back to article Asus Eee Box B206

On the outside, there's little to distinguish the Asus Eee Box B206 from its predecessor - put the two side by side and you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference. The only real external clue is the DVI connector on the back of the original Eee Box has been replaced by an HDMI port instead. Asus Eee Box B206 Asus' new Eee Box …

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Pointless

Having bought a new PC recently I ivestigated the whole DXHD offload thing, and suspected the worst after realising that there was no way thre Atom chipset could run anything other than the DX offloaded content.

So that's this machine off my list for a small HD media playback device, and I'll be looking at MiniITX low power C2D/AMD systems instead I suppose

Shame, I was hopeful, too.

Steven R

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Boxeee media centre

Got one of these as a boxee media centre, and so far, with the caveats on file formats above, it's working great. A bit disappointing that MKV is not supported, but you can't have everything.

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Boffin

A title is required.

Stick an nVidia 8 series or later chip in there - Nvidia CUDA is much more accommodating than DXVA for hardware h264 decoding. Only downside is you need CoreAVC to access it which isn't free (but it is cheap and very good). In a box this small you need every bit of processing power you can squeeze out, which with DXVA sadly isn't very much.

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Pointless machine

If it's meant to be a cheap and cheerful machine then it should have a DVI output. If it's meant to be a media centre then it should have the grunt for the job.

From your review this machine fails to do what it was designed to do. I mean, what's the point of HDMI without the HD?

I personally think 75% is a generous review.

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Anonymous Coward

Not yet then....

I really want one of these - something simple to sit in the living room kit stack and play YouTube, show pictures on the HDTV (without the crappy interface/inability to rotate etc etc that STB's that will show pictures will do) and playback SD and HD .ts files that i've recorded on my other computers.

However, it still doesn't sound like it's up to it and £310 is really not that cheap (it'll buy you a proper, though not quiet, desktop PC from Dell). I'm looking for something like the Popcorn Hour but more flexible....

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Unhappy

linux

So, this is duff hardware if you put Linux on it (ie you can't play HD stuff)?

such a shame... so much potential

sad face for sad hardware

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Acer Revo

When can we expect a review of the Acer Revo? (or any of the other Nvidia ION based Atom systems) it seems far more capable for a better price. Plus there are dual core variants from other manufacturers on the way too.

http://www.play.com/PC/PCs/4-/9606805/Acer-Aspire-Revo-Intel-Atom-N230-1-6GHz-2GB-160GB-Vista-Home-Premium-Desktop-PC/Product.html

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?!?! Wasted oppourtunity

I'm sorry, but that's pathetic. There will be plenty of people out there, me included, who would seriously consider this if it worked decently with HD content. Which given it's HDMI output, you would hope was a given.

As ever, I'll stick with my XBMC driven xbox, and wait for something better to come along.

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Shame

Bit more grunt and either a slot-load DVD or BluRay and you'd have a decent little machine. As it is, for not much more, you can get a Dell Studio Hybrid with HDMI output that is actually capable of playing HiDef.

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Unhappy

But for an external SATA port...

If this would run the LG HD DVD/Bluray (full height) drive I'd have got one, so near but so far....

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Noise?

Hard to believe that anything that requires a fan is going to be quiet enough for the job. (I know the two boxes underneath my TV aren't.) There don't seem to be many holes in the casing, so presumably the cooling for this device depends on being able to push a large amount of air through a small space.

Ginger, you said you had one of these. What's the noise like? Can you hear the fan switching on and off?

Asus, what's the flipping point in producing a high quality audio device with a bleedin' aircon unit slapped on the side?

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close

but no cigar

most of the hi def stuff I get is in mkv format and if it will not play it nativley than I am afraid it is out of here

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£310's a bit much.

When the cost (and additional size/ noise/ wires) of an external hard drive to store all the HD content is also considered. An external dvd drive on top of that would completely kill the compact style.

Considering the alternatives... fiddling around on the mesh site, their media centre with a 4550, 4gb ram, 1 tb hd, E5200 and dvd drive for £450 looks like a much bigger bang for the buck.

Still, thanks for the review.. it's good to know whether or not the manufacturer's claims of smooth HD playback cut the mustard or not. Looking forward to seeing whether or not the ION platform lives up to the hype.

They should have put a 4550 in there instead of a 4350. Have one in my current PC and HD playback is great.. the price difference between the two is tiny.

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Worse than xbmc on xbox

why spend £310 on this when a £50 xbox and xbmc will do the same as a media player if not better.

only any good as a lounge web browser. and £310 is a bit steep for that

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RE: Ken Hagan

Noise levels are rarely considered with these sorts of things. Games consoles are particularly bad for it. The only thing I should hear in my lounge are the things I want to hear.

As the godlike Bjork once said, things like cities and phones are designed to look great, but always sound awful. The sense of sight seems to trump all others :(

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Wrong score

Very very generous to give this 75% rating, it cant play 720p ffs.

