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40 posts

Geek
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Topic # 57558 17-Feb-2010 13:14
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What is it:

 

Asus EeeBox EB1012. Intel Ion chipset with a dial core Atom 330 CPU, 2G of RAM and a 250G HD. Very small box, with hardware support for MPEG2/4 video decoding. Very quiet. Able to decode HD video at 1080p using hardware rather than CPU.

 

Impressions as a HTPC:

 

I’d been looking into HTPCs for about a year. My requirements were simple. I wanted something OEM, small, quiet, power frugal and able to decode 1080p with ease. Oh and I didn’t want to spend too much. When I was looking around in January I found 3 possible options. The Asus, the Dell Zino HD or the Acer Reno R3610. I chose the Asus mainly because it was cheaper than the other two. It was a tough call though. All up it cost me $730incl.

 

The 250G 2.5” SATA drive might be a bit small but then it has an eSATA connector for an external drive. It also comes with WiFi (802.11b/g/n), S/PDIF audio jack, 4 USB ports and a card reader. It doesn’t have an optical drive though but that didn’t bother me at all. While it came with a wired keyboard and mouse I instead used my wireless keyboard and mouse. I’ve plugged it into my 46” 1080p Sony via HDMI and didn’t use the S/PDIF plug as my amp is already plugged into my TV via this method.

 

Setup was very simple however took about an hour for the Windows 7 setup process. Surprisingly there was very little bloatware installed by Asus and what had been installed was able to be uninstalled quickly and easily.

 

H.264 1080p video files plays perfectly on the PC. CPU hovering around 20-30% CPU usage.  5.1 sound works perfectly over HDMI. I bought a USB DVB-T tuner a few weeks later (AverMedia Volar X for $99incl) and plugged that in. Using Windows Media Centre I can watch all TV channels perfectly. TV 1-3 in HD works fine with the Ion chipset taking care of the decoding. Recording to disk works fine too with the AverTV software generating H.264 format files. All very usable with no delay or glitches.

 

I hid the Asus behind my TV and you can’t even see it while watching TV. You can’t hear it either with no fan noise. In fact I’m not even sure if it has a fan.

 

Apart from watching digital TV and HD recorded content my only other requirements were for general purpose PC jobs, web browsing and running a BitTorrent client. It does all this just fine. I’ve got another PC for playing games so I don’t care about gaming performance. Neither am I going to be transcoding or editing video on it.

 

Summary:



If you’re after a general purpose PC for video, games and Photoshop or video editing then the Asus is not for you. If you’re after a brand name HTPC which works out of the box which can handle 1080p with 5.1 audio as well as doing general purpose Internet duties then the EeeBox is certainly worth consideration. When compared to the Acer and Dell it’s very good value for money. Build quality is excellent and power consumption is very low (around 20-30W). The only thing they could have improved on would have been a larger HD and a bundled remote. Both limitations are easily and cheaply overcome though.

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149 posts

Master Geek


  Reply # 299765 17-Feb-2010 13:53
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Have you tried running XBMC Live as your OS instead of Windows 7?

http://lifehacker.com/5391308/build-a-silent-standalone-xbmc-media-center-on-the-cheap

I love XBMC and have used it since the early days of the original XBOX this way you don;t need any overhead of Windows 7 and it'll play pretty much every media format out there.

Natively it doesn;t support live TV but if you scout the XBMC forums some people are suing it like that.

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Master Geek


  Reply # 299774 17-Feb-2010 14:18
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Nice work dude, I wish those PCs were available when I built my HTPC 18 months ago, I would have done the same thing. Win 7 MC is wicked, so much easier than stuffing around with open source solutions.

-Matt

 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 299775 17-Feb-2010 14:19
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I believe you still have to use XBMC + MythTV and do a bunch of config tweaking and hacking to watch live or recorded tv from Freeview HD.

Windows 7 Media Center just works.



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Geek
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  Reply # 299805 17-Feb-2010 14:55
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Nope haven't tried XBMC. Like Ragnor says Win 7 Media Center just works and I need Windows to do other non video realated things, apart from MC I use Boxee and the software that came with the USB TV tuner.

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 299807 17-Feb-2010 15:09
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Thanks for the mini review.
I've been looking for something to replace my current Asus EeeBox, which is not good enough for HD but works great for Freeview DVB-S.




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Geek


  Reply # 300159 18-Feb-2010 16:14
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Good post, dude. Another arrow in the HTPC quiver of options!

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Master Geek
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  Reply # 300850 21-Feb-2010 21:59
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Thanks, useful review.

I am thinking of getting one of these. I was looking at the EB202 (see my other post http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=84&topicid=57650) but think that I would regret the lack of HD capability. I have a few questions:

1. Are you able, out of the box, to create a TV recording schedule (by browsing some kind of web tool) for a week or so ahead with this unit ? (ie so the unit automatically records selected shows to the HDD).

2. What is the audio output quality like?

3. I presume there are no issues with browsing media content that might be on another computer in the house? (my other PC is a Mac).

4. Are you happy with the performance / useability (from a media centre perspective) of Windows 7?

Cheers.



40 posts

Geek
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  Reply # 300994 22-Feb-2010 13:54
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With regards to 1. I haven't actually looked into this. You don't get the full EPG down with any PC TV tuner as I understand it but there are sure to be alternative options out there.

2. Audio quality is just fine. It's 5.1 audio over HDMI so fine I'm sure for 99% of people.

3. I've only used the LAN to copy files between PCs on my LAN and this works just fine

4. Performance is just fine from my point of view. Media Centre just works and isn't laggy or anything like that.

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