The EeeBox 1501 is a compact PC that could do well next to your TV, or in the dorm room--anywhere space is at a premium. And unlike most mini-PCs its size, it has an optical drive (a DVD writer/reader). That puts it in direct competition with Dell's Zino HD, so let's see how the two compare.
At $499 (as of February 1, 2010), the 1501's Ion graphics don't help much with gaming, but will help with smooth HD flash video playback. It also has the fairly standard 1.6GHz Intel Atom N330 dual-core processor. This chip is the fastest of the low-power Atom CPUs we typically see in systems caught up in the shrinking-PC race, but it's a weaker match for comparably small AMD-based machines. Both eMachines' EL1300G-01W (with a 1.6GHz AMD Athlon 2650e CPU) and Dell's Inspiron Zino HD (with a 1.5GHz Athlon 3250e) beat the 1501's performance in our Worldbench 6 benchmark suite. The EeeBox 1501 scored 38, while the $298 eMachines model achieved 47, and the $557 Dell scored 59. While the Dell is pricier than the EeeBox 1501, its 12 percent extra cost gets you 55 percent greater performance. For top-of-the-line performance in a mini-PC, you'll need to spend a couple of hundred dollars more on rivals like the $750 Viewsonic VOT530 (which scored 90), or the slightly larger $900 HP Compaq 6005 Pro Small Form Factor PC (128).
Of course, smaller PCs aren't competing only on performance--the specs and features you get on board are a critical part of deciding between mini-PCs--but the types of upgrades you can perform are usually extremely limited. Here, the Zino HD does well again, as it offers 70 more gigabytes of hard drive space, 3GB of DDR2 memory to the 1501's 2GB, and slightly more connective options on the rear of the system.
Just because the Zino HD is a superior system doesn't mean that the 1501 is automatically knocked out of consideration, however. Asus's PC is a bit pricy for what it offers, but it still offers a lot. The included slot-loading DVD writer does much to trim down the 1501's height versus competing systems, although a switch to a Blu-ray drive would have been a killer (albeit costly) upgrade. Gigabit ethernet joins full wireless support for 802.11b/g/n connectivity, further adding to the 1501's portability.
The rear of the system packs four USB slots, one eSATA port, the aforementioned gigabit ethernet port, and an HDMI output into quite a small area. The 1501 also comes with a separate connector for a VGA display, though DVI would have been preferable. On the front of the system, the 1501 carries the same two USB ports and multiformat card reader as the Zino HD.
The EeeBox 1501's bundled keyboard and mouse don't offer anything beyond what you'd find in bargain-bin offerings, but at least they're wireless. Again, portability over performance seems to be the name of Asus's game here.
Budgets being what they are, Asus' EeeBox 1501 is a still a strong contender if you really do need all the extra features that come with the price tag. Even though the 1501's performance is weaker than its peers, you simply aren't going to find such a varied load-out in most systems of this size.
This story, "Review: ASUS EeeBox PC EB1501: Stylish, But Not Speedy" was originally published by PCWorld.