Asus unveils tiny, Haswell-powered Chrome OS desktop

Last September at IDF, Intel teased a number of Chrome OS machines powered by its Haswell processors. One of those systems was an upcoming small-form-factor desktop from Asus. Today, Asus formally introduced that machine, which is simply dubbed the Asus Chromebox—and which has rather respectable specs for a tiny, web-only PC.

The Asus Chromebox features a choice of Celeron 2955U, Core i3-4010U, and Core i7-4600U processors, though the last of the bunch apparently won’t be offered in North America. There’s room for two 2GB DDR3-1600 SO-DIMMs, and Asus includes a 16GB solid-state drive based on the new M.2 (or NGFF) spec, which offers more bandwidth than mSATA. Supplementing that drive is a 100GB Google Drive subscription, which is free for two years. That plan will cost you $4.99 a month after that, barring future pricing changes.

On the connectivity front, the Asus Chromebox is endowed with 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort, and four USB 3.0 ports. There’s a card reader up front, too. The system measures just 4.88" x 4.88" x 1.65" and comes with a VESA mount, so it can attach to the back of a TV or monitor. Despite its small size, the Asus Chromebox is cooled passively. That means no fans buzzing away under the hood.

Asus tells us the system will ship in mid-March and will cost $179 for the base, Celeron-powered version. An "optional wireless keyboard and mouse combination" will be offered, but it sounds like that will cost extra. Details on that bundle and on the Core i3 variant will be released next month, Asus says.

I’m not sure I personally see the appeal of a Chrome OS desktop, but then again, I’m probably not part of the operating system’s target audience. Something like the Asus Chromebox could make a nice little web surfing and productivity machine for someone with basic computing needs. At $179, it’s considerably cheaper than most Windows PCs out there, let alone Apple’s $599 Mac mini.

Comments closed
    • gerryg
    • 6 years ago

    Perfect for my kids to use for school – web search, google docs is about all they need. Note I said “need”, I’m sure they WANT lots of games, too…. 😉

    • FanlessTech
    • 6 years ago

    ASUS’ PR is funny. There’s absolutely no way this box is fanless. A 15W TDP would require either a heatsink case, or a big internal CPU cooler with air vents all over the case (check out the aluminium coolers size on 10W Bay Trail motherboards).

      • ludi
      • 6 years ago

      Very likely that IS a “heatsink case.” Fins merely increase surface area (when needed). And the Biostar Bay Trail board, to name one of the smaller implementations, has a lot less heatsink area than the Asus chasses we see here.

        • FanlessTech
        • 6 years ago

        Check out passive cases for Intel’s 15W NUCs and see how bigger and more elaborate they are. And most of them get very HOT to touch.

        The official page doesn’t mention any groundbreaking silence either [url<]http://promos.asus.com/us/chrome-os/chromebox/[/url<] Air vents placement indicate a plain, actively-cooled NUC base. My money on a clueless ASUS PR using the new "it" word 🙂

    • MadManOriginal
    • 6 years ago

    Since it’s got a replaceable, standard interface M.2 system drive instead of soldered NAND, I will be interested to see how hackable these are. I would really consider something like this if I could install Windows on it fairly easily.

    • vargis14
    • 6 years ago

    The base celeron CPU with 2 1.4ghz cores should be plenty fast for it, but I would prefer the i3 version.

    Its amazing the price these systems come in at with the ark tray price of the celeron is 107$ by itself and the i3 chip is a ungodly 281$ WOW! Wish we got the same discounts manufacturers get 🙂

    But the 4770kArk price is $339….weird only 58$ more then a 1.7ghz dual core Core i3-4010U sure it only uses 15 wats but still $281$ when the performance is probably not $174 better then the Celeron 2955U

    It would make for a great HTPC with a 4tb usb external USB3 HDD for all your storage goodness. Could you make a dual boot system with windows on the external HDD and chrome on the little ssd??

