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

Score:
7.five/10
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  • 1 – Absolute Sizzling Rubbish
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Rubbish
  • three – Strongly Unsuitable Design
  • four – Some Professionals, Loads Of Cons
  • five – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Excellent Sufficient to Purchase On Sale
  • 7 – Nice, However No longer Easiest-In-Magnificence
  • eight – Improbable, with Some Footnotes
  • nine – Close Up And Take My Cash
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Value: $489

ASUS

Chromebooks are terrific, and their numbers have exploded all the way through the pandemic with many colleges and places of work requiring them. With a plethora of browser-based programs, they function the very best gadgets for somebody who must paintings or learn about from anyplace.

Here is What We Like

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

And What We Do not

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

However they have got their downsides as smartly. 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 hard,

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 best of Linux) relatively than Home windows, and function totally in an web browser, normally operating programs within the cloud, relatively than in the community at the software.

Desk of Contents

When You Want Extra Than a Chromebook

Bodily, the Chromebox four is a very-small-form-factor desktop PC, measuring best 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 specific style I won for evaluation has an Intel Core i3 processor, however the unit will 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 shall be effective, balancing just right efficiency in opposition to cheap value. My evaluation 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 must be sufficient to help you run maximum programs it’s essential 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 are feeling you wish to have or want extra capacity and tool, 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 if you happen to don’t plan on actually operating the Chromebox exhausting.

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 operating out of steam with a dozen tabs open and operating 3 or 4 Android apps on best of it (which I didn’t revel in in my checking 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 snappy 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 toes at the backside panel. Ted Needleman

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

Image of two SO-DIMM sockets on motherboard
There are two SO-DIMM sockets at the motherboard, recently stuffed with 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 supply of plenty of ports. The rear panel of the Chromebox has twin HDMI ports, every able to using a 4K show. And if you want greater than two screens, the USB-C port, additionally at the rear panel, allows you to force an extra show when utilized in DisplayPort mode or can function in energy supply mode, handing over as much as 15 watts to price a telephone. It additionally works simply effective with USB-C hubs and exterior disk drives and Thunderbolt gadgets.

Two of those ports, USB three.2 Gen 2 Sort-A, are positioned at the Chromebox’s entrance panel together with a microSD slot and headphone/mic jack. The ability transfer could also be at the entrance panel, all of the approach at the right-hand facet. The front-mounted USB ports will also be used to price gadgets, similar 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 without delay underneath the USB-C port, and there’s even a slot for a Kensington lock cable so nobody 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 when you have the room (and the funds) 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 variety of Energy, Too

Whilst a 10th era Core i3 processor operating at 2.1 GHz doesn’t sound all that robust, I had no hassle operating 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 millions of apps of a wide variety to be had totally free or only some greenbacks.

Why No longer Simply Purchase a Reasonable Home windows System?

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 relatively than staying with the Home windows that many people are already accustomed to? One reason why is length—an equivalently priced and configured i3 desktop is normally going to be a mid-tower style, relatively 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 gadget 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 nearly $50 extra. And the Chromebox is sufficiently small to make use of with the incorporated VESA adapter and mount at the rear of maximum screens, liberating up much more table area if wanted.

Different causes to move with the Chrome OS over Home windows are balance, usability, and availability of a large number of Android apps. Home windows, particularly today, has a tendency to wish 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 continuously, too, however it’s a quick seamless procedure.

Chrome OS additionally has a tendency to be just a little more straightforward for lots of customers to function. Energy on, open the Chrome browser, and get to paintings. There’s a fable that you’ll be able to’t use a Chromebook (or Chromebox) if the web is going down. Whilst that’s quite true in case you are operating cloud-based apps, different apps (particularly Google Medical doctors) run simply effective in the community.

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

In the end, one closing reason why to imagine a transfer to a Chrome OS software is that many colleges and schools are the usage of apps that run on a Chrome browser. In plenty of instances, those will run higher on a Chrome OS gadget relatively than in a Chrome browser in Home windows.

Best for the Complete Circle of relatives

Scholars is also a chief marketplace for Chrome-based PCs, whether or not in laptop computer variety or, as with the Chromebox four, desktop layout. However with increasingly more different circle of relatives and industry programs operating within the cloud, browser-based computing, similar to the ones to be had with Chromebooks or the Chromebox four I reviewed, make increasingly more sense. Upload to that the supply of hundreds of Android and Chrome apps, and it’s a positive wager you and your circle of relatives will to find various puts to make use of the Chromebox four.

Remember the fact that many Android apps had been designed for use with a marginally display. In lots of instances, those will paintings simply effective, and I had no hassle the usage of a mouse with the half-dozen varied Android apps I ran, however your mileage (and revel in) is also other. So, you’ll wish to take an in depth have a look at what you might be operating and what apps you suppose it’s possible you’ll wish to run to decide if you happen to’ll omit having a marginally display.

In fact, if you happen to’re used to running at the kitchen desk, this micro desktop might not be your best option. In that scenario, a standard Chromebook or laptop computer could be a better option. A good i3 or i5-based Chromebook will run about the similar worth 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 actually saving a lot, if anything else, through going the Chromebox direction relatively than striking full-size peripherals on a Chromebook. The actual 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 smartly with the programs you want however you’re simply uninterested in squinting on the display (and/or when 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 annoying. And if area in your table is at a top rate, imagine mounting the Chromebox four to the again of the observe the usage of the incorporated VESA mount. It’s much less handy than having all of the ports to be had correct there in your table, however it’s so much like having an all-in-one that runs Chrome OS.

With both method, for roughly the similar worth as a top rate Chromebook, you get the advantages of a high-end Chrome-based laptop computer (plenty of RAM and SSD garage), together with the easier usability of a desktop. And whilst a Chromebook or Chromebox just like the Asus Chromebox four isn’t best for each person, it’s very a lot price taking into consideration if it’s time to improve or upload a brand new gadget on your stock.

Score: 7.five/10

Value: $489

Right here’s What We Like

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

And What We Do not

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

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