamer would be happy with the Eee Top, but it could very well satisfy the more casual crowd. A recent influx of classic PC games to Steam and the various gaming download services has also made low-cost PC gaming more intriguing. World of Warcraft is also very playable on lower-end PCs.

Even if the Eee Top ET2002 can play more forgiving PC games, you could spend $450 on a Gateway SX2800-01 slim tower and enjoy a similar experience, or even gain a few extra frames per second by adding a half-height graphics card. It's also hard to argue with the Xbox 360, which for as low as $200 gives you a significantly better gaming experience and a robust library of games to choose from, not to mention video streaming from Netflix and Hulu, Microsoft's own Xbox 360 movie library, and the capability to work as a Windows Media Center Extender.

The Gateway also complicates the Eee Top's value for other kinds of digital entertainment. As you'll see in our benchmarks below, the Gateway is a much faster PC than the Asus in day-to-day applications. With cheap LCDs available for around $150, including those with multiple video inputs, you could set up the Gateway anywhere you could put this Asus all-in-one and get the same gaming and video experience, along with much faster computing performance, for the same price. It's great that Nvidia's chip gives a boost to video processing, but that won't save you from frustration when the Eee Top ET2002 takes close to 15 minutes to convert a CD-worth of MP3 files.

  Asus Eee Top ET2002 Averatec D1133 All-in-One
Price $599 $549
CPU 1.6Ghz Intel Atom 330 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e
Memory 2GB 800Mhz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400 512MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 320GB, 5,400rpm 250GB, 5,400rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless
Display 20-inches, 1600x900 18.4-inches, 1980x945
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

Ignoring Nettops' questionable value in the larger scheme of computers, we'll compare the Asus Eee Top ET2002 to the Averatec D1133 All-in-One. The Averatec is a lower-cost Nettop with a smaller screen and a smaller hard drive, but its AMD Athlon X2 is also much faster than the Intel Atom N330 chip in the Asus.

Unfortunately, we didn't test the Averatec's gaming capabilities before sending it back. We'd love to know how the ATI chip and its larger allotment of RAM stacked up to the Asus' Nvidia chip, especially because the Averatec's full-fledged AMD Athlon X2 chip is so much faster than the Asus' Atom CPU. We can say that the Averatec's LCD image was crisper, with seemingly better black levels. The Asus's screen's video quality is acceptable, but can look a bit washed out in darker movie scenes. The Asus can claim an edge in audio output though. Unlike the Averatec all-in-one, the Eee Top ET2002 gets loud enough to fill a room.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
Lenovo C300

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
Lenovo C300

Multimedia multitasking
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
Lenovo C300

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Gateway SX2800-01
Averatec D1113 All-in-One
Asus Eee Top ET2002
Lenovo C300
eMachines EZ1601-01

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