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Asus Eee Top ET1602 review

Verdict

A decent touchscreen device for a relatively cheap price - but it remains a niche product.

Review Date: 17 Nov 2008

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £354 (£407 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

The Eee PC range continues to rapidly expand, with an incredible 14 netbook variants. Asus has also begun to produce Eee-branded desktop machines, with the Eee Box now joined by the touchscreen Eee Top.

The new model sets itself apart from other Eee PC products: while the white chassis is reminiscent of the netbook range's toy-like looks, the 15.6in screen, Apple-style keyboard and glass bevel beneath the unit give it a far more stylish feel than the rest of its low-cost brethren. It's also available in black, denoted by "BK" rather than "WT" in the part code.

The screen itself is sharp, bright and clear enough for most tasks the Eee Top is intended for. It uses the 1,366 x 768 resolution more commonly found in LCD TVs than PC monitors, so it's capable of displaying 720p video. But don't get too excited: there's no optical drive so no easy way to watch either HD or SD movies.

The touchscreen interface works well, though. While the Eee comes equipped Windows XP Home, it's hardly noticeable - Asus layers an interface over the top, styled to resemble the tab-based version of Xandros Linux that was installed on the original Eee PCs.

A stylus, which can be slotted into the rear of the keyboard when not in use, makes navigation easier, but the majority of the icons scattered around the four tabs are of a decent size and we naturally defaulted to using our fingers. Coupled with the responsive screen, it makes navigating the Eee Top both quick and painless.

The four tabs house the majority of the Eee Top's applications. The first, labelled 'Communication', takes care of Skype, email and web apps, with direct links to popular sites - including Windows Live Mail, Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook, MySpace, Google News and Blogger - which makes getting to specific sites slightly easier, although we still found ourselves resorting to keyboard and mouse on most occasions.

The 'Fun' tab contains media-handling software - which is remarkably similar to Windows Media Center's interface - as well as a couple of basic games that work with the touchscreen. The 'Work' tab includes everything you'd expect, with individual links to each facet of Sun Microsystems' StarSuite productivity software, as well as a PDF reader, calculator and file manager. There's also a 'Tools' tab with links to specific apps, including Opera and Internet Explorer, as well as a raft of customisation options.

Asus positions a 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen - with accompanying 'Eee Cam' software - while scattered around the sides and rear are four USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a card reader and a trio of audio ports. Underneath the attractive exterior and slick touchscreen interface is largely the same hardware that powered the Eee Box. Intel's 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor is joined by a gigabyte of RAM, GMA 950 graphics and draft-n wireless, while a 160GB hard disk is a step up from the majority of netbooks. Asus is also planning to release another model with discrete graphics, in the shape of ATI's Mobility Radeon HD 3450, although there's no word on its price.

The familiar spec means performance is similar to that of the Eee Box and Eee PC netbooks - functional not fast. Despite this, XP and the touchscreen interface run without any problems, likewise word processing and web surfing. Attempt something a little more demanding, however - such as video editing - and you'll run into problems as the Atom CPU struggles to cope.

But that isn't really the point of the Eee Top. Like netbooks, this is meant to be a secondary PC for simple tasks, and we can see it finding a niche both in homes - say, the kitchen, or a child's bedroom - and offices. It's even got enough style to be a front-of-office PC.

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