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Asus 20" ET2011AUKB-B006E All-In-One PC Review
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Date: Oct 06, 2011
Section:Systems
Author: Ray Willington
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Introduction and Specifications
Technology moves at a breakneck pace. No one is disputing that. And it feels like just yesterday that we evaluated the Asus 2400ET, a touch-enabled All-In-One desktop that had high-end specifications and a $1,250 price tag to match. Turns out, that was nearly four months ago, and if you aren't interested in a touch panel, a Core i5 processor, and don't have deep pockets, perhaps the scaled-back ET2011 we'll be showing you here is worth consideration. This is a somewhat unique product in the Asus Eee Top ET2011 AIO line up, relying on AMD's Fusion Brazos E-350 APU in lieu of a more traditional desktop processor.


In the notebook world, we've been duly impressed with AMD's Fusion line up. In fact, Brazos mostly trumped Intel's Atom platform in the mobile space. In most cases, we actually prefer E-Series Fusion APUs over Atom; it falls in a similar power envelope, benchmarks tend to be  higher, heat output is minimal, and machines with AMD inside tend to cost a bit less.

This particular all-in-one machine is clearly aimed at people who don't want to spend a wad of money on a desktop, and just need something to handle basic tasks while taking up a small amount of space. In terms of its specifications, this machine hits all of the high points. It's plenty for most "average" users, and it's one of the sleeker, lighter AIO form factors that we've seen. It's easy to transport, ships with both a (basic) mouse and keyboard, and even includes a Super Multi DVD drive. An interesting omission (likely in the effort of cost-cutting) is the touch panel. We'll turn our attention to that in the pages to come, but for now, here's a breakdown of what exactly Asus is providing for a palatable $499.99.

Asus ET2011AUKB-B006E 20" All-In-One Desktop
Specifications and Features (as tested)
  • AMD 1.6GHz Brazos (Fusion) E-350 dual-core APU
  • 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 20" LCD (1600x900); LED backlight
  • AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics
  • 1TB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Super Multi DVD Burner
  • 0.3MP webcam
  • HDMI input
  • VGA output
  • USB 2.0 x 6
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100/1000)
  • Headphone / Mic Input Jacks
  • 3-in-1 Multimedia Card Reader
  • Non-Backlit Keyboard
  • Bundled Wired USB Mouse
  • Stereo Speakers
  • 11 Pounds
  • 19.5" (L) x 14.6" (W) x 0.8" (H) - (Dimensions)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Price (as tested): $499.99
  • 1-Year Warranty





Our first reaction to seeing this machine's specs and a sub-$500 price tag was a positive one. Couple that with a thin form factor and a bundled input devices, and it definitely strikes us as a bargain in the crowded, saturated All-In-One PC world. But as we routinely say, "on paper" doesn't mean much without the real-world performance to back it up. Let's find out how the Asus ET2011AUKB-B006E shakes out in our full review ahead...
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Design, Build Quality and User Experience
This new all-in-one machine does not look drastically different than the company's prior all-in-one Eee Top branded machines. It is somewhat sleeker, and quite a bit thinner, but there is no mistaking what this is. It's obviously quite difficult to differentiate yourself in the all-in-one PC market, as there are only so many aesthetic changes you can make while still having room for a 20 inch LCD panel and a bevy of ports around back.



That said, we have to applaud Asus for their efforts here. While the overall design will not strike anyone as revolutionary, the fact that it is thinner than most stand-alone monitors is worth pointing out. It's also tremendously light at just 11 pounds, making it one of the more mobile all-in-one PCs that we have seen recently. For whatever reason, Asus decided not to put a dedicated carry handle on the rear of the unit, so lugging it from place to place is slightly awkward. Thankfully, this awkwardness is toned down somewhat because of the light weight. Also, we highly doubt you will be relocating your all-in-one PC with any significant degree of frequency.


What is most impressive about the design here is just how good this form factor looks when you consider the price. At under $500, you could certainly do a lot worse. We also appreciate the fact that the black glossy bezel surrounding the LCD is not very large. Asus did an admirable job of minimizing the bezel, and outside of 3 unnecessary stickers in the lower left corner, the overall design is rather classy.


There are not a great deal of ports, buttons, or knobs on this machine. We suppose that is part of keeping with the understated motif. On the front bezel, the lower right hand corner is home to a hard drive LED indicator, a Wi-Fi indicator, a mode button, a volume button, a menu button, and a system power button. On the rear, you will find a single VGA output, 6 USB 2.0 ports, a single ethernet jack, a headphone output, a microphone input, as well as an HDMI input. The only other slot worth mentioning is a 3 in 1 card reader. In case you missed it, the entire design is under 1 inch thick, not including the popout stand, of course. The overall build quality is certainly what we would consider to be satisfactory, though we did notice some unusual creaking and flexing when we initially pulled the stand outward in order to set it up on our test bench. Obviously, there are a lot of plastics at work here, but for a $500 machine we would not really expect anything different.


