The EeeBox is not your ordinary HTPC. The size of a small novel, this tiny computer comes with a custom bracket that can be mounted directly behind a computer monitor. At just 29mm thick, this is perfect for those living in a very small apartment with a minimum of desk space, yet it still packs a decent amount of punch for basic digital video duties.
Powering this little box is Intel's recent low-power Atom processor, the D2550. Extremely energy efficient, it also throws out a minimum of heat, allowing for an extremely quiet cooling system. It's only packing two cores running at 1.86GHz, which makes it a bit of a lightweight compared to other HTPCs, as can be seen in our Cinebench CPU test results below. Having said that, there's oodles more performance here than a network media player, and this can be put to good use transcoding your media files. To test its media-changing mettle, we used the x264 HD benchmark. While it did the job, there's probably not enough horsepower here to do media transcoding on the fly to a streaming device.
Cinebench CPU benchmark (fps)
Scorptech Intel HTPC
Enspire Digital AVR-500
Scorptech AMD HTPC
ODE AMD Home Media Center
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
However, when combined with the Nvidia GeForce 610M graphics processor, this little box is plenty powerful enough to run a single HD movie stream without any stuttering or slowing down. In fact, according to Nvidia, the GPU can even run the newer 3D HD formats without any dramas. While a single VGA output is included, we imagine most home users will utilise the single HDMI output to drive their TV and speakers. Unfortunately, older amplifiers and TVs that require S/PDIF or component output will be out of luck, as the EeeBox supports neither.
The base model of the EeeBox supports a moderate 320GB hard drive, upgradeable to 500GB if you're willing to pay extra. Obviously, this isn't quite enough for avid movie lovers, but twin USB 3.0 ports allow the connection of high-speed external drives. These ports can also be used for an external USB tuner or Blu-ray drive, neither of which is included with the default unit. A wireless mouse and keyboard are both included in the box, but they're designed for normal desktop use, rather than couch-bound HTPC users.
Despite the lack of added multimedia functionality, the EeeBox still makes for a respectable HTPC in a set of very specific circumstances. Designed for those who want their HTPC to be tucked away behind the monitor or TV, it's aimed at those who digest their media in a purely digital format, with no support for free-to-air TV or disk-based media. The fact that it runs Windows 7 enables a far wider range of uses than a PVR or network media player, and the lack of functionality is offset by a very low asking price. Besides, adding a third-party USB TV tuner will only set the owner back a mere US$40, making this an even more capable HTPC. At this price, the EeeBox is a versatile, if slightly underpowered, HTPC solution on a very tight budget.