Fast, Small, And Complete? Samsung's $329 Chromebox

What's Inside The Chromebox?

Click to View Picture Gallery

Inside the Chromebox you'll find:

  • Intel Celeron B840 (Sandy Bridge, 1.9 GHz, 2C/2T, 2 MB Shared L3 Cache, 35 W TDP)
  • 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) DDR3-1066 RAM
  • Built-in dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Six USB 2.0 Ports
  • 2 x DisplayPort Outputs (compatible with HDMI, DVI, VGA)
  • 1 x Single-Link DVI-I Output (VGA compatible)
  • Bluetooth 3.0-compatible
  • Kensington Key Lock-compatible

Retail Chromeboxes ship with Intel's Celeron B840 processor, a Sandy Bridge-based dual-core chip operating at 1.9 GHz. It doesn't employ Hyper-Threading, and it doesn't benefit from Turbo Boost. Quick Sync and AES-NI are also disabled on the B840. Systems with the Celeron inside are identified by the model number XE300M22-A01US.

However, the evaluation units that Google handed out at I/O 2012, which look identical, actually come with a faster Core i5-2450M. They bear the model number XE300M22-A02US. You'll find plenty of Ebay and Craigslist entries for the i5-equipped version, but it's not clear if they'll ever surface at retail. Newegg did have a very brief online listing for the XE300M22-A02US that lasted about 30 minutes (with a $500 price tag), but that could have been a fluke. We're still waiting to hear from Samsung or Google about future availability.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ComparisonCore i5-540MCeleron B840Core i5-2450M
ArchitectureArrandaleSandy BridgeSandy Bridge
Graphics CoreHD Graphics(Ironlake)HD Graphics(Sandy Bridge)HD Graphics 3000(Sandy Bridge)
Graphics Clock (MHz)500–766350–1000650–1300
Execution Units12612
Hardware-Accelerated DecodingYesNoYes
Quick SyncNoNoYes

The difference between both models is important for several reasons. Although both CPUs are dual-core models, the Core i5 does enjoy Hyper-Threading, Turbo Boost, higher clocks, more L3 cache, Quick Sync, and an HD Graphics 3000 engine. Although the Celeron is a Sandy Bridge-based chip, its HD Graphics core is more akin to Intel's older Arrandale design.

As a result of Intel's nomenclature, however, this opens the door to plenty of confusion. The Arrandale-based Core i5-540M, for instance, has Ironlake graphics with 12 execution units and support for hardware-accelerated video decoding. It's branded as HD Graphics, though. The Celeron B840, also bearing the HD Graphics label, comes with half as many EUs, though they run up to twice as fast. But the Celeron can't accelerate video decoding, nor does it include Quick Sync support.

Of course, the difference may not account to much at the end of the day, since many of those features rely on software to take advantage of them. And the Chromebox isn't being positioned as a gaming platform anyway, de-emphasizing the importance of graphics resources.

There aren't many ways to upgrade the Chromebox, unfortunately. Under the hood, you'll find two mSATA slots, one of which is populated by a 16 GB SSD. Dropping in a second drive is probably cost-prohibitive, since solid-state capacity still sells for more than $1/GB in mSATA trim. Realistically, it's most cost-effective to purchase an external USB-based hard drive if you want more space.

  • ikyung
    Seems like these boxes will fill the niche computer users who wants small form factors to carry around, etc. But, seems like they can add in USB/HDMI connectors into smartphones and turn it into a full fledge computers one day in the future.
  • boletus
    How can this possibly compete with a $400 laptop, which includes a screen, keyboard, at least a 320 GB hardrive, Windows, and sound? Yeah you have to get a word processor program etc, but there are free options for that. And you can use it on the bus, and hook up external displays, and read/burn DVD's,.... I've seen AMD A8 series laptops for $450, and they can even play real games. How is this worth its price? Am I missing something?
  • "sudo (a program enabling the installation of any generic Linux application)" please do some basic research before writing such nonsense.
    For example the first line on Wikipedia states:
    sudo is a program for Unix-like computer operating systems that allows users to run programs with the security privileges of another user (normally the superuser, or root). Its name is a concatenation of the su command (which grants the user a shell of another user, normally the superuser) and "do", or take action.
  • rootheday
    The article says:
    "But the Celeron can't accelerate video decoding, nor does it include Quick Sync support. "

    This is a common misunderstanding - the Celeron and Pentium Sandybridge parts disable Quick Sync and some video post processing features (branded as ClearVideo HD) but the hardware accelerated decode is there across the board (Celeron/Pentium/Core)
  • palladin9479
    On the other hand, many of us still prefer the perceived security and privacy of information stored in our own systems and backed up to drives where only we have access to them.

    I take offense at this. "Cloud" storage of data is by definition less secure then local storage. Security is done in multiple layers, physical security is one of those layers, arguable the most important. Giving your data to someone else to store is dangerous unless your ~really~ know that person, giving your data to an unknown person via a third party profit orientated entity is extremely dangerous without a legal team in place to secure your best interests.

    It's not just "perceived", it's real and tangible. Now we're talking about an online media player / browsing device, very small change of you storing anything personal on it. Anything you do store in "the cloud" will be analyzed by someone "not you". Just hope it doesn't try to store browsing history or media history on "the cloud".
  • Onus
    ^Exactly. I can't take this device seriously. We need to ignore third parties with their own interests in mind urging use to "use the Cloud!" no matter how easy it seems.
    That "perceived security" comment was pretty darned offensive...
  • johnners2981
    jtt283^Exactly. I can't take this device seriously. We need to ignore third parties with their own interests in mind urging use to "use the Cloud!" no matter how easy it seems.That "perceived security" comment was pretty darned offensive...
    Here, have a tissue...
  • belardo
    Its a cute little box, but even I don't understand its pricing. For a client, this is what I picked up at a local store for $350 (on sale):
    Lenovo G-Series (bottom end) i3-2x00 notebook with 4GB RAM / Windows 7 64bit / 320GB HD / 15" screen. Very little junkware.

    At Costco: $430
    HP Desktop with AMD A6 (bottom end quad core) with 4GB RAM / Win7 64bit / 500GB HD / 23" LCD display, crappy mouse and keyboard. The desktop is of course slower on CPU but faster on GPU.

    Its great that we have ChromOS hardware coming out... but it should be $25~50 cheaper than a Windows 7 on software alone.

    With Windows8 coming out soon, this is a good time to have alternatives available. Would like to see a bigger push with Linux somehow.
  • lamorpa
    palladin9479..."Cloud" storage of data is by definition less secure then local storage.Then local storage what? If "Cloud" storage of data is by definition less secure, then local storage can be used? (then/than - different words, different meanings, different uses)
  • JeanLuc
    I'm trying to workout why Google went with an Intel hardware setup when an ARM based SOC would have more then surficied for the purposes for which this sort of device caters for. Less power, less heat and most likely a whole lot cheaper.