Chromebox is the new desktop system by Google and Samsung that comes packaged with ChromeOS.
Let’s Talk About ChromeOS First
ChromeOS has been a widely misunderstood Operating System that’s been trivialized as a “toy” OS. I have to disagree – while ChromeOS may feel limiting its goals are admirable: provide a fast and secure device for users to browse the web on. And I must say it truly accomplishes that – even on my CR48 sporting a single core ATOM CPU I manage to do quite a bit with ChromeOS.
Is ChromeOS for the developer who custom compiles his own kernel and needs to boot into Windows to play games and yada yada yada? No, definitely not. ChromeOS is designed and targeted for specific users who simply want to get online. And the fact is that’s most of us. 90% of what I do is done in the browser and a very large chunk of the remaining 10% could easily be moved to the browser if I were motivated to do so.
So ChromeOS is definitely not the OS for everyone but before you dismiss it take a look at some “average user” you know and think about their usage habits. How limiting would ChromeOS really be for them?
Still, it remains to be seen whether or not ChromeOS is truly ready for mainstream adoption. This latest revision was a large overhaul, it’s hard to predict the future.
Chromebox – The Specs
- Intel® Core™ 2 Celeron B840 processor
- 16GB Solid State Drive
- 4 GB RAM
- Built-in dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Gigabit ethernet
- 6 USB 2.0 ports
- 2x DisplayPort++ Output (compatible with HDMI, DVI, VGA)
- DVI-I single link output (compatible with VGA)
- Bluetooth 3.0™ compatible
- Kensington™ key lock compatible
It’s no monster by any means. You won’t be playing Crysis on this thing. But 4GB of RAM, a SSD, and a pretty nice dual core CPU is more than enough for browsing. I mean, seriously, 4GB of RAM is actually a ton considering. And that dual core will handle 720p Flash very well, hell it’ll even play 1080p video. ChromeOS is also one of the few Linux based operating systems that is supported by Netflix and the hardware looks absolutely fine for that.
Chromebox – The Look
The hardware is small. It feels very HTPC to me. Sleek and minimalist – very in keeping with ChromeOS.
The new ChromeOS 19 UI is a far stretch from the previous UI. It’s far more conventional and, of course, that means it’s more comfortable for your home user. The new ChromeOS UI contains a taskbar, launcher, and the ability to detach and move tabs/ windows.
So What Can I Do With This Thing?
ChromeOS has come a long way. It’s got a built in media player, offline Docs editing, offline Gmail, and, of course, access to all of Google’s cloud-based services such as Google Music.
Anything you can do in Chrome you can do in ChromeOS. And that’s a surprising amount.
So What Can’t I Do With This Thing?
The Chromebox comes with a mere 16GB HDD. This isn’t a storage device, you’re not going to keep your thousand photos and videos on it. But, that’s not really the idea. The idea is to keep your data online via Google Drive and the Chromebox simply acts as a conduit to those services. Maybe that’s not your thing.
Is ChromeOS For Me?
Honestly, there is no single operating system for every user. But if you find yourself spending all of your time in the browser and you’re looking for a system that’s going to get you online instantly in a secure manner, yeah, I’d say you should go pick up a Chromebox.
And Then There’s Price
The Chromebox lands at $329.99 from Amazon. A quick search on Amazon for “desktop” between 300-350 shows me computers with similar specs (but includes other hardware) for virtually the same price. This is nice to see, one of the largest complains for the Chromebooks was that the price was too high.
A lot of people feel that they’re getting a “lesser” OS, that it’s less capable and therefor worth less money. I disagree. As of ChromeOS 19 I think it is very easy to call it a fully featured operating system.
The price seems fair but I’m inexperienced as I’ve never purchased a desktop. Perhaps a bit high as it doesn’t come with peripherals.
It only seems right to wrap this up. I think Chromebox is pretty cool and I know a few people that could definitely benefit from a secure system like it.
What Google needs to focus on is getting Docs up to speed so that it’s a real competitor to Word. Getting NativeClient to be more mainstream would be a huge boon to ChromeOS as well. And I, personally, would love to see a proper (free) Cloud IDE that would allow remote storage through Google Drive or Dropbox.
I predict Chromebox will not do too well. It’ll see a quick spurt of people buying it up but, unfortunately, there isn’t enough appreciation for the niche product nor is there the willingness to even try to adapt.