Asus EEE Box B202 small form factor PC

 

EEE Box B202 mini PCThe Rationale (AKA excuse used for buying a new toy)
Having owned and later replaced the original EEE PC with an Advent 4211 powered by an Intel Atom N270 for mobile web access and eventually portable amateur radio use when I actually get any time for that. I decided on the EEE Box B202 – a mix and match machine to reduce my carbon footprint (or to be more honest my electricity bill) when running my weather satellite tracking and weather station software 24×7.

My reasonably modern Acer desktop powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor runs at just under 100w average consumption. The EEE Box 202 uses 20w. The 80w saving works out at almost exactly £80 a year on current pricing and the EEE Box together with a USB to Serial converter as it has no RS232 port cost me £240 less a bit of Quidco cashback so if it lasts for 3 years which I image in will it has paid for itself.

First impressions
The very first thing I noticed was the huge and surprisingly heavy box this tiny machine comes in. There is a USB keyboard and miniature optical mouse bundled with the machine. Neither would stand up to heavy use but they won’t be getting any so they’ll be OK. I will mostly be operating this machine through VNC anyway once I have moved house as the plan is to locate it up in the loft along with an indoor QFH for weather satellite reception. The indoor antenna may not be up to the task but the PC will almost certainly stay in the loft.

The instructions warn against simply laying the machine flat on a desk so I fitted it to the jauntily angled stand. There is a metal bracket for fitting it to a monitor as an alternative. The glossy case is liberally adorned with Microsoft and Intel stickers. On a normal sized machine these probably wouldn’t be noticed but on the EEE Box they cover about a quarter of one side. If this machine was going to be in my lounge then those stickers would have to go I’m afraid.

Setting up was easy for me as it comes with Windows XP pre installed. Using XP again for something other than just the web browsing my Advent netbook gets used for reminded me of just what a retrograde step that accursed Vista is. I really must get around to learning to use Linux so I can consign Microsoft to my personal past. Maybe once I’m retired which is likely to be earlier than expected thanks to Mr. Brown, his team of clowns, and the possibly even bigger clowns who destroyed the banks.

In Use
Initially there were some disasters.

  • WXtoImg failed to control the R2ZX through the USB/RS232 cable
  • I ran out of USB ports – there are only 4 and the mouse and keyboard take 2
  • Terrible quality weather satellite pictures

Those were relatively quickly and easily overcome. I reverted to my Python script for controlling the R2ZX and that worked just fine. I located a USB hub in my PC kit (no mean feat!!). Replacing the unscreened ethernet with a short screened one (discovered while hunting the hub) removed some interference and taking the volume down a lot lower put the finishing touches on getting the image quality back. I had initially believed the input level numbers shown by WXtoImg but they were clearly misleading – possibly because the EEE box only has Mic in and not the recommended Line in.

Another thing I’ve noticed but not bothered to investigate is that with Hyperthreading enabled the image processing done by WXtoImg only uses 50% of the relatively slow processor instead of 100%. It is possible that I could turn off Hyperthreading in the BIOS and get the image processing completed quicker.

Anyway a day after receipt and with only a few hours spent I now have a 24×7 setup which uses 20% of the the previous power consumption and seems to be doing everything I’ve asked of it just fine. I’d rate this as a successful purchase.

Specifications (for my model)
Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz processor
Onboard Intel GMA 950 graphics
1GB RAM
160GB HDD
4 USB ports
Flash card reader
Gb Ethernet
802.11n WiFi
Mic Headphone and Speaker sockets
DVI monitor connector (adaptor for D-SUB is bundled)

The notable exception here is an optical drive so if you ever need to use the supplied recovery CD you’ll need a USB CD/DVD drive.