|Boutique, ultra high-end, desktop and laptop gaming systems are sexy, but they aren't where OEMs make the majority of their money. More modest systems, like the one we'll show you here, drive bulk purchases; today we're reviewing Asus' ET2400IGTS. It's one of the nicer all-in-one systems Asus manufactures and it ships with a number of interesting options.
Systems like the ET2400 sell best when the package hits a chord with every day consumers—including those that might call themselves casual gamers, movie buffs, or audio enthusiasts. The fact that these configurations all include monitors can be a benefit when upselling customers on better quality displays, but can also drag on those who are unwilling to pay for another LCD. Even in such cases, the ET2400 IGTS is worth consideration—its components and overall build quality are quite decent.
One of the strongest points of Intel's recent Sandy Bridge microarchitecture in the second generation Core desktop processor family is that it improves CPU performance and efficiency while lowering power consumption; the system's Radeon should improve gaming and multimedia performance over and above what we'd see from a strictly integrated solution. With audio integrated into the system and a wireless keyboard / mouse included, Asus offers a clean, uncluttered usage environment that should fit the bill for may different types of PC users.
|The ET2400 IGTS Up Close|
The ET 2400, like most of the all-in-one's from other manufacturers that aren't Apple, is a three-legged design. Sound is provided by a single speaker bar at the base of the unit with a webcam mounted at the top.The major difference between the ET2400 shown above and the ET2400 we were shipped is the stickers. If you love stickers, you'll love this thing.
Here is a close-up shot of the system's rear ports. From the left, there's power, RJ-45, HDMI, standard VGA, a cable port (optional on some models), a Kensington lock, and four USB ports. Note that the HDMI port on the system allows its display to be used as an alternate screen / secondary monitor for a laptop or even desktop system. This gives the 2400IGTS a bit of welcome additional flexibility.
Here we have the system's back, both at distance and up-close. The third leg (visible here), proved capable of supporting the system at multiple heights without feeling loose or overly stiff. In the right-hand image, one can see the ET2400's 4-in-1 card reader, twin USB 3.0 ports, and dual audio ports. RAM upgrades are accessed via the panel immediately above the system ports (visible in both photos).
|User Experience, Video Playback|
The keyboard, mouse, and remote control that ship with the ET2400 are shown above. We don't have much to say about the remote control other than that it works—remotes have never been optimal for controlling Windows (or most media software).
The keyboard is a different matter. The law of averages states that someone, somewhere, must like the EEE's keyboard, but it isn't us. It performs well enough, but the complete lack of a wrist-rest and the absence of any tilt leaves the user typing almost perpendicular to the work surface. The mouse is a standard, if smallish, wireless mouse--decent, but not terribly special.
Both the mouse and keyboard feel out of place when paired with a desktop, even an all-in-one. As mobile accessories, both serve admirably, but the 23.6" display on the ET2400 isn't big enough to encourage users to treat it like a small television. There's nothing wrong with either the mouse or keyboard per se, but they don't distinguish themselves and they aren't what we'd want for any sort of desktop workspace.
The ET2400 also ships with a thorough bundle of EEE-brand software. We daresay most of it will go unused, but Asus provides links to cloud storage software, a repository of online games (no freebies that we could see, but all offered 60 minutes of demo play), and its standard suite of monitoring tools.
Asus included software is easy to navigate and configure
Asus' Blu-ray player is based on a stripped down version of Cyberlink's PowerDVD. Blu-ray playback worked--mostly--but we ran into a few snags. By default, the system attempted to open Blu-ray films in Windows Media, only to report that the system couldn't handle this type of content.
Asus' own player functioned when manually selected, but our experience wasn't as smooth as we expected. We tried multiple Blu-ray discs, including Spider Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, and the most recent Star Trek movie. Peculiarities abound: The EEE Cinema software misidentified the latest Star Trek film as one of the Bourne movies and therefore could not 'Resume' the film if it was paused—'Restart' was the only available option. Previews were full of video artifacts, although the clarity of film playback was unaffected. Driver updates did not solve this problem.
We later installed Cyberlink's PowerDVD 11 and found that program was capable of correctly identifying Star Trek (even with MoovieLink disabled). Previews, logos, warnings, and the film itself were all correctly displayed. Unlike PowerDVD, which offers a variety of configurable software effects and audio options, EEE Cinema offers virtually nothing. The ATI control panel can be used to compensate for this, at least to a certain degree.
The reason we'd ding the Asus-specific program here is that PowerDVD was able to play both movies *and* previews / logo screens, etc, without distortion. While it's true that the Asus Cinema software handled actual movies with aplomb, bugs regarding one sort of playback can be endemic of bugs elsewhere. Also, HD content like Blu-ray discs shouldn't be set to play in WMP by default—that sort of configuration will only confuse the customers for whom this system is intended.
As far as acoustics are concerned, the ET2400 IGTS is sitting pretty. We never picked up a significant amount of noise from the system, even while gaming.
|What you think of the 2400IGTS' touchscreen technology will depend significantly on why you're buyimg a touch-enabled Windows 7-based PC in the first place. Dave went over some of the touch system's strengths in his video at the beginning of the article; we'll discuss the pros and cons in a bit more detail here.
