LAS VEGAS—As components continue to shrink, PC makers are squeezing them into things that don't look like PCs, but make perfect sense. The Asus EeeKeyboard PC is exactly that: a keyboard that runs on nettop parts.
The EeeKeyboard PC is essentially half of a netbook, since there isn't a screen attached to it. A full size, island-style keyboard and a 5-inch touch display are the only features visible close up, but there's a lot more to this peripheral than what's visible to the naked eye.
Asus gets rid of the traditional chassis by squeezing netbook parts inside an accessory that people have beside their desktops all the time. It runs on a previous generation Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz) processor, located beneath the I, O, and P keys. There's a single DIMM slot, with 1 gigabyte of DDR2 memory and no accessible way to upgrade to 2 GB. (Hackers will undoubtedly find a way, though.) With storage, it's SSD all the way – a 16-GB SSD comes standard, with an option to go to 32 GB later on. Windows XP Home Edition is basically your only option, given the capacity of the SSD. It even has a built-in battery, which, according to Asus, lasts up to 4 hours.
Next to the island-style keyboard is a 5-inch touch display. Although it's large enough to run Windows XP Home, this miniature touch display is tailored for widgets and serves as a touchpad and mouse buttons. (You tap on the screen to initiate a click). The side display supports multitouch gestures, but the widgets are really the main attraction. They'll look like Apple iPhone apps, including ones for chat clients, social networks (Twitter and Facebook), Web shortcuts, RSS readers, and a Windows Media Player widget, to name a few. They fit nine to a panel, so you get to the next group of widgets by simply swiping the panel, like an iPhone.
You'll need an external display to run Windows XP Home. For that, the keyboard has built-in connections for VGA-Out and HDMI-Out. Separately, you'll be able to buy the Asus WiCast wireless HDMI kit, so you can connect to a display without the hassle of physical cables and wires. The kit can transmit content wirelessly from up to 5 meters away and has a very low latency (<1ms), capable of streaming 720p and 1080i content. To help improve high definition playback, Asus even installed a Broadcom HD decoder chip.
The Asus EeeKeyboard PC will retail for $499 to $599 and is available in February.