Asus Chromebox

Asus Chromebox.

Small and inexpensive, a Chromebox is the desktop equivalent of a Chromebook laptop.

These stripped-down laptops run Google's lightweight Chrome OS and, in recent years, they have made inroads in schools in the United States. More than five million Chromebooks are expected to be sold this year.

As for the new Asus Chromebox, priced at an affordable $339, it does almost everything you would expect from a cheap PC. In fact, this review was written entirely on the Asus Chromebox using Google Drive, and at no point did I feel the need to fire up my Windows laptop.

It helps that Asus has equipped its Chromebox with a bevy of ports, including four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and DisplayPort. The device comes with built-in Wi-Fi too. It weighs about 600g and can be mounted to the back of your monitor.

Plus, it boots up quickly. It took just 5sec to get to the log-in screen. I signed in with my Google account credentials and was ready to start work, accompanied by my favourite tunes on YouTube in a browser tab.

I probably spent more time fumbling with the Chromebox's narrow power button than waiting for it to start up.

Within minutes, a Chrome OS update was pushed to my device. But the best thing is that it took mere seconds to install the update before I could use the computer again.

The system was responsive with no lag. This is despite the Chromebox having a relatively budget Intel Celeron processor and just 2GB of RAM.

As with any Chrome OS device, the Asus Chromebox comes with 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years upon activation. This is sorely needed as the device itself has just 16GB of flash storage, which leaves little space for your music, photos and videos.

I also liked being able to quickly wipe and reset the device to its pristine state with a feature called Powerwash. This process took less than a minute to complete.

The Chromebox does have its downsides. If you are not a fan of Google's apps or browser, then it is not for you.

It is also not a gaming machine. The titles available from the Chrome Web Store are casual ones more suited to mobile devices, such as Cut The Rope and Angry Birds. Nor is it able to run heavy-duty apps such as Adobe Photoshop, though the free Pixlr Editor app is handy for quick photo edits.

But early criticism of Chrome OS devices - that they are useless without an Internet connection - has long been addressed. Games and other apps now have offline modes, though these devices still work best when connected to the Internet.

Cheap, fast and stable, the Asus Chromebox is great for users who simply want to access the Internet for work and entertainment.

vinchang@sph.com.sg

BACKGROUND STORY

TECH SPECS

Price: $339, available from next Monday

Processor: Intel Celeron 2955U (1.4GHz)

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics

RAM: 2GB

Storage: 16GB

Connectivity: 4 x USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet, SD card reader, combo audio jack

RATING

Features 4/5

Design 3/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 4/5

Overall 4/5

This article was published on Sept 10 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.

Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

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