    Also have you noticed that if you want to buy a 3 or 4TB internal HDD it is so so much cheaper to buy a external HDD with the capacity you want and remove the HDD from the inside of it and install it into your chassis. Its like 35% cheaper that way and if you do not destroy the external HDD case you can use it for some other drive you have lying around. It still blows my mind how it is cheaoer to buy a HDD in a enclosure then just as a bare drive, it just does not make sense to me.

      • Pwnstar
      • 6 years ago

      Supply and demand.

    • yogibbear
    • 6 years ago

    Ouyes.

    • shaurz
    • 6 years ago

    Huh, that Core i7 4200U is only 2 core / 4 thread. I always assumed i7s were all 4 core / 8 thread.

      • Concupiscence
      • 6 years ago

      Mobile chips are enumerated differently. It’s terribly confusing – on the desktop an i5 is 4 physical cores / 4 logical cores, but Macbook Air’s i5-4250U it’s 2 physical / 4 logical. And the only difference for the i7 offered in the hoity-toity edition of the same Macbook is a higher default clock and the addition of a handful of new instructions.

        • vargis14
        • 6 years ago

        The i7-4600U Processor runs at 2.1ghz and turbos up to 3.3ghz with a ark tray price of $381 .
        The i5-4250U Processor runs at 1.3ghz and turbos up to 2.6ghz with a ark tray price of $318 .
        The i3-4010U Processor runs at 1.7ghz with no turbo and a ark tray price of $281
        The Celeron® Processor 2955U runs at 1.4ghz with no turbo or HT with a tray price of $107

        All of them have a 15watt TDP that I find Impressive for the I7-4600u. I wonder how much it will throttle in that little chromebox. I wish they had some pictures of the internals Heatsinks ETC.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 6 years ago

          I would really like to see a version of this with a mobile i5 to allow for some Turbo (and hyperthreading) over the i3 which improves responsiveness for short, bursty load scenarios even if the highest Turbo can’t be sustained due to the cooling solution. It could cost an appreciable amount less than the i7 version. Going from the i3 to an i7 seems like too big a gap.

    • albundy
    • 6 years ago

    the i3 will be passively cooled too?

      • Concupiscence
      • 6 years ago

      Presumably, though thermal throttling may become an issue.

    • Jakubgt
    • 6 years ago

    For a HTPC this is actually pretty good. Connect an external HDD and you essentially have a cheap, fast booting PC with capabilities of going on YouTube and watching Netflix that contains your media collection. Not to mention you have the option to download emulators (assuming you own a legal copy of the game).

    • d0g_p00p
    • 6 years ago

    This would be nice for a XBMC install.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 6 years ago

    Their office apps are simply not up to snuff yet. Not to mention that they don’t have small business tools to plug them into like MS does. Their target market seems to be 18-21 year old college students who are English majors…

    • Deanjo
    • 6 years ago

    Now there is a nice little unit. No MS tax and freely hackable.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      It does seem like the sort of thing you could install your favorite Linux bistro on and have a nice, cheap desktop.

        • Deanjo
        • 6 years ago

        Best of all is that it isn’t gaudy like the brix.

        • Concupiscence
        • 6 years ago

        Linux bistro (n.) – A place where you can buy Tux a tasty shrimp cocktail while enjoying a martini on the beach.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 6 years ago

          I thought “what a bizarre typo” when I wrote it, and decided “eh screw it” and left it.

            • Concupiscence
            • 6 years ago

            Hey, I appreciate the weird mental image. It’s just what I needed on a dreary February day.

      • stdRaichu
      • 6 years ago

      Assuming this is hackable and you ca install what you like on it, at ~£160 it’ll be an instabuy from me as someone who was considering a NUC-a-like for an additional XBMC HTPC.

        • Deanjo
        • 6 years ago

        Unless something has changed, ChromeOS devices are required to have a dev mode that would allow you to install whatever you desire.

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