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FunEee PC

Biswajit.HD

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Panel PCs are now affordable.
You get the eye candy and a touch interface without a hole in your pocket.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Dimensions (WxHxD): 410 x 48 x 335 mm; Weight: 4.30 Kg; Processor: Intel Atom N270, 1.60 GHz; Chipset: Intel 945 GME; Memory: 1 GB DDR2-667; Hard disk: 160 GB; Screen size: 15.6-inch, 16:9; Native resolution: 1366x768; Touch Screen: Single touch; Integrated graphics: Intel 945; Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, WI-Fi n.


About a year ago, when the Indian masses were unaware of the term netbook, Asus introduced its Eee PC 4G—the first one in India. Following this, many variants were released, and other competitive netbooks from various manufacturers were launched too. Owing to their ultra-compact form factor, sufficient processing power and affordability, netbooks soon became the talk of the town, even overshadowing laptops. Netbooks also made for a excellent gifts, especially for first-time users.

And so the concept of cheap, low-powered computers has grown beyond the netbook. Asus started with the Eee PC netbook, followed it with the Eee Box, an ultracompact desktop solution, and has now launched the Eee Top all-in-one. The model we reviewed is the Eee Top ET1602, which is the latest in Asus’ Eee family. And we’ll discuss it at length in this story. To give you a head start, the Eee Top is an all-in-one panel PC with a touch screen interface. It is cute, shiny, easy to use and a lot more, so let the exploration begin.

The feel good factors

While mimicking the concept of the delicious Apple iMac (and looking quite like the previous white models), the Eee Top still stands out with its milky-white bezel and the equally shiny yet compact USB mouse and keyboard. Looks are not the only thing similar to the iMac; the Eee Top’s overall build quality is top-notch. The pre-installed applications are easy to use, and entertaining. Combined with the touch interface, browsing through a document makes you feel like you're flipping through the latest releases on display at a bookstore.


Features

The hardware configuration of the Eee Top ET1602 is almost identical to that of most netbooks; those from the Eee family as well as those from other manufacturers. Built around the Intel 945 GME chipset and powered by the same old Intel Atom N270 clocked at 1.6 GHz, the ET1602 is basically a netbook in the body of a panel PC. It has 1 GB of DDR2 RAM clocked at 667 MHz, and a 160 GB hard drive. The graphics are taken care of by the integrated Intel 945 chipset. There’s a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which is fun to use along with the bundled Eee Cam software.

Now this configuration is almost identical to that of the Eee PC 1000 H and the Eee Box B202. But the main thing which the ET1602 will offer and a netbook can’t, is the 15.6-inch touch screen which has a native resolution of 1366 x 768. Apart from that, there are four USB ports at the back of the unit plus two on the side. Also other connectors such as the DC power socket, LAN and audio jacks are at the back, along with a Kensington lock slot. The ET1602 also features a multi-card reader. It’s common to see a slot-loading optical drive on the side of such a computer, but the ET1602 doesn’t have one at all, which is a huge drawback, considering the device's convenient size and screen.

The keyboard matches those of the Eee PC netbooks, and also houses a plastic stylus which can be used with the touch screen. It also has a USB port on the right, for convenience.



Pre-installed software

Looking at the pre-installed applications, it’s hard not to think that the ET1602 is great for students. There’s a multitude of programs well suited for fun and work. And school and college students could use this machine well for learning.

The Eee Bar: The Eee Bar is a quick launcher with sections and subsections for different purposes, for instance, the Applications section has shortcuts for Opera, Skype, Internet Explorer, Eee Cam, Eee Cinema, Eee Memo and so on. Similarly there are other sections called SoftStylus, ASHE, LED and Eee Manager. If the Eee Bar isn’t comfortable for you, you can switch to a tabular or window representation, the the Eee Manager.

EEE CINEMA: This brings up a media center look-alike interface where you can play music, movies, videos and photos. The interface is eye catching—similar to Windows Vista’s Media Center.

EEE CAM: It is one of the coolest features of the Eee Top. Here, the webcam can be used with a multitude of special effects. There are presets which allow overlaying animations on your videos. Other effects include animated photo frames and other Photoshop-like filters and effects. The funniest of the lot are the mirror effects, which skew, expand, disfigure and do a lot more with your picture or video in real time. It may seem like this little novelty could get boring very soon, but trust us, the Eee Cam can keep you entertained anytime plus kids will love it!