Totally and utterly useless for what it is designed for.

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Jobs Horns

dual core version?

Any idea if a dual core atom version would play 720 and / or 1080? I have a feeling it's still lacking.

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Anonymous Coward

VLC performance is probably the issue, not the machine.

My current main box can't play HD content with VLC either, yet the same 1080p files work flawlessly in WMP. So I suspect that at least part of the problem here is VLC, not the eee.

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Anonymous Coward

Actually...

...you can get accelerated H.264 even for Quicktime MOV videos. In MPC-HC, go to Options, Formats, find Quicktime in the list. If it shows Quicktime, click that and a dropdown menu will appear, choose Directshow instead.

Now it uses MPC-HC's DXVA accelerated decoder for Quicktime H.264 MOVs instead of Quicktime's crappy H.264 decoder.

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just a question

dose pepol know what the recomended specs for running a 1080p mkv file is? so when I am building my own meida player comp I can get the cheapest that will work

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Anonymous Coward

just another question

can we get this acceleration in linux?

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Asus are

one of the most frustrating companies ever.

Almost all of their consumer products turn out to be a near miss and this one is no exception.

I guess I'll just keep waiting for something with one of those new nVidia chipsets for the atom. I think Acer have one coming soon.

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PCH

My popcornhour that I have had for over 18 months would destroy those playback figure, uses less power, and is completely silent!

Not only that but I paid under £100 for mine!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

My PoV

The review itself and some of the comments here just seem misleading or misinformed.

Of course, HD playback is only possible on the Atom with DXVA, even my 2.5Ghz Athlon X2 struggles with 1080p content without a decoder enabling offloading.

That said, the problem is Microsoft's current restriction to only allow netbooks/nettops with XP. It's tougher to get DXVA working on this OS but still far from impossible. As this box is marketed for consumers, Asus should take the necessary steps and configure it right out-of-the-box, but building my own HTPCs for years now, I know this is a tedious process.

Using VLC as a test method seems flawed at best.First, I think typical consumers don't use this player, they expect everything working after a double-click, so Windows Media Player seems to be the player of choice. Secondly, VLC's DXVA support is rudimentary at best. Of course, an Atom wouldn't be enough for that scenario.

If Asus were to install the standalone filter from the MPC-HC project (mpcvideodec.ax) almost every HD content would work right out of the box in Windows Media Player, even MKVs.

Regarding WMV9 files. Who really encounters this format in real life these days?

In summary, the flaws you pointed out in the review are mostly not the machines fault, but the state of todays HTPC world. Look at all the boxes out there, designed and advertised for your living room. Without putting some configuration effort, blood and sweat into all of these, none of them just work with all the available video formats and trade-offs have to be made.

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Re: But for an external SATA port...

>> If this would run the LG HD DVD/Bluray (full height) drive I'd have got one, so near but so far....

LG make an external HD-DVD/Blu-ray drive that is 3.5 inches tall?

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Dead Vulture

Utterly pointless

The Western Digital HD TV player utterly destroys this in every media-playing way, and can be had for 70 quid. El Reg reviewed it in December (95%!), its since been MUCH improved with firmware updates.

Sure its not exactly a computer(unless you install the custom firmware), but once you've lived the dream of no longer having to deal with codecs, settings, framerates and other bollocks, you never want to go back to computers again.

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Perfect...

So this machine is slightly better than my more than 6 year old Mac Mini G4, which can handle standard definition content just fine...

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Heart

Noise.

Just checked back on this review.

Regarding Noise - this is practically silent. I've had Eve-online running on a 42" LCD and 720p content running and I can't hear it at all. I'm not even convinced there is a fan in there and I do mean that.

Just a shame that boxee and iplayer aren't playing nice at the minute :(

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does what is says and more

I just don't agree with this review, I bought the 204 model as it was the only one I could find. I wanted a box that was low power, could play movies and do any torrenting/iplayer/4oD. It took a few minutes of research to find that media player classic was the best player to use (there is a user forum at eeeuser.com) but once setup I was amazed at what this little box could do!

It only eat like 15 watts, iplayer and 4oD work perfectly and over wireless too, have downloaded a few 720p videos to test and they all seem to work perfectly. When I read this review I was worried that it couldn't handle 1080p, to be honest not a big loss but thought I would download something at 1080p just to make sure and I can confirm that this works perfectly! I have heard that some people have issues but issually down to using the wrong media player etc.

I am dissapointed in the Reg's review :( I shall download a fe more clips to be 100% sure but so far so good ;) expensive yes but well worth the cash for the kit.

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Pity

I'm still looking for something that size that has a decent video capture and IR control (along with an EPG that's at least as good as the one on my 10 year old Tivo). Seems a bit pointless only being able to playback pre-captured video/torrent files.. OTOH that's a failing of all 'media' centres I've seen

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