Asus EEE Cinema / Multimedia Player Promises Potential...
Asus' EEE Cinema app may be a less-than-perfect Blu-ray player in its current form, but it's capable of managing audio and video files, movie playback, and photo display as well. This last bit is important—the app can be used to create image slideshows, but there's no embedded editing functionality.
None of the embedded content playback programs offers sophisticated options; there are no right-click context menus, etc. The good news is that while the program's UI is very simple, it also works very well. The content organization options that do exist are all finger-friendly; it's easy to create playlists or organize files by album, artist, genre, song (alphabetical) or playlist.
We like the current application suite because it suggests Asus understands how the mechanics of touch differ from standard context programs. It's much easier to integrate functionality once basic design principles are established than it is to fix a program designed by people who don't understand touch interfaces in the first place.
Unfortunately, Asus' Cinema suite is a touch-friendly application running on a desktop PC with an OS--Windows 7--that wasn't designed with touch in mind. Rather than redesigning GUI elements to make touch more useful, Microsoft opted to mimic mouse functionality. Essnetially, big finger presses are translated into small, exacting mouse clicks.
Microsoft Blackboard, Windows 7 Touch Pack App
It's possible to adjust the size of the 'click' button and program icons and menus can be magnified by the appropriate option. This makes the click 'field' larger, but doesn't improve accuracy. These options can actually make touch more difficult for example by opening the 'Edit' bar when you actually intended to click on 'File' or the like.
Touch-enabled Windows systems usually make more sense in the handheld or highly mobile spaces, like a laptop that can convert to a tablet for example. Even then, the appeal is diminished by Windows 7's less than optimal implementation. While there be may some users that actually want a desktop all-in-one with touchscreen capability, we wish Asus offered a version of the 2400IGTS without this feature to bring the price down a bit.
We begin our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2010, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran the CPU arithmetic, multimedia, and memory subsystem tests to examine how the Asus ET2400 IGTS would compare against the Lenovo M90z we reviewed last summer.
We see the two systems trading shots back and forth depending on the benchmark. The Lenovo ThinkCentre has a significant clockspeed advantage over the Asus system (3.2GHz compared to 2.5GHz), but the ET2400 has four complete cores compared to the Lenovo's dual-core with HT arrangement.
We ran the test rig through Futuremark’s latest system performance metric PCMark Vantage as well. This benchmark suite creates a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. We like the fact that most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, in order to exploit the additional resources offered by multi-core processors.
One thing to keep in mind when comparing PCMark Vantage results is that the benchmark's margin of error is fairly wide—we'd estimate 5-7 percent. Relevant factors include whether or not the hard drive was defragmented immediately prior to the run and whether Vantage was run immediately following OS+driver installation, or only after a full suite of tests and other benchmarks had been run.
The Lenovo M90z doesn't do badly for an all-in-one, but the newer ET2400 leverages its quad-cores and more powerful GPU to good effect. Both of these systems use conventional hard drives which explains why these results might be lower than those you see elsewhere on the site.
To touch on gaming
Again, the ET2400 IGTS puts in a decent showing. This isn't a gaming machine by any stretch of the imagination, but it'll do just fine for occasional games or older titles for a trip down memory lane.
Performance Summary: The Asus ET2400 all-in-one is a great option for buyers who want a system that can handle multimedia tasks, but aren't interested in heavy gaming. In comparison to the last touch-enabled AIO PC we tested, the Asus ET2400's updated hardware offered substantially better performance. The system's Sandy Bridge-based quad-core Core i5-2400S processor offered strong CPU performance and the Radeon HD 6470M had enough oomph for some moderate gaming. The performance of the 23.6" LCD panel is also good enough for users who don't prioritize exact color reproduction and the integrated speakers are decent for a system of this type. The 6GB of RAM can be upgraded should users find themselves needing to do so, though we doubt this will be necessary anytime soon for users of a system of this type.
The Asus ET2400 is a great system with a few sub-optimal choices where accessories are concerned. The remote control and tiny wireless keyboard might look good but we would have preferred full sized input devices for a better day-to-day computing experience. The touchscreen, while very good in its own right, is of questionable value, however. It will no doubt appeal to some users, and Asus' included touch-powered software utilities are well done and useful. If you want a touch-enabled AIO PC, the Asus ET2400 would be a fine choice. Windows 7, however, doesn't handle touch too well, so the touchscreen loses some of its appeal when using standard desktop apps or cruising through the OS itself.
The Asus ET2400 AIO Touchscreen PC
Asus has done some good work here, but they're fighting and uphill battle trying to build attractive Windows 7 touchscreen devices at this point in time. Hopefully, the company will continue to refine its EEE Cinema software and proprietary touch-enabled apps and offer improved versions ready to launch hand-in-hand with Windows 8, which should be much more touch-friendly if early reports about the OS ring true when it arrives.
The touchscreen aside, the system's configuration is balanced and its internal components well-chosen. If you want an all-in-one with a long, useful lifetime ahead of it, the 2400IGTS is a good value. We'd just opt for different accessories, if such options were available.