Eee Box B202 - first impressions

This is not a full featured professional review, there are plenty of those already published. This is just a consumer's early impression.

We got our new Eee Box B202 with Windows XP on Monday, November 10, 2008, and it has been exactly what we wanted so far. The B202 is replacing an 8 year old Gateway box (800MHz Celeron with RAM capacity capped at 512Meg by the chipset) that is running XP and mainly does e-mail, web browsing, and digital photo archiving from our 4MP camera, with a little light editing and miscellaneous stuff that can only be done on Windows - the other two PCs in the house are a newer Linux box and a MacBookPro.

The B202 can keep up with our other machines in terms of playing video like and Netflix watch it now, the old Celeron was pretty hopeless in the video department. B202 also plays Pandora radio effortlessly, whereas the old machine struggled, probably due to the RAM capacity. To give the old Celeron its due, it is still going after 8 years of daily service, but I believe it has been past its "best if used by" date for some time now.

I used a Kill-A-Watt meter to take some interesting readings on the old, new, and continuing usage equipment:

  • Celeron PC: 70 watts while running, 2 watts even when powered "off"
  • Eee Box B202: 17 watts while running (Pandora radio going), 15 watts at ready idle, 0 watts when off (must be an efficient power-brick)
  • Creative Labs T10 speakers: 1W operating, 2W if cranked way up
  • 15" Sharp LCD monitor: 24 watts operating

So, the new B202 is going to save us 50 watts over the old PC, and it is a whole lot quieter too. Another message here is that leaving the internet radio on isn't really a big deal, turning off the monitor will cut out more than half of the total system power consumption.

The wireless networking performance of the B202 has been impressive, it picks up twice as many home networks in my neighborhood as my old 802.11g gear, including the vaunted MacBookPro. I don't believe all of those extras listed are 802.11n networks, I think the B202 is just that much more sensitive. Where it really matters, the B202 gets a solid signal regardless of where it is placed in the room, even on the floor. The Celeron box was eventually equipped with a wireless card that supported a remote antenna due to flaky reception on the older chassis mounted antenna. That remote antenna needs to be 2' off the floor for good reception from our Linksys wireless router 2 rooms away. I was thinking I might mount the remote antenna on the B202, and it does screw into the standard port on its back, but apparently it won't be necessary, the B202 standard antenna is plenty strong.

One downside of the B202 package is the mounting bracket. Our monitor is on the wall, so it's useless as a mounting point. I was going to use the bracket to mount the B202 to a bookshelf to the right of the desk, but the bracket only fits on the B202's left side, and it uses a little plastic nub that is only on the left side, so even fabricating a new bracket would be problematic. I see why they did this, to leave the various serial number stickers visible, still it would have been nice to have a choice. Mounting on the wall on the left of the desk isn't much of an option, either, unless I stand the unit off the wall with a piece of 1x wood or something, since the B202 front door would not open if it were flush-mounted on the slightly uneven plaster wall. Small problem - it is doing very nicely on the desk for now, so small and quiet that it's not really a problem.

Another weak (looking) spot is the included keyboard and mouse. Certainly you wouldn't expect anything spectacular, but the included keyboard and mouse, while color coordinated, looked really cheap and cheesey, and I'm using a $20 wireless Logitech keyboard / mouse set as my baseline to compare to. Certainly not a deal breaker, but I wouldn't plan on using them for too long. Also, in the area of color coordination, the box is white, but the antenna and power brick are black - small beef, but would have been nicer if they got color coordinated too.

The Splashtop interface is worth mentioning, it works well, but is essentially useless to us because we will occasionally want to print something, and I'm not sure I can get our Canon Pixma iP4000R printer to interface with the Splashtop OS. So, easier to boot to "real" windows and leave the machine on, rather than being in the middle of a great Splashtop session and then realizing that you have to reboot to print.

One week update: The machine is setup now, and working quite well. I was a little dismayed at the hum/whine coming from the new APC Back-UPS CS 350, it was quite loud for about 2 days, but gradually tapered off and is now near silent. No real drama to report, it's a PC, it works. One nice touch is the built in SD card reader, all of our flash cards are CF, and we have plenty of CF pucks to read them with, but a new SD card got in the house the other day in a digital picture frame, and the new B202 is all set to read it. Progress... I suppose. On the opposite of progress, getting the iP4000R printer driver to work needed to do a temporary connection to the printer via USB - and the iP4000R uses an older style USB connector that I haven't seen in couple of years, had to dig one out of a packrat box in the garage, but it worked, and is printing properly now.

Last updated November 17, 2008