August 8, 2008

Games & Gadgets


ASUS EEE BOX *** pounds 199

After cornering the market for inexpensive and small laptops with the hugely successful Eee PC, Asus has taken the idea a step further with its EeeBox desktop machine.

Running off Intel's new Atom processor, its eye-catching angled case measures just 8.25 inches tall by 4 inches wide by 9.25 inches deep.

If you feel that's too much of your desk being wasted you can hide it behind the back of an LCD monitor with the supplied VESA mount.

Running on Windows XP Home, inside you'll find an 80GB hard drive, plus four USB ports, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, a card reader and DVI out, but you'll have to provide a keyboard, mouse and monitor.

It also has a neat feature called ExpressGate which allows you to access the web, instant messaging, and make Skype calls within eight seconds of booting up the machine, and it boasts some impressive green credentials, using just 18W of energy when running at full pelt.

However, like the Eee PC, there's no DVD drive which, while reducing the size and price, also reduces its usefulness and seems a strange design decision for a desktop machine.

While the system comes with 1GB of ram, in use the Eee Box was somewhat slower than I expected, with the machine's integrated graphics card having particular trouble playing back high-quality video files.

It's cheap, tidy and petite, but there are far better performing budget desktop machines available for just a little extra outlay.

NIKON COOLPIX S52 pounds 180 **** (S52C pounds 219.99)

Nikon's latest slimline snapper comes in two almost indistinguishable versions. The slightly bigger and more expensive S52c is Wi-Fi enabled, letting you wirelessly beam your snaps to Nikon's Picture Town website for sharing.

However, if this is of negligible benefit to you, you'll be better off opting for the otherwise identically equipped cheaper model.

Both camera's boast 9-megapixel picture resolution, face- detecting autofocus, in-camera red-eye fix and a very capable Nikkor lens with 3x zoom.

While not the quickest camera when in use, and images do seem to suffer a fair bit from noise at high ISO settings, on the whole I was impressed with the S52's sharp and vibrant results.

Definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a holiday- friendly compact.

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