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ASUS Chromebox 4 Review: When a Chromebook Isn't Big Enough

Ranking:
7.five/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Sizzling Rubbish
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Rubbish
  • three – Strongly Wrong Design
  • four – Some Execs, Loads Of Cons
  • five – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Excellent Sufficient to Purchase On Sale
  • 7 – Nice, However Now not Easiest-In-Elegance
  • eight – Unbelievable, with Some Footnotes
  • nine – Close Up And Take My Cash
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Worth: $489

The ASUS Chromebox 4 and all included hardware
ASUS

Chromebooks are terrific, and their numbers have exploded all over the pandemic with many colleges and workplaces requiring them. With a plethora of browser-based packages, they function the very best gadgets for any person who must paintings or find out about from anyplace.

Here is What We Like

  • Helps as much as 3 4K screens
  • Extra RAM and SSD capability than many Chromebooks
  • Loads of ports
  • Base style is expandable to 16GB of RAM

And What We Do not

  • Want to upload keyboard, mouse, and track
  • Dear when totally configured

However they have got their downsides as neatly. The obvious one is the small display and keyboard when in comparison to maximum desktop PCs. Spending hours on finish having a look at an 11- to 14-inch display and typing on a laptop-size keyboard is bodily arduous,

That’s the place a Chromebox suits in. A Chromebox is largely a desktop that’s designed to run the Chrome OS (which is constructed on most sensible of Linux) somewhat than Home windows, and function totally in an web browser, usually working packages within the cloud, somewhat than in the neighborhood at the instrument.

Desk of Contents

When You Want Extra Than a Chromebook

Bodily, the Chromebox four is a very-small-form-factor desktop PC, measuring most effective five.75 inches sq. and 1.five inches excessive.

Image of a mouse laying on top of the Chromebox
The Chromebox four isn’t a lot higher than the mouse you’ll use with it. Ted Needleman

The precise style I won for assessment has an Intel Core i3 processor, however the unit may also be configured with CPUs starting from a Celeron to a Core i7, relying in your wishes. For many customers, the Core i3 style I reviewed can be fantastic, balancing just right efficiency towards cheap value. My assessment unit additionally got here configured with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB M.2 SSD. You’ll be able to additionally purchase one with 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD put in. That’s as a lot reminiscence as you’ll get in lots of Chromebooks, and will have to be sufficient to mean you can run maximum packages you might want to run on a Chromebook.

That’s very true for the reason that you’ll be able to run many Android apps to be had within the Google Play retailer in addition to the Google Chrome retailer. Once more, if you’re feeling you need or want extra capacity and gear, the Chromebox four is to be had with a Core i5 or i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a detachable 256GB M.2 SSD. You’ll be able to additionally pass all the way down to a Celeron CPU in the event you don’t plan on in point of fact working the Chromebox laborious.

Specifications As Reviewed:

  • CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core™ i3-10110U Processor, (2 cores, four threads,  2.1 GHz (4M Cache, as much as four.1 GHz with TurboBoost)
  • Graphics: Built-in Intel HD Graphics
  • Reminiscence: 8GB (in 4GB SO-DIMMs)
  • Garage: 128G M.2 SATA SSD
  • Wi-fi Knowledge Community: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth five.zero
  • LAN: Gigabit LAN, Realtek® RTL8111H-CG
  • I/O Ports: five x USB three.2 Gen2,  2 x USB three.2 Gen1, 1 x USB three.2 Gen1 Sort-C (PowerDelivery/DisplayPort 1.four),  2 x HDMI 2.zero, 1 x LAN (RJ45) Port, 1 x Audio Jack (Combo Mic/Headphone Jack), 1x Micro SD card slot, Kensington Lock slot
  • Energy Provide: 19Vdc, four.74A, 90W Energy Adapter
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 148.five x 148.five x 40 mm
  • Weight: 1.0KG

In case you appear to be working out of steam with a dozen tabs open and working 3 or 4 Android apps on most sensible of it (which I didn’t enjoy in my trying out), you’ll be able to open the unit (4 tiny screws at the backside are lined with pasted-on rubber bumper), and as soon as open, carry out a handy guide a rough and simple reminiscence improve.