Asus throws in a wired USB keyboard as well as a wired USB mouse. The mouse resembles the size of most travel mice, and long-term users will almost certainly want to upgrade to something larger and more ergonomic for desktop use. The keyboard, however, is far from the worst one we have ever used. It is a chicklet style keyboard with a full-size numerical keypad, and while it is certainly not as comfortable to type on as some of the Logitech, Microsoft, etc. keyboards that we have used, this will certainly serve the purpose for casual computer users.

It is also worth pointing out that the 20-inch display on this machine is of surprisingly high quality, considering the price point. We were expecting something middle of the road, but much to our surprise, Asus has managed to include a remarkably crisp, bright and vivid display into a decidedly value minded machine. Casual movie watchers will surely be pleased, and our only major complaint is the inability for this display to showcase a 1080p resolution natively.


As we mentioned on the first page, Asus is apparently trying to strike a fine balance between sophistication and value. After using this machine for an extended time, we think they have done just that. AMD's E-350 APU is largely responsible. It's important to keep in perspective the kind and class of machine that this is. At under $500 for an entire desktop, complete with a 20 inch LCD, a mouse, and a keyboard, one may not expect the performance to be anything to write home about. Judging by the raw numbers, that's fairly accurate. These numbers are certainly nothing to brag about, but the real-world performance is actually very satisfactory for the given market.


What we're saying is this: the Asus ET2011AUKB-B006E is not a powerhouse. This is not your next gaming machine. This is not even your next touch enabled all-in-one PC. This is a basic computer meant for users who only need to accomplish basic tasks, but don't want to give up certain functionality. But unlike basic machines in years past, AMD's E-350 APU infuses the machine with enough CPU and GPU performance for daily tasks. The 1 TB, 7200 RPM hard drive is actually larger and faster than we would have expected in a machine of this caliber, and having 4 GB of RAM certainly makes the Windows 7 experience one that is far more palatable than the 2GB offered in most netbooks using the same APU. In general, we had no huge complaints about launch times for applications, overall boot time, or basic multitasking. The entire machine was booted and ready for use within 25 seconds, and launching applications such as Firefox and Internet Explorer was acceptable.


Of course, things get a little bit hairy as soon as you touch 3-D graphics. Gaming, while possible due to the APU's DX11-class graphics core, isn't great. If you were thinking that you could buy this AIO desktop for under $500 and get some light duty gaming in, it's technically possible, but you're not going to be overwhelmed. But, in all fairness, Asus never intended for the consumers of this machine to use it for gaming. For everything else, including surfing the Internet, watching high definition videos, burning DVDs, flipping through your photo gallery, writing documents, and otherwise managing your digital life, we were extremely impressed with how well we were able to accomplish these seemingly mundane tasks.
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Futuremark PCMark Benchmarks
To start things off, we fired up Futuremark's system performance benchmark, PCMark Vantage. This synthetic benchmark suite simulates a range of real-world scenarios and workloads, stressing various system subsets in the process. Everything you'd want to do with your PC -- watching HD movies, music compression, image editing, gaming, and so forth -- is represented here, and most of the tests are multi-threaded, making this a good indicator of all-around performance.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance


The ET2011AUKB isn't meant to be a workhorse. It's below-average compared to most other desktops, but it's on par if not somewhat better off than most other nettops, and even some laptops. The good news is that high marks in these tests aren't required for the vast majority of commonplace tasks; but if you were planning on running AutoCAD, Crysis 2 or some other compute-intensive program, these numbers reinforce that this isn't the machine for you.



Futuremark PCMark 7
Simulated Application Performance


Futuremark 3DMark11

Futuremark's PCMark 7 combines more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, Web browsing, and gaming. It's specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware, from netbooks and tablets, to notebooks and desktops, making it a great testing tool for virtually any system.


Futuremark only recently introduced its PCMark 7 suite, the successor to PCMark Vantage. As time goes on, we'll have a bigger sampling of scores to compare systems with, but in the meantime, we'll be posting individual screenshots, as we've done above. Using the default Entry settings, the rig managed an overall score of 1148, which is right around half of the 2225 overall score posted by the Core i5-based MSI X460DX notebook we looked at here. Apples to Oranges, in a way, but it gives you a relative watermark. When it comes to heavy workloads, you're better off leaving that to other machines.
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SiSoftware Sandra and 3DMark Benchmarks

Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2011
Synthetic Benchmarks
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2011, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant.  We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Memory Bandwidth, Physical Disks).


Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Media


Memory Bandwidth


Physical Disks

Memory bandwidth and CPU performance were as-expected here. Definitely lagging behind Intel's Core 2 Duo and Core i CPU lines, but we didn't expect a $499 machine to blow the doors off of the competition from a numbers standpoint.

3DMark06
Details: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
The Futuremark 3DMark06 CPU benchmark consists of tests that use the CPU to render 3D scenes, rather than the GPU. It runs several threads simultaneously and is designed to utilize multiple processor cores. 

 

While AMD's E-350 APU / Radeon 6310 graphics package sips power and does well given the price, it's not up to snuff with discrete GPUs, even on the low-end. The 3D performance here is pretty underwhelming, but it does say something about the state of technology when you realize it still managed to compete in these tests and best Intel's integrated graphics solution in the Core i5. Minor victories, you know?



Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Simluated Gaming Performance

It's worth noting here that we haven't built up a significant library of all-in-one machines in the 3DMark Vantage test, but we figured this machine was a good place to start. The full scores can be expanded by clicking each below, and we'll be using this as a starting point moving forward as we review similar machines in the same category.




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Gaming Benchmarks

 Performance with Half-Life 2 Episode 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
 Gaming Performance

 

To touch on gaming performance, we chose two games that draw moderately on system resources, Half-Life 2 Episode 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. We then ran a pre-recorded demo of each at a resolution of 1280x800. The resulting benchmark scores achieved are indicated in frames per second in the graph below.



We don't have a stockpile of Fusion-based desktops to pull numbers from, so we're left comparing it the only other Fusion rigs that have passed through here, specifically notebooks. Still, the desktop trumps the mobile machines (just barely) but that shouldn't come as a surprise obviously, though the ET2011 is based on notebook components.

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Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: The performance of this Asus all-in-one PC wasn't terribly impressive. But, just because this is no benchmark monster, doesn't mean it's not a capable machine for what it was designed to do. In fact, for a $500 PC, its performance in every day tasks was laudatory. Average users will have no issues composing documents, firing up a few Internet Explorer tabs, keeping up with their e-mail, and handling those basic computing tasks that the target market of this machine will need to accomplish. There is plenty of power here to handle high definition digital video content playback, as well as multitasking with applications that aren't serious number crunchers or applications that otherwise put a huge strain on the graphics chip.

The bottom line is this: Asus has managed to package a delicate mix of parts into an AIO machine that performs better than expected given the price. For $500, which includes the cost of a 20-inch display, you have to set your expectations accordingly and Asus in general has delivered. The overall form factor and design is one that we applaud. Having an all-in-one PC that is less than 1 inch thick is impressive, regardless of price point. Sure, the included mouse and keyboard are not spectacular peripherals, but they do serve the purpose and are more than adequate for the target market.


The inclusion of a DVD burner is also worth pointing out. For a machine this inexpensive and slim, Asus could have easily left that off and maintained the $500 price point without taking too much flack. But instead, you are left with the machine that is far more flexible from a content creation and a content playback standpoint. It is somewhat disappointing that there is no HDMI or DVI output, but being able to attach a secondary VGA monitor is a plus in what is essentially a budget machine. Would we have preferred to see USB 3.0 ports and perhaps some more I/O around back? Of course, but that is just the performance junkie inside of us longing for something that is probably not necessary for the target customer base and mainstream market that this system appeals to.


So long as you don't expect this to be a gaming machine on the side, or one that processes video with any level of serious speed, your expectations and this machine's ability to deliver should be well aligned. If you are curious about touch, we never once found ourselves missing it here. We suspect that touch will become a far more integral part of the computing experience once the next version of Windows hits the market.  For now, even the best Windows 7 overlays aren't enough to encourage us to give up the traditional keyboard and mouse as a primary interface. Therefore, we don't quite see the value in paying extra for a touchscreen computer in a situation such as this, where cost concerns are clearly paramount.

When it comes to basic computational chores and general web browsing or multitasking, this machine manages to handle that quite well. We felt a minimal amount of lag when the machine was under load or a multitude of applications were open simultaneously, but we frankly expected more sluggishness than we perceived. And that spacious 1 TB hard drive is also a luxury to have on board. If you need a new bargain machine for your studio apartment, dorm room, or bedroom, and have a hard budget limit of $500, this Asus all-in-one machine is well worth considering. 

  

  • Thin-and-light design
  • Great value
  • Included optical drive
  • Zippy performance for the price
  • Surprisingly beautiful display
  • Ho-hum bundled keyboard / mouse
  • Fans are noisy under load
  • No gaming oomph
  • No 1080p display


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