Google's Chrome OS started out as nothing more than a browser running on top of a stripped-down Linux installation. Over time, the search giant has responded to tech snobs' criticisms that Chrome OS needs more applications by porting over its Play Store and later adding in smoothed-out support for containerized Linux applications on some models. These additions, coupled with the general bloating of website code (The Tech Report excluded) have increased the need for more capable Chrome OS systems.
Asus has responded with its Chromebox 3, a range of machines packing Kaby Lake mobile processors, up to 16 GB of memory, and M.2 SSDs as large as 256 GB. Asus showed these machines at CES in January, but the full specs and prices are now available.
Buyers get to choose between four Intel mobile processors: the two-core, two-thread Celeron 3865U, the two-core, four-thread Core i3-7100U, or the four-core, eight-thread Core i5-8250U or Core i7-8550U. Those same shoppers can choose configurations with anywhere from 4 GB up to 16 GB of DDR4 memory. Asus wasn't clear about how easy or difficult it is to add more RAM later, but Notebook Italia's video from CES suggests it's not hard to get inside the machine and put SO-DIMMs in the memory slots. The company did say the storage resides in an M.2 slot, but didn't specify whether it was using NVMe or SATA drives.
The Chromebox 3 has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 built in. The front panel includes three USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports with power delivery capability, an audio combo jack, and a microSD card reader. The back of the machine sports a Gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI output of unspecified version, a power jack, three USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports, and a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C connector. That Type-C port can output DisplayPort signals, so users can connect a pair of 4K displays for productivity or digital signage. 4K output on the HDMI jack might be limited to 30 Hz, though. Two of the back-panel Type-A ports on the Celeron version of the Chromebox 3 turn from USB 3.1 Gen 1 coaches to USB 2.0 pumpkins.
Asus' Chromebox 3 is on sale now. Poverty-spec units with a Celeron, 4 GB of memory, and 32 GB of storage space ring in at $250. The top-shelf model with a mobile Core i7, 16 GB of RAM, and the same 32 GB of storage space will set buyers back $723.