How much does it cost?” I asked, incredulous at the answer I received from the Corporate Communication Officer who had come with the new Asus product. “Rs 44,000 is the maximum retail price,” he said. This fact alone would have led us to consign the product to the dustbin of scrapped columns. But this was different. The Asus Eee Top might be a toy, but it does give an interesting pointer to the future of computers.
Admittedly, this was not the first touchscreen desktop we had used. For a few months, one of the spare cubicles in our office had the brilliant, but humongously expensive HP Touch-Smart sitting around. The Eee Top 1602 is a different sort of monster, smaller and nowhere nearly as powerful. It has the same innards as Asus’ 1000 series netbooks. It boasts of the same Intel Atom N270 1.6 Ghz processor, one gigabyte of memory, a 160 gigabyte hard-drive and a 1.3 megapixel web camera. Like a standard Eee PC, there is no optical disk drive and since this is a desktop it lacks a battery as well.
So, why would one pay twice as much as a bog-standard netbook? Well, for one, Asus has done a brilliant job with the touch interface and the ‘Easy Mode’—a large icon and font display when you are using the touch interface. Even though the machine was running Windows XP, the touch interface was relatively shudder-free and there were no unexpected surprises as we tried using it.
The ‘Easy Cinema’ and ‘Easy Camera’ tools—a media player and the webcam interface, respectively— were remarkably easy to use. The camera tool even had a ‘YouTube’ button to directly upload a video taken with the web camera. I can really see the Eee Top as being a fantastic educational tool for pre-teens. There are some drawbacks, though. Unlike the HP TouchSmart, which could perform a whole host of applications without any lag (including a decent load of Adobe Photoshop)—the Eee Top would fail miserably at such a task. However, it is rather unlikely that a 10-year-old would be working on Photoshop and adding effects on the camera tool. Still, would you spend Rs 44,000 on a piece of hardware for your child? If you have been relatively unscathed by the economic slowdown, this has the potential (along with some decent educational software) to be of a great educational value. The first Eee PCs blew open the netbook category and gave us an indication of where laptops were heading. Maybe the Eee Top is an indication of the direction that desktops are taking. Would I buy one? No, since I like having oodles of processing power and memory at my disposal. But then again, I don’t have a ‘tween’ at home either!