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Asus Chromebit review: An inexpensive Chrome OS PC on a stick

The Asus Chromebit puts the cloud on your TV -- for very little cash.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
5 min read

A handful of Windows 10 laptops now cost less than $200. The tiny Intel Compute Stick, an Atom-powered Windows micro-desktop, is down to $119. Where else can computer prices go when the floor is so close? The latest answer can be found in the Asus Chromebit, a stick-shaped Chrome OS desktop that costs just $85 in the US, £90 in the UK and AU$149 in Australia.


Asus Chromebit

The Good

The Asus Chromebit is a small micro-desktop that brings cloud-based tools and services to any display at a very low price.

The Bad

It's limited to the same online tools as other Chrome OS devices. Minimal onboard storage. A single USB port makes expansion difficult.

The Bottom Line

It won't run Photoshop or play games, but add a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and the Asus Chromebit turns any HDMI-compatible display or television into a Web-surfing station.

When we've seen Chrome OS, Google's PC operating system, presented in a desktop form before, we've called it a Chromebox. That term applies here, but it's also part of the still-new "stick PC" category.

Despite looking like an oversized USB key, the Chromebit has the DNA of a desktop. It requires constant power, lacking any kind of internal battery. It needs to connect to the HDMI input on a TV or monitor, and it needs a separate keyboard and mouse, connected via Bluetooth or a USB dongle (Bluetooth seems like the better idea, there's only a single USB port, so you'll need a two-in-one USB dongle or else a USB hub to cover both a keyboard and mouse).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like other Chrome OS laptops and desktops, the system itself is built to run the Google Chrome Web browser and little else. This is a device intended for cloud-based work, although Chrome OS now has some very basic file management features and the Chromebit can store a small amount of music and movie files in its 16GB of internal storage.

Despite the built-in limitations, the argument for the utility of an online-only computer is a persuasive one. Most email is handled through online services such as Gmail, movies stream through Netflix, Amazon or other services, and work happens in Google Docs or Microsoft's free-to-use online Office apps. There's often little reason to download and install third-party software even on a new Windows PC (something I can attest to, breaking open several fresh Windows laptops and desktops every month). In fact, the only must-have program I download immediately onto new Windows and OS X computers is the Google Chrome browser.

Different than most other ultra-budget PCs we've reviewed, including the Intel Compute Stick and HP Stream 11, the Chromebit runs an ARM-based CPU from Rockchip, a Chinese chip maker. It's cost-cutting move compared to the Intel Atom processors in other low-end computers. We also saw that chip in the Asus Chromebook Flip C100 earlier this year. But it's still fast enough for basic Web surfing, and didn't feel any slower in hands-on use than those Atom-powered $200-and-less Windows computers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The only real problem with the Chromebit is figuring out who it's for. If you need a cheap travel computer, this isn't it, as it requires a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and power source (it might work well for a hotel room or conference room, however). If you're just looking to play streaming video or other media on a TV, the $35 Google Chromecast, among other options, can take care of that as well. If you need a small out-of-the-way desktop, it does the trick, but only as long as you can survive using online tools, and won't need to install new non-cloud-based programs.

But for a narrow slice of Web surfers who want basic surfing and cloud computing in a set-it-and-forget-it stick that plugs into the back of nearly any television, this is an acceptably robust, crash-free way to get that for a price that would have seemed unbelievable just a year or so ago.

Asus Chromebit

Price as reviewed $85
PC CPU 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288-C
Storage 16GB eMMC
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Chrome OS

Design and features

As much as we marveled over the tiny Intel Compute Stick and how small it was for a full Windows desktop with an Intel processor inside, the Asus Chromebit is a smaller, slicker-looking stick PC. Its matte plastic body and rounded edges stand in contrast to the squared-off industrial look of the Compute Stick, which is riddled with tiny vent holes. In contrast, the Chromebit has the polished consumer-friendly look of a Roku Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Early mockup images of the Chromebit showed its end-mounted HDMI output rotating 90 degrees to better fit some monitors. That feature does not appear to have made it to the final version. The HDMI connector sticks straight out from the end, where it's covered by a removable plastic cap and a 1-foot (30cm) HDMI extension cable is included for easier connectivity.

On one edge is a proprietary power connector that leads to a small power brick. On the Intel Compute Stick, power comes through a standard Micro-USB port, which makes it easier to replace if needed. The Compute Stick also includes a microSD card slot, good for expanding the on-board memory. Here you're stuck with 16GB, although it's assumed your photos, files and music will all be stored online, either in Google Drive or another cloud storage service.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connecting the Chromebit to a TV or monitor is easier if you use the included one-foot HDMI extender cable. Asus also includes a small package of adhesive disks you can use to stick the lightweight chassis to the back of your display and out of sight. The Chromebit isn't unattractive by itself, but connected to its power supply, dangling from an HDMI input, and with something potentially sticking out of its USB port, things can get cluttered quickly, so tucking as much as possible out of the way is a good idea.

Ports and connections

Video HDMI
Audio None
Data 1 USB 2.0
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0


We've previously reviewed Chrome OS systems with low-end Intel and ARM processors, mid-range Intel Core i3 chips, and even custom Nvidia CPU/GPU combos. The best thing we can say about the Rockchip-branded processor here is that in everyday Web-surfing and office productivity use, you'll probably forget it's even there.

Streaming HD video worked well, although loading up a movie from Google's own Play store took several seconds to commence each time. Opening a half-dozen simultaneous browser windows, including email, word processing, Google searches and light photo editing via Pixlr, presented no problem.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For more intensive tasks, you may be pushing the limit of the hardware, but in head-to-head browser-based tests it was only slightly slower than the Atom-powered HP Stream 11 laptop, and both were much faster than the Intel Compute Stick, which can be very sluggish in real-world use. The thing about the Chromebit that makes it feel even faster than the scores would suggest is its instant-on booting, while the Intel Compute Stick, for example, always feels like it takes forever to boot up.


Just when you think the steadily dropping price of Windows-based laptops and micro-desktops has made the idea of Chrome OS obsolete, you get something like the Asus Chromebit. It undercuts everything this side of a Chromecast on price, and when connected to a monitor and used for casual online tasks, you'd no doubt say it feels like a lot more than $85 worth of computer.

But it still suffers from the same identity crisis as other online-only Chrome systems, even more so because you can't use it as a cheap on-the-go laptop. I like the Chromebit, but it will only be the right machine for a small slice of shoppers.

Google Octane

HP Stream 11 7685Asus Chromebit 7464Intel Compute Stick 3019
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance


HP Stream 11 53.19Asus Chromebit 44.05Intel Compute Stick 24.4
Note: longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Asus Chromebit Chrome OS; 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288-C; 2GB RAM; 16GB SSD
HP Stream 11 Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit); 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD
Intel Compute Stick Microsoft Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD

Asus Chromebit

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7