Asus has gone and made a desktop Eee PC. Is this the birth of the net-top?
Its three famous letters may have changed the laptop world, but Asus isn’t just shovelling its Eee profits under the bed for safekeeping. Luckily for us, it’s set its sights on revolutionising the desktop with a new all-in-one touchscreen machine.
Of course, we’ve seen similar computers before, most notably HP’s TouchSmart range. But nothing quite like the Eee Top. Sure, its processing power is rudimentary – you can’t play 3D games or watch HD movies – and there’s no DVD drive. But its purpose is simple: it’s a web surfer, word processor and, at a push, a basic photo editor. And it’s very, very cheap.
Hey, good looking
There's more to it than that, though. Asus is one of several companies that have been making computers for Sony and Apple for years, so it's no surprise that the design and build quality are excellent.
No other sub-£400 PC is this well put together: it's solid, slim and there's no garish frippery to clutter up the facade. It's also near silent running.
Round the back a single loop in the adjustable stand keeps the cables tidy, and while a wireless keyboard and mouse would have been the perfect cable free complement, that was probably impossible to include at this price.
As it is, the bundled keyboard is small but elegant: it looks like it was pulled straight from a MacBook. The mouse is cheap and nasty, but with finger guided precision pointing, you're not going to need that anyway.
The small screen
Price no doubt played an important role in choice of screen size too, and at just over 15 inches it's not quite big enough for serious use.
The touch screen is more than a novelty, though. A quick tap through the day's headlines on Stuff.tv makes it clear that this is the shape of things to come. It's basically an iPhone for the desktop and, although there's no multitouch zooming, you can grab and scroll pages with a single finger easily enough.
If there's a criticism, it's that the Motorola handwriting recognition software is slow. It's as accurate as Microsoft's Tablet tool, but each letter takes a couple of seconds to register, and the delete gesture is just random.
Fortunately, an on-screen QWERTY pop-up makes the keyboard redundant for entering URLs, although you'll want to keep something physical plugged in for serious writing tasks.
Thoughtful front end
The Eee Top runs Windows XP well enough, but with the twist that there's a perfect replica of the Xandros interface from the netbooks overlaid on top. Some may find the look a bit childlike, but the large friendly icons are perfect for stabbing at.
You wouldn't throw away a high-powered Alienware gaming rig for an Eee Top. But if it's a toss up between this or a cheap desktop from Tesco as a second PC or for a tiny flat, there really is no comparison.
Asus Eee Top review
Far from a full desktop, but the Eee Top is budget computing with class