Asus Eee Moves From Laptop to Desktop - TheStreet

Asus Eee Moves From Laptop to Desktop

This inexpensive computer takes a lesson from its older sibling, the laptop, and tech columnist Gary Krakow says it's fabulous.
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I believe nearly everyone who reads my column knows about Asus and its breakthrough line of super-small, super-affordable laptops called Eee PCs.

There are now small Eee PCs and big Eee PCs -- ranging from $300 (for an ultra-portable Linux model) to $550 for the biggest-screened

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portable.

The question had been whether Asus could revolutionize desktop computers as it did the laptop market. I can now answer the question with a resounding yes. Now, there's an Asus Eee Box PC.

Asus Brings Eee Design to the Desktop

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It's small on the outside and a mini-powerhouse (with a big twist) on the inside. We're talking 8.78 by 7 by nearly 1 inch deep.

Inside there's a 1.6 GHz

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Atom processor (promising high performance and low power consumption) and an Intel 950 graphics card, 1GB of RAM, 512KB of cache memory, a 80 GB hard drive, DVI video out, Wi-Fi (802.11n ready) 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet, 4 USB 2.0 ports and an SD/Memory Stick port.

The only built-in feature it lacks is an optical drive (for CDs or DVDs). And except for that it reminds me of another small, popular desktop computer:

Apple's

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Mac mini. They match up pretty well on paper. They match up pretty well in real life, too.

I am not saying the Eee Box is the equal of the Mac mini in every sense. The full-size, heavy-duty Intel processor in the Mac mini makes that machine faster in loading Web pages and on some other tasks. But, not by all that much.

The Mac mini runs on Apple's user-friendly OS X. But the new Eee runs on two operating systems -- Linux and Windows XP Home -- right out of the box. When the Eee is starting-up, you can choose a quick boot into Linux with Asus's Express Gate feature, where you can browse the Web, play online games, chat, deal with photos and even make calls via Skype. Or, you can choose to have the machine start up with Windows.

Asus claims the Eee is usable with Linux booting within 7 seconds. It was more like 15 seconds on my test unit. If you choose Windows, that OS takes only 5 or 10 seconds more. Either way, the Eee Box is ready in about the same amount of time as the Mac mini.

The Eee comes with a nice selection of software programs as standard equipment, as well as both the Microsoft Works and Star Office 8 office suites (word processor, spreadsheet, database, calendar programs and more). Plus, with a speedy 80GB hard drive, there's room for the other software programs you might need.

The Eee Box comes with a cute, little, desktop computer stand -- and a mounting bracket to attach the Eee to the back of one's monitor. I've tried using it both ways.

I'm impressed with the Intel Atom processor. While not a speed demon, it does let me smoothly stream video over the Web and perform other functions at the same time. The Eee's built-in video card handles nearly any monitor you might use. We tried it with monitors capable of 1280 by 1024 pixels (HP L1706 - VGA connection) and 1680 by 1050pixels (Asus PG221 - DVI connection) with great success.

I've saved the best feature for last: The new Eee Box PC retails for only $349. As a comparison, the Mac mini starts at $599 (also with 1GB of memory). Even if you need to add an external USB 2.0 CD/DVD drive (figure $100-125) the Eee is very, very well priced. If you can mount it to the back of your monitor, you have a terrifically affordable all-in-one unit.

There's nothing like it in this price range from

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,

Dell

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Lenovo, or any of the majors -- and that's just what Asus is betting on.

After a few days of living with the new Asus Eee Box, I can recommend this inexpensive PC. It could be a big back-to-school seller.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.