eee-box-b206-regThe Eee Box B206 is the first member of the Asus Eee Box family to feature discrete graphics and an HDMI port. While most Intel Atom nettops feature integrated Intel GMA950 graphics, this model sports an ATI Mobility Radeon 3450 GPU with 256MB of video memory. It also has an HDMI port instead of the usual DVI port. In other words, while the Eee Box B206 has a low power, low performance CPU, a lot of people were hoping that this wold be the first of Asus’s tiny nettop computers that would make sense to stick next to your HDTV and use as a home theater PC. Register Hardware has posted a review with some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that the Eee Box B206, which comes with a remote control for use from your couch, is better suited for handling HD video than most netbooks. The bad news is that this isn’t saying much. The nettop could handle 720p DivX or H.264 playback fairly well, but struggled with 720p Quicktime and WMV9 videos. 1080p video was another story, with H.264 videos playing reasonably well (if not perfectly), but all other codecs causing the computer to struggle.

Register Hardware didn’t test the Eee Box B206 with online video. But I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that it handles standard definition video reasonably well and chokes up on higher resolution videos. The problem is that Adobe Flash puts a lot of strain on the CPU, and the Intel Atom processor just isn’t up to the task of pumping out full screen Flash video on high resolution displays, as I discovered when I tested the Eee Top all-in-one computer from Asus. If Adobe can work on offloading some of the processing power to graphics processors, perhaps we’ll start to see low power devices like the Eee Top, Acer AspireRevo, and Eee Box B206 capable of playing full screen videos from Hulu, YouTube and other sites.

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12 replies on “Asus Eee Box B206 reviewed, just barely handles HD video”

  1. I have had one of these for about 6 months now, I have installed media player classic and the HD results are pretty good. It all comes down to how the codec or more so the player playing the codec handles it’s processing needs, media player classic can talk perfectly the GPU so it runs as smooth as while iplayer has problems streaming the video online, in most cases I have to download the version for portable devices as windows media player, which has to be used because of DRM is just… FAIL! Perhaps some optimising can be done Im not sure as I have my PS3 to play iplayer content.

    I think that alot of people who use this machine for the intended purpose will soon realise that downloading an HD version of something takes far too long and to be honest in most cases the average divX would have done the job just aswell, I think I downloaded a copy of I am legend in HD to test out media player classic and it’s just not worth it. The more important fact I think alot of people forget about when thinking about this PC is the low energy consumption and the fact that it could be left on 24/7 without increasing your electric bill by 100 of pounds. I wouyld defo recomend removing all of the Asus guff as most of it doesn’t work and more so just decreases the PC’s performance.

    I think Ebuyer have a cheap atom PC going fro 150 squid, perhaps it is worth looking into this as and alternative but if you have the cash and need something to act as a server/media centre I would defo recomend this machine, it does play HD but as stated earlier who cares… Trust me two days later you wont be bothered anyways. 😉

  2. LoL struggled with Quicktime, what did you expect??

    Its not like Apple works for Microsoft, that’s a biased comparison. I bet if you installed OSX on it and then tried the same conditions it would yield different results.

    Also Adobe Flash has problems with Vista if that is what you had on the machine Internet Explorer is the worst piece of garbage to test flash anything, with anyways.

    As for HD I’m not surprised whether or not the video card shares memory, its still on board, which means its most probably lacks a heat sink and fan.

  3. I think everyone needs to have realistic expectaions about what they are getting when they purchase a Netbook/Nettop.

    As much as I like to complain about how my Mini 10 handles streaming video, I also realize that I paid $228 for the thing and can live with pretty much any shortcoming at that price (and so far, that’s pretty much the only one other than battery life). The lesson here is that these devices are all designed to be inexpensive and small, anything above that is a bonus.

    1. Agreed, but I still don’t think the atom or similar processors make a lot of sense in a desktop computer, where an extra few watts of power useage matters little. The efficiency of the powersupply in converting AC/DC power will likely make more of a difference in overall power consumption. And there is no worry about squeezing an extra 20 minutes of battery power out of it. It makes more sense to use cheap, mainstream processors with better performance. Then, you wouldn’t have to lower the expectations so much!

  4. I wish I could say I’m surprised.

    The Atom, Neo, and Nano have been proven to be about neck and neck performance wise. I think that’ll stay the same for a while, if only because it was only a short while ago that useful chips could be made as small and efficient as they are now. It takes time for these technologies to mature. And, of course, you have the fact that at least Intel doesn’t want to cannibalize its higher margin markets anymore than it has to…

    Of course this will change over time. It always does. But for the moment we’re drowning in a sea of 1.6GHZ Atoms or the very occasional dual core 330 at the same clock speed. And of course AMD says they don’t want to play while Via….we love Via….

    Still, this is only the beginning. As noted in the review, popular media applications like Media Player Classic Home Cinema are only starting to really use GPU technologies like DXVA for their codecs. Adobe is working on something with Nvidia for flash, and in the future they might also open the video acceleration up to more generalized graphics hardware(OpenCL, DXVA, even VDAPU or whatever Larrabe brings to the table…).

    The writing’s on the wall: These machines can support fairly good GPUs, and you can’t rely on that CPU to be anything like a multimedia powerhouse. It’ll take time, and it’ll be rough…but between the community and their constantly evolving applications and Big Media’s desire to have their stuff viewed as nicely as possible on as many screens as they can(Provided you pay for it!)…things will improve.

    Of course there’s also all those lovely cortex ARM chips which might change the game in other ways. I’m hopeful for at least some shake up with those, and it looks like they’ll deliver on a lot of media capabilities, as well…though they do seem destined for the netbook factor as oppsed to nettops. A fellow can hope, though.

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