The Extras: A whole lot of other useful software is also included:

SOFTSTYLUS: This has two modes. One lets you hand write characters and the software attempts to convert the handwriting into text, and the other lets you peck at the on-screen keyboard.

ASHE: It lets you toggle between the three power modes which are Power Saving, High Performance, and Super Performance. The table of scores will give you a good idea of the difference these modes make.

LED: This button lets you control the intensity of the decorative blue light at the base of the bezel. There are four modes to choose from: High, Medium, Low and Off.

EEE MEMO: Here, you see an analog or digital clock, and you can pull out a paper like a post-it note to write small reminders or memos using the stylus. You can edit, store and delete notes using this application.


Easy mode

If you ever used Windows 3.1, you’ll instantly recognize the Easy mode. It is nothing but a set of large icons representing the applications installed. The icons are large enough to be tapped with a finger. This mode will help children get used to computers. There are four tabs under which the applications are arranged: Communication, Fun, Work and Tools.

Communication includes Skype, Email, Eee Memo and On The Web. Email is handled using Outlook Express, and On The Web contains some shortcuts to websites related to communication such as Windows Live Mail, Gmail and so on.

The Fun section has icons for Eee Cinema, Eee Cam, Sound Recorder, Tutorial and another On the Web icon with links to fun websites. The defualt Windows games Solitaire and FreeCell can also be found and we all know and love these evergreen games because we've been playing them for ages.

The Work section includes PDF Reader, Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Database, Calculator, WordPad, and File Manager. The office applications are courtesy the StarOffice suite, which somewhat resembles Microsoft Office. It is also compatible with Office DOC and XLS files.

Design versus performance

A common pattern which we’ve seen in the Asus Eee line of products is that design and affordability are given priority over performance. With the look and feel of a lifestyle product, the Eee Top is a bit different from its siblings, though, because it's quite expensive too. Sadly, its performance is still only average, with a very basic configuration.

So why doesn’t the Eee Top have more powerful hardware? Well, it uses Windows XP, for which the licensing terms limit the hardware to what it is. But Asus could have used Vista if it wanted to use higher end components.

Asus has simply chosen to price the Eee Top as a lifestyle product, but for that price, it could have been a lot more capable than it currently is. The design is great, and makes the Eee Top a good match for a living room or bedroom, because of the glossy white finish. However, certain negative factors such as the omission of a DVD drive, do limit its usage for multimedia and other rich applications simply because provision of these missing factors allow a true multimedia experience.

To make the Eee Top ET 1602 better value for money, Asus should consider repricing it to match the other Eee series devices, or reconfigure it as a mainstream computer with more powerful hardware and Windows Vista

Basic computing

If you only need a basic computer to check email, do your office work and watch some movies, then a basic desktop PC with an Intel 945 chipset-based motherboad, a 2.20 GHz Core 2 Duo E2200 CPU, 2 GB of DDR2 RAM and an 80 GB hard drive would be more than enough and wouldn't cost more than Rs 20,000. Plus, with a regular desktop you can add a graphics card if you want to play games, which is something you can't really do with the Eee Top or its siblings. The only things you'd miss out on by not choosing the Eee Top would be the looks, the touchscreen functionality, and the custom Easy mode.

For sheer affordability in a basic computer, the Eee Box mounted to the back of a basic LCD monitor provides pretty much the same experience and occupies roughly the same amount of space on a desk. Apart from the sleek looks that you give up, the Eee Box wins the comparison easily, so think hard before buying the Eee Top (see box).


Conclusion

For the same price, you could get much better performance in a mainstream desktop PC. It's debatable whether people will trade performance for the lifestyle look and touch interface of the Eee Top, but the option is there for those who want it. For now, other companies and even Asus itself have more compelling products available.


For: Slick design, lifestyle looks, good for children and students, innovative software bundled.


Against: High cost of ownership, no optical drive, the transparent extension at the bottom of the bezel spoils the clean white look.

Source : Chip magazine.
 
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