Photo of bottom of Chromebox with arrows pointing out where case screws are located
To open the Chromebox four, there are 4 tiny screws underneath the rubber ft at the backside panel. Ted Needleman

The Chromebox four has two SO-DIMM sockets. Within the style I reviewed, each have been crammed via 4GB SO-DIMMs. Swapping out the 2 4GB SO-DIMMs for 2 8GB SO-DIMMs will have to value about $80.

Image of two SO-DIMM sockets on motherboard
There are two SO-DIMM sockets at the motherboard, lately full of 4GB RAM chips, that may be swapped out with two 8GB SO-DIMMs.Ted Needleman

Ports o’ Lots

One actual good thing about a Chromebox, and the Asus Chromebox four specifically, is the provision of quite a lot of ports. The rear panel of the Chromebox has twin HDMI ports, each and every in a position to riding a 4K show. And if you wish to have greater than two screens, the USB-C port, additionally at the rear panel, means that you can power an extra show when utilized in DisplayPort mode or can function in energy supply mode, turning in as much as 15 watts to rate a telephone. It additionally works simply fantastic with USB-C hubs and exterior disk drives and Thunderbolt gadgets.

Two of those ports, USB three.2 Gen 2 Sort-A, are situated at the Chromebox’s entrance panel along side a microSD slot and headphone/mic jack. The ability transfer may be at the entrance panel, the entire method at the right-hand facet. The front-mounted USB ports can be used to rate gadgets, equivalent to a telephone or pill, and even attach a USB printer.

Photo of Chromebox 4's front panel showing ports, SD Card slot and headphone/mic jack
The Chromebox four’s entrance panel. Ted Needleman

The rear panel is the place nearly all of the ports are living. Along with an RJ-45 Ethernet jack, there are 3 USB three.2 Gen 2 Sort-A ports, two usual HDMI ports, and a USB-C port which helps energy supply. The ability provide plugs in immediately underneath the USB-C port, and there’s even a slot for a Kensington lock cable so no person can transfer the Chromebox out of your table. With the 2 HDMI ports and the USB-C port, which additionally works as a DisplayPort, you’ll be able to run as much as 3 4K shows in case you have the room (and the finances) for them.

Image of Chromebox 4's rear panel showing USB-A and USB-C ports, Ethernet port, and Kensington lock port
The rear panel is loaded with ports and a Kensington lock in addition to an Ethernet jack. Ted Needleman

A number of Energy, Too

Whilst a 10th technology Core i3 processor working at 2.1 GHz doesn’t sound all that tough, I had no hassle working 4 Android apps with 8 open tabs at the browser.

One actual plus in the usage of a Chromebox (or Chromebook) is that they may be able to run many Android apps in addition to Chrome apps and browser extensions. Simply signal into the Google Play Retailer or the Chrome retailer, and there are thousands of apps of a wide variety to be had without spending a dime or only some dollars.

Why Now not Simply Purchase a Reasonable Home windows Device?

For the reason that the Asus Chromebox four prices about the similar factor as an equivalently configured i3 Home windows-based desktop, why pass the Chrome OS direction somewhat than staying with the Home windows that many people are already aware of? One reason why is length—an equivalently priced and configured i3 desktop is usually going to be a mid-tower style, somewhat than the compact length of the Chromebox four. In case you don’t have a lot desktop actual property, a in a similar way sized and configured Home windows system is ceaselessly going to price considerably greater than the Chromebox. For instance, the MSI Cubi five 10M Desktop is more or less the similar length because the Asus Chromebox four, with the same quantity of RAM and similar SSD, however prices virtually $50 extra. And the Chromebox is sufficiently small to make use of with the integrated VESA adapter and mount at the rear of maximum screens, releasing up much more table area if wanted.

