The new ASUS Chromebox just made its way to online stores, giving ChromeOS lovers a new option for their desktop, living room or board room. You can hook the ASUS Chromebox up to a TV set, or a projector, and enjoy online video or play casual games that fill the Chrome App Store. Giving a Google Drive Presentation at work or school is a snap. And families can afford this $180 ASUS Chromebox. Just add a decent low-cost 1080p monitor (around $150-200) and parents can get one for each kid, thus freeing up the parents’ computer.
Why an ASUS Chromebox Instead of a Chromebook Laptop
Those familiar with ChromeOS computers may wonder why a person would buy a Chromebox desktop system instead of a Chromebook laptop. The laptop offers more mobility with a built-in keyboard, pointing device and display. But here’s what the ASUS Chromebox gives users that they can’t get from a Chromebook laptop:
- The ability to hook up to a larger 23-27 inch 1080p display for far less than the cost of a $1,200 Chromebook Pixel. And in a smaller form factor than a laptop
- One can upgrade by pulling off the bottom and popping in up to 8GB of RAM or a larger SSD for storing more pictures, video or music
- Can connect to a home entertainment system without taking up too much space
Check out our unboxing video, showing off the ports and size.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the ASUS Chromebox
Small Form Factor
We love putting a tiny computer on the TV stand without it taking over the space.
The ASUS Chromebook measures under five inches wide and deep and less than two inches thick. It looks like an oversized Roku Box or Apple TV, and it’s smaller than the Mac mini (see below). The package comes with a VESA mounting kit to install the Chromebox on the back of most monitors and some HDTV sets. Port placement makes it easy to get at two of the USB 3.0 ports and the SD-card slot, even if the owner mounts it to the back of their TV.
ASUS Chromebox Connectivity
Speaking of ports, the ASUS Chromebox comes with more than some laptops that take up more space. We get a whopping 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 easily accessible on the front for inserting a flash drive and two on back for a mouse and keyboard or external storage. The SD-card slot on the side of the Chromebox makes it easy to put a camera SD-card into the Chromebox to show photos or video. The HDMI, or full-sized DisplayPort, lets us connect to most modern displays. A stereo jack means a user can connect to a great set of external speakers.
The Chromebox adds more connectivity options that most small computers. As mentioned above a user can connect to a network using a fast Gigabit Ethernet cable or b/g/n Wi-Fi. It doesn’t support the fastest Wi-Fi standards, but b/g/n Wi-Fi is good enough for most uses.
Problems with Bluetooth
Unfortunately, the Bluetooth radio in the Chromebox dropped connections with other wireless technology nearby. My keyboard and mouse struggled to maintain a connection until I moved my powerful Wi-Fi antenna away from the box. This kind of interference happens to a lot of wireless equipment, but the ASUS Chromebox seemed more susceptible than most.
Most users spend their time inside their computer’s web browser. If that’s you, then consider the ASUS Chromebox as a great, small form factor desktop or home entertainment computer. The size even makes it useful for road warriors who carry a projector to business meetings. Families or educators will love the low-cost and simplicity of the machine.
People who use a piece of software that they can’t replace with an online version should steer clear. Also those who need a powerful system to do video or photo editing or other tasks like 3D modeling, can’t use a Chromebox.
The machine retails for $179.99 at many online locations. It’s sold out on Amazon for that price, so secondary sellers jacked the price up to $209. Users can go to ASUS and find the other online retailers selling it or offering pre-orders. Buyers can also get a more powerful version that runs an Intel Core i3 or Core i5 Haswell processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage. It costs $370 and comes with a keyboard and mouse. We can’t find one available online yet.