ASUS Eee Top ET1602
A simple Atom-based PC with a touch screen.
- Touch screen, six USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless networking
- Looks a little tacky, reflective screen, keyboard and mouse are small and uncomfortable, audio jacks not located on the front or side
The touch screen–equipped Eee Top ET1602 definitely garnered a lot of attention in our test centre; but then again, most touch screens do. It's a funky little unit for basic tasks and is suitable for kids and anyone who just wants a simple PC for getting online or creating a few documents. You shouldn't consider this unit if you want a fully fledged PC.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
Buy now (Selling at 4 stores)
The ASUS Eee Top may look like a toy, but it's actually an all-in-one PC with a touch screen. It can be described as an entry-level version of HP's TouchSmart PC — it's nowhere near as powerful or feature-rich, nor is it as good looking as a TouchSmart PC. But for $1299, it doesn't need to be. It's just a basic PC for the home, and it can also be used much like a kiosk PC thanks to its touch screen.
What you get with the ASUS Eee Top is a 15.6in screen with a PC built into it, based on a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 1GB of DDR2 RAM. It has a built-in Intel graphics processor and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as 802.11n wireless networking. Storage is handled by a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive, and there is also an SD memory card reader. The only essential feature that's missing is a DVD burner.
When you boot up the ASUS Eee Top you find yourself in the simplified Easy Mode interface, which contains essential applications across four tabs: Communication, Fun, Work and Tools. From these tabs you can tap on the icon of the application that you want to launch, without having to fumble through the Windows Start menu.
The interface is reminiscent of the Linux interface used by the ASUS Eee PC 900 (Linux Version). Its shortcut links include Skype, StarSuite 8 applications, the Opera Web browser and multimedia software. Eee Bar is another application that is installed. It resides in a concealed position on the left side of the Windows Desktop and can be used to start applications and also to quickly change the unit's settings.
There is also an application called Eee Memo, which will let you leave virtual post-it notes for other members of your household simply by writing on the screen; it's perfect for when you want to remind someone to tidy up their room or buy some milk. This is the sort of stuff that the ASUS Eee Top is useful for. As well, you can browse the Web, listen to music, watch videos and create documents.
You can encode MP3 files if you want, too, but it will take a while. Our iTunes MP3 encoding test took 7min 53sec to complete, which is on par for a 1.6GHz Atom CPU, but it's about 6min slower than a typical Intel Core 2–based laptop or PC. Photo editing will also be hard to do, especially as the screen's resolution is only 1366x768, but it's an ideal unit for viewing photos. The ASUS Eee Top sits on a desk in a manner similar to a photo frame, with an adjustable fold-out leg; it also has a handle.
It's not a truly portable unit, though, as it does not have a built-in battery — you can't just cart it around the house and plonk it anywhere you want while it is running. However, it's a small unit, and because you don't need the keyboard and mouse to navigate it can be placed in the kitchen, dining room, or even a hallway, without taking up too much space. Its touch screen is accurate enough for writing messages to people, selecting menu items and launching applications, but it's not good enough to let you draw pictures, for example. The screen also feels a little sticky if you use your finger to navigate, but a pen is supplied; it can be tucked in to the back of the keyboard when not in use.
A couple of built-in speakers give the Eee Top enough volume to adequately fill a small room with songs and audio from movies. It will play standard-definition video files without any tearing or jittering, but its Atom CPU will struggle with high-definition video. It's a shame that there isn't a built-in DVD burner; those of you with video archives on discs will have to transfer them to a USB drive first.
There are two USB 2.0 ports located on the left side of the ASUS Eee Top and four more on the back (where they are awkward to get to). The back also has Gigabit Ethernet, headphone and microphone ports. It would benefit from an ExpressCard slot for expansion, but it's not an essential feature.
Brightness, volume and power buttons are located on the front of the Eee Top, and it also has a button that allows the screen to be switched off while the PC still runs. This is useful for when you want to listen to music in a darkened room but don't want the screen to stare at you. The screen itself has a glossy surface and it is prone to reflections in bright environments; it's best to use it away from a window and angle it away from any ceiling lights.
While it may look like a toy or a novelty, the ASUS Eee Top is suitable for families that want an easy-to-use PC for their kids. It ships with a matching keyboard and mouse (which are a little uncomfortable to use), and it also has a funky blue light that shines down onto a desk. It shouldn't be considered if you are after a full-blown PC, but as a second or third PC for Web browsing, online communications, some word processing, music listening and video watching, it will do just fine.
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