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EeeTop 1602 vitals

   EeeTop 1602
Available at
   Insight UK

   1 September 2009
   Lawrence Latif

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The affordable touch
Asus has all but led the revolution of the netbook form factor with their line of EeePC units. Their first foray into an all-in-one "nettop" space with the EeeTop shows potential.

If you think of the EeeTop as a cut down iMac you'll miss the point. However, it's also far more than a cheap and cheerful imitation, sporting additional features such as a touch screen and neat design touches such as being able to stow your keyboard behind the screen. When placed in the kitchen or living room, it's not bad to look at either. This really isn't shaping up to be a dog's dinner.

The EeeTop combines a netbook specification computer with a desktop sized touch-screen. This means you get an Intel Atom N270 powered computer with a 15.6" screen for around £400. Coupled to 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive this makes it almost perfect for browsing, email and even watching streaming video like BBC's iPlayer.

Click to enlargePunching above its weight

After speaking to an Intel representative about how well their Atom processor was doing in the netbook space, it was clear that rather than pushing the virtues of their wunderkid processor, Intel are keen to point out its limitations.  Perhaps it is a sign of how popular the Atom has become with manufacturers and consumers that Intel feels the need to play down the capabilities of their low power monster.

Intel’s view is that computers powered by the Atom processor are for consuming content while those with the Core2 chips are for creating content. That is true but unless you are a serious photographer or home-movie buff it's likely you fall into the content consumer category. And for that the Atom excellent.

The problem is the consuming element is somewhat limited by the 945GSE graphics that are on the EeeTop. This means you won't be able to play any recent games on there and due to no built in optical drive, you'll have to shell out for an external one. However a built in SDCard drive comes in handy when you're working with digital photographs.

Expansion is also severely limited with no easy access to the hard drive or RAM. All but the most determined will want to upgrade these, however with a 160GB of disk space on offer, one questions the need to. Because Asus ship the EeeTop with Windows XP Home, 1GB of RAM is ample enough.

When you're pottering along with Opera or Firefox the system seems perfectly responsive, playing videos through YouTube or iPlayer is no sweat either. Word and Excel documents were dealt with equally well with basic image manipulation also swiftly dealt with. Of course if you want to work on large RAW images then you'll find the CPU and RAM combination somewhat limiting. However our general use cases shows just how effective the Atom N270 chip is.

While internal expansion is limited on the outside there's ample connectivity. Gigabit Ethernet, four USB ports, speaker, microphone and line out connections should be enough for most. The speaker, positioned under the screen isn't bad either.

Touch and feel

Where the EeeTop really excels is in the inclusion of a touch screen. Although it doesn't support multi-touch, it can be used with fingers or the supplied stylus, hidden neatly away in one corner of the keyboard. Asus have also included a touch interface which lets you get basic tasks such as scribbling memos and figures into documents and instant messages done very easily. The whole thing is surprisingly slick and is great for younger kids to play around with.

Click to enlargeThe Eee Bar is a toolbar which allows easy access to certain applications such as Opera and Skype. The problem is that isn't all that customisable so you're stuck with Opera and not Firefox in the toolbar. The insistence of Opera is probably due to the out-of-the-box support of touch-screen interfaces, something that is currently only possible through addons in Firefox.

The fit and finish of the EeeTop is, from a distance, questionable. It's clad in shiney plastic all around and it's not until you actually get to grips with the EeeTop you find it to be exceptionally well made. The whole unit feels as tight as a drum; quite a feat when there's no metal on the actual unit.

Where Asus have gone with metal is for the stand, something which feels extremely sturdy, even when you manhandle it in order to tilt the EeeTop. The spring loaded mechanism works extremely well and at no point do you feel the whole shebang is to come apart in your hands.

Click to enlargeAside from the quality construction, there are a number of places where you can see the Asus engineers have utilised their heads. The keyboard although not wireless houses the stylus in one corner with the other corner housing a single USB port, perfect for the mouse to plug into. The keyboard itself is like most "chic-let" style units - does well considering the limited vertical travel each key has. The only major downer is the fact that both keyboard and mouse are wired, for such a lifestyle product surely ditching the wires would be the best option.

Tough choices

The EeeTop is an excellent bit of engineering. The whole machine works well and while it might be too underpowered to play the latest games or high definition video, for everything else it's brilliant. With the inclusion of a touch-screen and the supporting interface, Asus has really pulled off the implementation perfectly. However the problem comes with the price the EeeTop is selling for.

A quick gander over any price comparison website will tell you that £400 or so is required to get your hands on an EeeTop. For that money you can get something from Dell which has more power and more expansion capabilities. Of course you have to forgo the touch-screen but if this isn't important for you then either Asus need to drop the price of the EeeTop by £100 or it's a fairly easy choice for the desktop.

If you have kids and want them to get to grips with a computer, the EeeTop is brilliant. The overall package is very compelling. The problem lies squarely at the price, which for some will be too high for a computer with limited expansion capabilities. As a computer for kids the EeeTop is brilliant with a £100 price drop it'll garner more widespread appeal too.