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Asus Announces Small Form Factor 'Chromebox' PCs 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the doesn't-look-like-a-trash-can dept.
MojoKid writes "Asus stepped out this morning with something new for the Chrome OS powered hardware crowd, called a "Chromebox" small form factor PC. Just as Google has been evangelizing with its Chromebook notebook initiative, the pitch for these Chromebox systems is that they're capable of doing everything you need to do in today's connected world. While not everyone will totally agree with that marketing pitch — gaming, 3D modeling, and a host of specialized tasks are better suited for a PC with higher specs — there's certainly a market for these types of devices. They're low cost, fairly well equipped, and able to handle a wide variety of daily computing chores. There are two SKUs being released in the U.S. The first starts at $179 and sports an Intel Celeron 2955U processor, and the second features an Intel Core i3 4010U CPU (no mention of price just yet), both of which are based on Intel's 4th generation Haswell CPU architecture. Beyond the processor, these fan-less boxes come with two SO-DIMM memory slots with 2GB or 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, a 16GB SSD, a GbE LAN port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 2-in-1 memory card reader, four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, a DisplayPort, an audio jack, and a Kensington Lock. ASUS also includes a VESA mount kit with each Chromebox, and Google tosses in 100GB of Google Drive space free for two years."
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Asus Announces Small Form Factor 'Chromebox' PCs

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  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by recoiledsnake (879048) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:12PM (#46153815)

    Just as Google has been evangelizing with its Chromebook notebook initiative, the pitch for these Chromebox systems is that they're capable of doing everything you need to do in today's connected world. While not everyone will totally agree with that marketing pitch — gaming, 3D modeling, and a host of specialized tasks are better suited for a PC with higher specs — there's certainly a market for these types of devices.

    Wasn't one launched by Samsung a few years ago and utterly flopped?
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/0... [engadget.com]

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. At $329.

      Minor difference there.

      Cost. It's important.

      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Funny)

        by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:34PM (#46154137)

        This will definitely make 2014 the Year of ChromeOS on the desktop!

      • It appears one just gets the box. Unless you can re-purpose old accessories, you'll need to buy a monitor, HDMI cable, mouse and keyboard which in total could cost more than the black box. Of course if you have an HD TV with HDMI input, that takes care of that and maybe a old mouse and keyboard, you're all set. You also must run the HDMI cable from the box to the TV if that's your choice which could be inconvenient in the living room. A BT keyboard and mouse would be better in that situation. One could also
        • A lot of school systems like the one I work for have lots of 5-6 year old PCs that we are about to have to try and upgrade to Win7. Lots of them won't make it, leaving a lot of keyboards, mice and monitors sitting around with nothing to do. This could be a very cheap option.

          • The problem is that the Asus solution doesn't run Windows which may or may not be important for your students. For elementary school children that may not matter if you can find the apps that teach what you want. For HS students, more advanced hardware with Windows may be needed. A careful evaluation of what you need and what will fill that need will be important before making a choice. It's probably not simple.
            • by dbIII (701233)
              High school is supposed to be about education and not training. Also there's no point training somebody on MS Office 2012 when it's going to be 2018 when they graduate and the interface has changed again. Instead it's worth educating them in general terms and any word processor, spreadsheet etc will do for that.
              So your carefully crafted deliberate seed of doubt fails when exposed to a bullshit detector.
          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            If they "don't make it" then I'm fricking sorry but they are too damned stupid to be doing IT, full stop. I have run Win 7 HP on a 2003 Sempron with 1Gb of RAM, that is a lot older than 6 years (6 years would be 2008, which would be in C2D and Athlon X2 territory, both VERY capable CPUs) and ya know what? Ran just fine. On a 6 year old PC, which the average PC at that time were dual cores with 2Gb of RAM and 80-160Gb HDDs? Frankly Windows 7 should fly. Hell its the exact same specs as the main box I use at

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tangelogee (1486597) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:24PM (#46153993)

      I suppose it depends on the cost. The Samsung box was $329, which you could find a PC for about the same price. If they can bring it down to about $100, it would definitely be a lot more tempting.

      • What I think would be more tempting would be an all-in-one. I'm sure that Asus could build essentially just a monitor with ChromeOS on it, and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse that works natively. It would be slicker than this, and no wires.

        • I imagine that the problem with an all-in-one (aside from being harder to hit impulse-buy pricepoints) is that if you want to go all in one, you either have to bury yourself in incrementally different SKUs, or make potentially alienating decisions about what monitor sizes your customers will want, both today and until you refresh the product.

          That isn't trivial at the best of times, budgets and priorities vary (though easier for Apple, since they can eliminate the approximately-mini-tower competition by s
          • I bought a couple of "NetTop" boxes back when "Netbooks" were a thing... they were competent little things, kind of painfully slow with the Atom chips, but did what they did well and in a very nice form factor.

