Asus Chromebox review: Very good Chrome OS starting point

MSRP: $179.00

The Good The Asus Chromebox puts the Cloud-based world of Google's Chrome OS into a compact, attractive black box. For its low starting price, you get a decent performance for everyday tasks and a good assortment of ports and connections.

The Bad You need to supply your own keyboard and mouse, which might not be as easy as it sounds. Only 16GB of storage might turn off some potential users, while power users will want to step up to the Core i3 version.

The Bottom Line If you're looking to get started in the world of Chrome OS, the Asus Chromebox is a very good starting point--so long as you don't mind bringing your own peripherals.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

The Asus Chromebox is one of those products that does what it says and says what it does: It's a box that runs Chrome OS, Google's Web-based operating system.

The key benefits for Chromeboxes and their mobile counterparts, Chromebooks, are that they boot in seconds; they have built-in virus protection that's automatically updated, as is the whole OS; they're secure and can easily be managed; and there is an ever-growing world of Web apps to use.

That said, using Chrome can be freeing as well as frustrating, so it's really not for everyone. But, if you think you're ready to move on from a traditional OS -- even if it's just as a secondary computer -- the Asus Chromebox is a good place to start.

Measuring only 4.9 inches wide by 4.9 inches deep by 1.65 inches thick, the little box can easily be tucked away behind a display, and a mounting bracket is included. Despite the low starting price, it looks nice and feels solid.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Unlike a Chromebook, you'll need to bring your own keyboard, mouse, and display to this party. This Chromebox has a full-size HDMI port and DisplayPort on its back, as well as four USB 3.0 ports -- two on front and two on back.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Controls for adjusting, rotating, and aligning your display are found inside the Chrome browser settings. I tested it on two different TVs and a computer monitor, and they all worked fine. However, if there's a desktop application you use for adjusting specific monitor settings, you're probably out of luck.

The same goes for mice and keyboards. Windows and Mac USB mice and keyboards are supported and basic functions work without fail. I also connected a Logitech desktop set that uses a Unifying adapter and those worked fine, too, but you'll lose the capability to program them since that requires Logitech's software. As with displays, though, there are basic settings available in Chrome's settings menus.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Chromebox does have built-in Bluetooth 4.0, which can be used to connect to Bluetooth keyboards and mice. I was able to get a basic mouse working, but couldn't get my keyboard to function, so your mileage may vary. Asus will have a $50 wireless keyboard and mouse set available if you want a keyboard designed for Chrome use.