Acer's Chromebox CXI3 mini-desktops give Chrome OS a good home

Google's Chrome OS has been reaching its tentacles out to new form factors over the last couple of weeks. As if to prove that the operating system is expanding and not just moving to greener pastures, Acer's just released its latest Chromebox CXI3 desktop PCs.

Image: NextWarehouse

The CXI3's base configuration mixes a Kaby Lake Intel Celeron 3865U processor, 4 GB of DDR4 memory, and a 32-GB SSD together with Google's browser-based OS. The next step up the product ladder swaps out that Celeron for a two-core, four-thread Kaby Lake Core i3-7130U processor and doubles the memory and storage capacities. Another $50 nets an eighth-generation Core i5-8250U processor, but memory stays put at 8 GB and storage size remains at 64 GB. The top-shelf version gets a Core i5-8550U and 16 GB of memory.

All models have a pair of DDR4 SO-DIMM slots that support up to 16 GB of memory. The storage drives are M.2 SSDs that could conceivably be upgraded if one saw fit. Discrete graphics are seldom a part of the Chromebox formula, and that rings true in the CXI3's case.

Image: NextWarehouse

The machines have an HDMI connector for the required external display, plus two USB 2.0 ports, three USB 3.0 Type-A connectors, and one USB 3.1 Type-C port. Chrome OS can't do much without internet access, so the CXI3 has a Gigabit Ethernet jack and integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. The computer measures 5.8" wide, 5.9" deep, and 1.6" thick (15  cm x 15 cm x 4 cm). The CXI3 is designed to sit upright, lie flat, or mount to the back of a VESA-compatible display panel.

None of the pre-order listings specifically mention compatibility with Google's Play Store and the Android applications contained therein, but the Chromebox CXI3s' beefier processor options and quadrupling of maximum available storage space versus the existing CXI2s makes it likely that the new models will be able to download and run Android apps. 

The Chromebox CXI3 machines have popped up for pre-order at retailers NextWarehouse and Tiger Direct. The base model with a Celeron 3865U, 4 GB of DDR4 memory, and a 32-GB SSD is listed at Tiger Direct for $298. The version with a Kaby Lake Core i3, 8 GB of memory, and 64 GB of storage space costs $470. The more affordable of the two eighth-generation Core i5 models rings in at $512. The range-topper with a Core i5 and 16 GB of memory runs an eye-popping-for-a-Chromebox $745. The machines are a few bucks pricier at NextWarehouse, but the e-tailer includes shipping in the sales price. The little desktops should start shipping at the end of next week. Acer backs the computers with a one-year warranty.

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