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

Chromebox: A Complete Platform For $329

Could Samsung’s Chromebox and Google’s Chrome OS come close to realizing the dreams of many IT administrators? Chrome OS is both clean and secure. Its automatic updates alleviate much of the headache tied to locking down Windows-based systems. And a low price tag makes the Chromebox and affordable choice for large-scale deployments. So long as its Web-based software gets the job done, it's easy to imagine these little systems becoming popular in environments in need of basic productivity-oriented apps.

The Chromebox might be a more difficult sell in the mainstream client space. It's basically a $329 nettop, and that price includes software. Awesome. But it also asks you to step outside of your comfort zone. And if you're accustomed to Windows, installing your own updates, and storing your documents locally, it might be challenging to give all of that up for the more restrictive Chrome OS.

Intel's Celeron B840 isn't a particularly powerful piece of hardware, though that shouldn't worry you much. Chrome OS is lean, and everything that comes installed on the Chromebox runs smoothly.

However, this isn't just a story about the look and feel of a hardware platform. Buying a Chromebox means adopting the idea of the cloud. A 16 GB SSD leaves you little space for local storage, so the applications you run and the documents you create all come from and go to Google's servers. You get the benefit of fast access from almost anywhere. In exchange, you might be pushing your personal boundaries on privacy, along with that indescribable tether we all seem to have on our data.

Google’s Web-based gaming demo is a good example of the cloud's potential though. We know you all love to jokingly ask, "But can it play Crysis?" Even on a meager little hardware platform, the answer can be an affirmative. Playing Crysis 2 in a Web browser, free of installation hassles and with decent quality settings, is an impressive feat indeed. Apparently, there are still issues between Gaikai and Chrome OS, but we look forward to the service becoming available.

Application support is improving as well. Citrix Receiver is a good example, allowing Chrome OS users to access Windows programs. This seems aimed at IT departments, enabling access to Windows-based apps on Chrome OS. It also deflects a major criticism that Chrome OS on a nettop PC inhibits employees from getting work done.

The Chromebox can be a legitimately powerful machine in the hands of enthusiasts, too. Google and Samsung anticipated hacking, and our friends at ExtremeTech have detailed instructions for turning the Chromebox into a dual-boot Chrome OS and Linux machine with little fuss. The process is also reversible, preventing you from bricking the machine. Google's Chrome OS isn't the only Linux-based operating system that will run on the Chromebox, either. If you need another environment to work in, it's easy to switch to the free, stable, and popular Ubuntu distro.

  • 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.