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Asus S-presso review: Asus S-presso

Asus' S-Presso Media Centre is an attractive looking PC if you're only after mid-range performance.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
4 min read

Imagine, if you will, a Nintendo Gamecube. Now, imagine that Gamecube given a serious shot of steroids that warp and rend its essentially cuboid structure, all the while adding a touch-sensitive front panel. Congratulations -- you've just designed the Asus Spresso, a Media Centre-style case and motherboard combo that's also available as a full Media Centre Style PC. Measuring in at 243 x 181 x 330mm, it's not really a cube -- although some online stockists will refer to it as such.


Asus S-presso

The Good

Good looking case. Touch sensitive front LCD panel.

The Bad

Analog tuner only. Graphics solution is weak for a portable unit. No wireless.

The Bottom Line

Asus' S-Presso Media Centre is an attractive looking PC if you're only after mid-range performance.

Aside from the case and motherboard, the S-Presso also ships with a media centre style remote control that activates multimedia playback functionality, as well as the necessary software to enable it. The front panel of the S-Presso is also touch sensitive for basic playback functions. One impressive feature of the case is its hidden front compartments. The topmost comparment hides the optical drive, while to the left sits a slot socket that in our review sample was filled with a single PC card slot and media card readers. At the base sits a flap that pops open to reveal two front-facing USB 2.0 ports as well as simple audio ports.

The unit we've reviewed comes as a complete Media Centre style package from BlueChip InfoTech, and unlike the bare bones package that's available from a number of retailers, this comes fully configured, and that's what we'll concentrate on in the rest of the review. As cases and motherboards go, the S-Presso is an acceptable solution to the problem of ugly media centres in living rooms, although its elongated profile might make it a touch tricky to place in some entertainment unit setups. You'd also have to carefully choose your internal componentry, as a classic problem for small form factor PCs rears its head here -- there's simply not that much space to put additional components.

The unit we reviewed came with an Intel Pentium 4 3GHz processor, 1GB of SDRAM and a 120GB hard drive. The optical drive in our test sample was an LG SuperMulti Dual Layer DVD recorder. Graphics are supplied via the onboard 64MB Intel Graphics 82865G solution. The unit we tested came with a single analog WinFast TV2000 XP Expert TV tuner. Networking is provided by a 10/100 NIC that sockets at the back of the unit. While it would be relatively trivial to add wireless networking to the S-Presso, we did wonder why it didn't come as standard.

You may have noticed that we've constantly referred to the S-Presso as a media centre-style PC, rather than a Media Center PC. That's because, like many similar systems (the Acer Aspire 9504 comes to mind), the S-Presso ships with Windows XP Home Edition and add-on software that closely mimics the Media Center experience -- in Asus's case, it uses InterVideo Home Theater for DVD, TV and picture viewing capabilities.

We tested the S-Presso using Bapco's Sysmark 2004 SE benchmarking suite, and weren't suprised to find its results a tad on the average side. It managed an overall rating of 114, with an Internet Content Creation score of 117 and Office Productivity score of 112. What this boils down to is an adequate system for most basic computing tasks, but by no means a barn-burner -- which you'd expect from a system that uses a slightly older motherboard and processor combination, as well as a relatively weak graphics solution.

The graphics solution did concern us, simply because a system like the S-Presso that ships with a handle would seem like an obvious fit for LAN parties, but the lower quality onboard graphics would make that a largely pointless endeavour. Given that it's a system that's also sold as standalone parts, there's nothing to stop users from upgrading the internal graphics card, save for the smaller space offerings that the S-Presso case is constrained by, and the fact that you'd lose some of the instant power-on facilities of the system.

On the media centre side, the S-Presso performed reasonably well, although we did find it a touch sluggish when switching from one media type to another, and as you'd expect for a product that ships with only an analog TV tuner, picture quality varied considerably. If there was one sole component of the S-Presso we'd upgrade, it'd be the TV tuner.

The unit supplied to us for review comes in at AU$1199. For a system that ships sans any kind of display, that's a touch on the rich side, especially considering that to make the most of the S-Presso, we'd suggest at least ditching the analog tuner for a digital one, and perhaps upgrading the video solution if you're going to make the most of the S-Presso's portability. It's by no means a bad system, but as configured for our review, it's a system that's hard to get too excited about.