            Too bad the power supplies were crap and when they died, they were gone.

        • by mikael (484)

          The monitor and disk drives are the component most likely to break. The last thing I would want to do is to have to replace one simply because the other broke. The best design I can think of would be to go back to "podules" where the CPU/GPU/memory and disk drives were on separate blocks but slotted into the base of the monitor.

        • by mlts (1038732)

          I'd just like a standard PC in that form factor. The only real "full" PC I've seen that might be decent would be Apple's Mac Mini, especially in the video department.

          Something that size with 128GB SSD, decent CPU, decent GPU, and 8-16 GB of RAM would be a nice change, and since it would mount on the monitor (if it followed the VESA standard), it would be completely out of the way.

          • by JMZero (449047)

            Look for Intel NUC boxes - you can get a reasonably powerful computer in a very small box. They're expensive, and they need a high speed fan to keep them running, but otherwise are pretty cool.

          • I'd just like a standard PC in that form factor. The only real "full" PC I've seen that might be decent would be Apple's Mac Mini, especially in the video department.

            Something that size with 128GB SSD, decent CPU, decent GPU, and 8-16 GB of RAM would be a nice change, and since it would mount on the monitor (if it followed the VESA standard), it would be completely out of the way.

            ..and I would want mine to be fanless, with no spinning of any kind involved to make noise in my living room. And for that, I'm more than willing to sacrifice some performance.

            I recently solved this with a box from fit-PC, bought diskless and fitted with a 128GB SSD. But the asus offering would have been interesting if I did not yet have a fanless living room box, particularly given the price (so long as I can swap in a reasonably sized SSD, and boot it into my choice of linux distro, of course).

            • by mlts (1038732)

              One idea I've been thinking of is having a small PC, fanless, and with a SSD. Then, using a 10gigE or even a gigabit Ethernet connection directly to an iSCSI box that would be either placed in the attic or a well-sound-attenuated place. That way, I have the best of both worlds... no fans, no drives, little noise, while having decent drive capacity.

              • by jabuzz (182671)

                Why the hell do you need iSCSI? Just use NFS or CIFS and mount your data from the remote box.

          • It's $495, http://www.amazon.com/Intel-D5... [amazon.com] if you scroll down and look at the "Frequently Bought Together" section.
            That is, if you consider an Intel 5000 GPU decent...

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Slicker but monitors have a long useful life so it's worth having the things as separate units.
          Besides, ASUS already sell something like you suggest only it doesn't currently come with ChromeOS.
    • Grandma (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:49PM (#46154361)

      This or a chromebook is the ideal computer for grandma who just needs to check her e-mail and surf a bit. I know because I got one for myself then when I could not stand Chrome-OS's annoying limitations I transferred to an elderly relative. CHromeOS is a wonderful concept and I thought it would be a panacea but it just blows for anyone but the most primitive user.

      things you can't do without pain:
      1) this network OS can't actually do any local networking.
      2) can't mount a local network disk
      3) can't print to a local printer by itself
      4) can't run any other OS practically. Oh sure you can install linux, but then the whole machine goes to crap. It won't autoupdate chomeos any longer once you install linux. And it will erase the linux partition if you touch the wrong key at boot time. Some nut jobs have told "just reflash your roms so doesn't do that". Which sort of proves my point.
      6) you can't run most software without an internet connection.
      7) all the chromebooks I've used don't handle many common external screens properly.
      8) there's no granularity of security. your username and password is your login. you can't sever the connection. You can't tell what exactly APPS do with the permissions you give them.
      9) virtually no documentation and fickle SDK capabilities at googles pleasure.

      • by goombah99 (560566)

        I meant that your google user name and password are your login. y'know the same one you use for your google wallet, and gmail.

        10) Ironically, it ChromeOS wont run chrome screen sharing so you can't maintain one of these remotely.
        11) you can't share the devices disk to other local computers, so it's not useful as a personal server or media station

      • by mjwx (966435)

        4) can't run any other OS practically. Oh sure you can install linux, but then the whole machine goes to crap. It won't autoupdate chomeos any longer once you install linux. And it will erase the linux partition if you touch the wrong key at boot time. Some nut jobs have told "just reflash your roms so doesn't do that". Which sort of proves my point.

        If you can replace the storage with something larger, this makes a perfect, if not basic media player. Great if you don't want a bulky mATX box sitting under

      • by xeoron (639412)
        Actually, it can. You can use Google Docs offline mode, play locally stored music and videos, test network connectivity and use SSH with the Secure Shell app.
    • by asmkm22 (1902712)

      In "tech years" they may as well have launched it a decade ago. People who dismiss a product because it failed a few years ago are usually the same ones left holding the bag when another company, such as Apple, makes it successful.