Different causes to move with the Chrome OS over Home windows are steadiness, usability, and availability of a large number of Android apps. Home windows, particularly lately, has a tendency to want common updates, and there are many horror tales of Home windows updates inflicting knowledge loss and different issues. Chrome OS will get up to date steadily, too, nevertheless it’s a quick seamless procedure.

Chrome OS additionally has a tendency to be a bit of more straightforward for lots of customers to function. Energy on, open the Chrome browser, and get to paintings. There’s a delusion that you’ll be able to’t use a Chromebook (or Chromebox) if the web is going down. Whilst that’s reasonably true in case you are working cloud-based apps, different apps (significantly Google Medical doctors) run simply fantastic in the neighborhood.

Moreover, many apps run sooner at the Chrome OS just because there are fewer background processes taking on system assets. And Home windows can’t profit from the hundreds of Android apps that run on Chrome OS … although Chrome OS can’t natively run Home windows packages, both.

In spite of everything, one final reason why to imagine a transfer to a Chrome OS instrument is that many colleges and schools are the usage of apps that run on a Chrome browser. In quite a lot of instances, those will run higher on a Chrome OS system somewhat than in a Chrome browser in Home windows.

Easiest for the Entire Circle of relatives

Scholars could also be a primary marketplace for Chrome-based PCs, whether or not in laptop computer variety or, as with the Chromebox four, desktop layout. However with increasingly different circle of relatives and industry packages working within the cloud, browser-based computing, equivalent to the ones to be had with Chromebooks or the Chromebox four I reviewed, make increasingly sense. Upload to that the provision of hundreds of Android and Chrome apps, and it’s a positive guess you and your circle of relatives will to find a variety of puts to make use of the Chromebox four.

Remember the fact that many Android apps have been designed for use with a slightly display. In lots of instances, those will paintings simply fantastic, and I had no hassle the usage of a mouse with the half-dozen varied Android apps I ran, however your mileage (and enjoy) could also be other. So, you’ll wish to take an in depth have a look at what you’re working and what apps you assume you could wish to run to resolve in the event you’ll leave out having a slightly display.

After all, in the event you’re used to operating at the kitchen desk, this micro desktop may not be your best choice. In that scenario, an ordinary Chromebook or laptop computer can be a better option. A tight i3 or i5-based Chromebook will run about the similar value because the $449 Chromebox four. And including a big show, huge keyboard, and mouse to a Chromebook will value the similar as including them to the Chromebox four. You’re now not in point of fact saving a lot, if anything else, via going the Chromebox direction somewhat than placing full-size peripherals on a Chromebook. The real advantages are ease of use, user-expandability, and a ton of ports–greater than you’ll to find in maximum Chromebooks.

Showing the Chromebox 4's vesa mount on a monitor
ASUS

In case you’ve been the usage of a Chromebook that works neatly with the packages you wish to have however you’re simply bored with squinting on the display (and/or in case you have large fats hands like I do), the Chromebox four and a tight keyboard mouse, and show will make issues so much much less irritating. And if area in your table is at a top class, imagine mounting the Chromebox four to the again of the track the usage of the integrated VESA mount. It’s much less handy than having the entire ports to be had appropriate there in your table, nevertheless it’s so much like having an all-in-one that runs Chrome OS.

With both method, for approximately the similar value as a top class Chromebook, you get the advantages of a high-end Chrome-based laptop computer (quite a lot of RAM and SSD garage), along side the simpler usability of a desktop. And whilst a Chromebook or Chromebox just like the Asus Chromebox four isn’t best for each consumer, it’s very a lot price bearing in mind if it’s time to improve or upload a brand new system in your stock.

Ranking: 7.five/10

Worth: $489

Right here’s What We Like

  • Helps as much as 3 4K screens
  • Extra RAM and SSD capability than many Chromebooks
  • Loads of ports
  • Base style is expandable to 16GB of RAM

And What We Do not

  • Want to upload keyboard, mouse, and track
  • Dear when totally configured

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