Review: A day with Asus' Eee Top
+ Small footprint, suprisingly stylish
+ 1366 x 768 Touchscreen works well
+ Custom Opera browser designed to be touch-surfed
+ Fanless, silent.
+ Perfect for a kid's bedroom
- Nettop performance not top of class
- No optical drive or TV Tuner
- Would make a poor main machine
Asus' Eee Top is a suprise: a cute all-in-one with a great touchscreen and an equally great price. At just $600, it's little more than half the price of HP's cheapest TouchSmart.
Yes, the 15.6" screen is small, and performance isn't stellar––it's a desktop version of a popular line of netbooks, after all--but it makes a neat second computer for the kitchen or a kid's bedroom. Inside is a 1.6GHz Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. It weighs 9 pounds and has a webcam, an SD/SDHC card reader, ethernet, WiFi, and a generous five USB ports. The ambient blue light at the bottom can be dimmed or turned off, and there was no audible fan noise.
It even looks nice, with an understated but classy design (in white or black) and matching keyboard and mouse. It also comes with a chunky stylus for getting at small icons.
Eee Top runs Windows XP, and has a nicely-designed touchscreen menu/nav program to make it easy to jump to the included apps and games. Unfortunately, it didn't seem possible to customize it. Included are a selection of Eee-branded apps and games, such as Eee Cinema for watching movies, Eee Cam for recording and dressing up webcam input, and Eee Memo, for taking handwritten notes. The best of them is a custom edition of Opera, designed with touchscreen browsing in mind.
A few changes would be nice. There's no optical drive (Asus will soon offer a matching USB external as an optional upgrade), and I often found myself wishing it had a TV tuner. A larger, more powerful version would also be welcome.
Given its obvious limitations, I'm not going to knock the Eee Top: it's perfect for a dozen niche roles, from the office's reception desk to your offspring's lair. Just don't replace your main machine with it, O.K.?
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