    • by rthille (8526)

      I picked up two Core i5 based Chromeboxes (from the Google Dev conf) on Craigslist for $200 each. Seemed like a bargain. One's running Crubuntu, and the other is awaiting me having time to flash a new bios so I can run straight Ubuntu.

    • by GezusK (449864)

      Samsung was charging more for their device than their regular Chromebooks cost. That made no sense, since it didn't include an LCD, keyboard, touchpad, and battery. I still think this one is a little high, but closer to where it should be than the Samsung device.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:13PM (#46153839) Homepage Journal

    Can you put Linux on the thing?

    It would be nice to have something I could use to write up blog posts and the like, without having to resort to touchscreen keyboards or breaking out the 5 lb, 17" powerhouse I use for *real* work.

    • Upon actually bothering to read the summary (I figured it was a new, low-end Chromebook), I now see that it's not a laptop, but looks more like a set-top box.

      So, new question... would it make a cost-effective Scrypt-based cryptocurrency miner?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Frankly, you seem to be an idiot. There is an expected minimal level on technical intelligence, and you lack it. You don't even seem to read the article you are asking questions about, as reading the article would have answered your question. Please stop posting, you just waste people's time.

        And, no, of course it wouldn't be good for cyyptocurrency.

      • Upon actually bothering to read the summary (I figured it was a new, low-end Chromebook), I now see that it's not a laptop, but looks more like a set-top box.

        So, new question... would it make a cost-effective Scrypt-based cryptocurrency miner?

        If memory serves, Scrypt crunching is still markedly faster on GPUs than CPUs, so this is probably a poor bet. It probably has a miniPCIe slot for the wireless, so you could theoretically pull a single lane off with a suitable adapter(and theoretically even put multiple GPUs on it, with a PCIe switch and extraordinary luck with the firmware); but that would be a fairly painful exercise for mediocre results compared to just buying whatever motherboard/CPU combo with lots of PCIe slots is cheapest and a few P

    • by luther349 (645380)
      yes theirs a project that installs ubuntu on top of chrome os being these systems have locked down bios.
    • Re:So... Linux? (Score:4, Informative)

      by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:47PM (#46154337) Homepage

      Chrome OS uses a special bootloader and some other stuff, but you can install a Linux-based OS on a separate partition (after resizing the partitions) and dual boot it, as long as you can enable "developer mode" on the box so it will boot unsigned code (there's a switch for it on my Chromebook behind the battery). Or you can install one right inside Chrome OS with a chroot, if that's sufficient, again it requires developer mode turned on.

      You could probably just blow everything away and put Linux on it alone, but I dunno how you'd go about doing that.

    • by reikae (80981)

      Isn't ChromeOS a Linux distro at its core? Installing a different distro should be fairly simple, I hope. This thing is cheap enough, I'm considering getting one as a toy.

    • Can you put Linux on the thing?

      It would be nice to have something I could use to write up blog posts and the like, without having to resort to touchscreen keyboards or breaking out the 5 lb, 17" powerhouse I use for *real* work.

      If prior ChromeOS-things are a guide (and I haven't heard anything about Google changing this) the firmware defaults to cryptographically verifying the image on boot, and has a few bits and pieces designed to make reflashing a trashed or compromised boot volume over the internet or from USB trivial.

      However, either out of niceness or to avoid an arms race with jailbreakers, all ChromeOS-thing firmware has either a physical switch or a key-combo you press on startup that disables all verification and lets

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Can you put Linux on the thing?

      It would be nice to have something I could use to write up blog posts and the like, without having to resort to touchscreen keyboards or breaking out the 5 lb, 17" powerhouse I use for *real* work.

      Linux yes, Windows no (unless it has a BIOS - of which only the Pixel is known to have).

      But unless you use the chroot Linux, it isn't a pleasant experience - developer mode requires you hit a key combo on startup to acknowledge it. if you wait too long (30 seconds) it times out and c

    • The box looks like it is based on the Intel Next Unit of Computing, but at a much lower price point. A bare "kit" of an NUC without a drive is more expensive. It should be able to run Linux after the Chrome bootloader issue is addressed.
      http://www.intel.com/content/w... [intel.com]

    • by dbIII (701233)
      It is linux and has X.
  • That's a perfectly good desktop PC for business. It doesn't need to be set up as a Chromebook. This thing will be powering call centers and other desktops with modest requirements.

    You could probably put Windows 7 Embedded (which is simply a version of Windows that lets you make a distro with unwanted features removed) on it.

