Having used a Chromebox extensively for the last few days – man those boxes are fast – they boot up fast, web surfing is smooth, document editing, pdf viewing, watching youtube videos all work very, very well. The tiny package is accompanied by a low tiny price as well, at US$179 or as low as US$174. Now, for US$20 more, you could get a Acer C720 Chromebook – and those laptops are the same specifications as well, so why the Chromebox then?
They are targeted at a different audience. The C720 is still more ideal for the portable user, but if you wish to run it primarily hook up to the monitor or TV, then it doesn’t really function well. You can’t really close the C720 lid and hide it behind the monitor for example. There’s no wake on external keyboard feature although you could permanently sleep it – they suck little power in this mode – and well, the screens are just tiny. In addition, the C720 is not easily upgradeable – and that’s limited to the SSD. The RAM cannot be changed and you are stuck with 2GB.
The Asus Chromebox on the other hand, excels in a home environment where you can hook up a keyboard, monitor etc and the Chromebox can be easily tucked into the corner and disappear from view. Also, open up the casing and you can add / replace the SODIMM for additional memory. The haswell-equipped chromebox really flies with 4gb of RAM and you could easily load Ubuntu or XBMC on it.
Now as for the features, I survived with all of Google functional applications – I was on an overseas trip and well, I pretty much had everything I need, with Google Chrome, Drive, and Maps. In addition there are a ton of Chrome Apps for PDF, additional editing, VNC, remote desktop, and even Plex for media needs. I think it is going to make a Great Father’s Day Present. My dad pretty much uses the web browser to read news, internet websites etc. So if you can live in the web then the Chromebox would suit you. If I do get a second one, then I might load up XBMC / Ubuntu on it, but otherwise, I think I am pretty happy sticking with ChromeOS. Interestingly enough, if you read other user experience on the net, that is the general consensus, after loading Ubuntu Linux on the Chromebox, most people eventually switch back to ChromeOS – just for the simplicity of it all. I wonder why.
Too bad, no free shipping for the lower end model ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop to Singapore via Amazon but the shipping box is rather light. I will probably try it out on VPost soon and update the shipping cost and details.
Update: The Asus Chromebox (Celeron 2955U and 2GB RAM) is now available for shipping to Singapore. The Asus Chromebox in Singapore retails for S$399, which is almost double the price. You should definitely buy from Amazon – even if it breaks on arrival, Amazon will honor the return shipping fee.
The 4GB I3 Model ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop on the other hand comes with Free Amazon Global Shipping – Get it if you want a cheap low-end computer. You definitely need ubuntu on this one though to realise the full power.