    • My experience has been...less pleasant... that the salesguys promised; but somebody kitting out a whitish-collar sweatshop would probably be accessing a terminal server with these (I think both RDP and Citrix are available, not sure about VMware).
  • by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:22PM (#46153969)
    These things might sell quite well to libraries and businesses that need clients for web-based apps. They're also ideal second (or third) machines for households with kids. Maintaining my kid's Windows-based machine takes time and effort and Chrome would do away with that while still allowing him to use the sites and apps that matter the most -- Youtube, Google Apps for homework and gmail. He doesn't need or use much more.
    • Except that no vendor will support it. Unless they get someone like oracle involved that would be willing to mass-port a large number of apps. It's one thing to buy a web app and know it'll work with Chrome OS, it's an entirely different thing to then have problems with that web app... go to your vendor, and have them close your ticket immediately with "Using unsupported OS" which is exactly what they'd do.

      • by swillden (191260)

        go to your vendor, and have them close your ticket immediately with "Using unsupported OS" which is exactly what they'd do.

        Unless there's some funky browser-specificity going on (which is common for older webapps, but becoming less so), you should just be able to reproduce the issue on a supported OS and go back to the vendor with that. If you have apps that don't work on Chrome, of course, Chrome OS is a bad choice.

    • by GezusK (449864)

      We're already rolling out Chromebooks for our 1-to-1 effort for 8th graders. These would be nice to replace aging machines in our libraries (book searches), and our elementary labs (mostly education web sites).

      Then we plan to combine this with a VDI roll-out for those few times they do need a Windows app.

  • Just looks like an ultra low end NUC [newegg.com] with Chrome OS on it.
  • FU Microsoft (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xtal (49134) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @03:42PM (#46154261)

    "Thanks for Windows 8!"

    Heh heh.

    Cheap hardware. No MS tax. Noms.

    • by Drew617 (3034513)

      You better believe there's a Google tax, though. You pay in a less direct way maybe, but it's there.

      No shilling here, I still use Google products where no convenient alternatives exist. But don't allow yourself to believe the services are free.

      Given Google's (as perceived by me) direction lately, I'm to the point where I'd much rather pay cash (to some non-evil entity) for a platform than become their product. Seems like a cool box and a good idea but ChromeOS would keep me from even touching one of thes

  • Hah, unless Google fixes their bandwidth greedy sync engine [google.com] for Google Drive, offering free storage is not much of an incentive...unless the people who buy it have not actually tried to use GD before, I suppose.

    • I fail to see how it's an issue. You run a program that uploads data, and your issue is that it eats up your bandwidth? Seems like a non-issue to me!

      • by CCarrot (1562079)

        I fail to see how it's an issue. You run a program that uploads data, and your issue is that it eats up your bandwidth? Seems like a non-issue to me!

        Except for the fact that DropBox is also 'a program that uploads data', yet they (most sensibly) implemented a user-controllable bandwidth limiter on their desktop client right from day one. Most people don't care if it takes a half hour or three hours to upload that folder full of jpgs, but they do care (very much) if they lose their internet connection entirely while the folder is uploading. Even if it only takes ten minutes at full bandwidth, that tends to piss people off...and is completely unacceptab

  • These things have been around as a niche product for many years. Only difference is Asus is loading Chrome on them, when usually they don't come with anything.

    I always thought they were a bit of a tough sell. 2-400$ where 3-4 you get a netbook, or 4-5 a low end laptop. That come with windows. That come with a monitor. That come with a battery and can be cordless.

    Anyway I don't see this as much of a move, simply another player in a small market.

  • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @05:07PM (#46155543)

    If this type of box was under $100, I would jump on it. At $65 I would buy several. Currently trying to get a BeagleBone Black (when they get stock again) for the same general purpose, but being able to drive a 4k display would be worth a little extra.

  • The Pawn Stars guy won't give you enough for a bus ticket to Reno. Oh NOES!

  • Can you run steam on this . Or load SteamOS if so I think this would be very interesting to have this coupled with steam in home streaming.
  • Surely it would be better to have a TV, with a built in Chromebox?
    As you go up-range on TVs, you get seem to get the same panel, with a prettier frame, and more and more god-awful/useless features.
    In the same way the computer invaded my phone, could they please invade my TV?
    You suddenly get something supported, that can run cross-manufactuer apps etc - and once you've got a CPU and some storage in there, you can start to bolt the tuner/PVR/Guide etc into the OS. Then add in the Google 'cloud' and you'd b
    • TV manufacturers can either:

      1 - Put a real PC on your TVs, something that'll run the software that I want it to run; or
      2 - Sell dumb displays, bonus points if there are hooks where I can fix a computer.

      There is no other option. I (and I'm quite typical in that) will refuse to buy smart TVs unless they fit into #1 there, as I (and I was quite typical by the time) refused to buy smart phones before they fit that too.

  • I have a x501a Asus i3 4 gigs ram and it struggles to play facebook slot machine games like doubledown and doubleu. If you have less than an i7 I guess your boned.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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