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Endless Mission One review: A tiny desktop on a mission

The Endless Mission One wants to give you a great-looking, if limited, desktop PC for less.

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
4 min read

Buying a cheap desktop PC doesn't mean being stuck with a charmless plastic box or sacrificing ports and usability in something as deconstructed as a "stick" PC. In the same under-$300 price range as an Intel Compute Stick or a so-basic-it-hurts desktop box from Dell or HP, you can also get the charmingly quirky Endless Mission One, which starts at $249. (Endless isn't selling this model outside of the US right now, but that works out to around £205 or AU$330.)


Endless Mission One

The Good

The Endless Mission One has a great design, tons of preinstalled software and a killer price.

The Bad

Performance feels painfully slow at times. Most of the USB ports are older USB 2.0 ones. The custom OS greatly limits available software.

The Bottom Line

With a mod design and a rock-bottom price, the Endless Mission One could be a mini desktop for the masses, if not for OS and performance limitations.

This thoroughly mod-feeling desktop looks more like a Tivoli radio than a computer, with a bamboo shell surrounding a white plastic base. The bamboo is sourced from sustainable wood supplies, naturally. This looks like the kind of computer they'd sell at Whole Foods.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There's a catch, of course. Although to some it may be this system's most important feature. Rather than Microsoft's Windows 10 , Apple's MacOS or even Google's Chrome OS, the Endless Mission One runs its own custom operating system, the Linux-based Endless OS. For everyone who's asked us to include Linux PCs in our reviews, you finally have one, although it's a highly customized environment with a UI designed to be very user-friendly, with an almost Android-like look.

That means there's a different bucket of available software to choose from than you might be used to, and for the non-Linux-savvy, that can be intimidating. Fortunately, two things work in your favor. The built-in web browser is Chromium, the open-source version of Google's Chrome browser. That gives you a very familiar interface to work with, plus access to most of the cloud-based tools we use everyday. That includes Gmail, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and all the other things that make up most of what we do on a computer. And, there's already a ton of preinstalled software, including useful information and education apps that will work even when the system is offline.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That feature is a holdover from the original Endless Mini, this system's 2016 predecessor. That was intended for use in developing countries where dependable internet service wasn't a given, so it included an encyclopedia and educational apps packed with all sorts of how-to information. Also included is Libre Office, a very good free productivity suite that works with common Microsoft Office file formats, and even a few games, but don't expect too much from those. Unfortunately, you're restricted to the preinstalled software or whatever you can access as an online cloud-based app through Chromium. There's no easy way to install your own apps.

Interestingly, if you just like the look and feel and functionality of Endless OS, that's available as a free download to install on your own hardware. Also, coming soon is Endless Code, a suite of training tools for teaching young people to write computer software, which will be available for the Endless Mission PCs as well as other platforms.

Endless Mission One

Price as reviewed $249
CPU 1.58GHz Intel Celeron N2807
Memory 2GB DDR3L 1,333MHz
Graphics Intel HD graphics
Storage 500GB HDD
Optical drive None
Networking 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Endless OS

Cutting-edge cube

There's a lot to admire in the simple design of the Mission One. The contrast between the bamboo and the white plastic has a very high-design feel, and even the strategic use of vent holes in the bamboo looks very deliberate and aesthetically balanced.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The clean lines and minimalism fall apart a bit once you start adding cables and connections to the box. There's a power connection, HDMI for your monitor, and, in my case, wireless dongle receivers for a keyboard and mouse. Interesting note: The two-in-one keyboard/mouse combo with a single receiver I usually use wouldn't recognize both peripherals , so I had to use a separate keyboard and mouse, each with its own USB receiver (or I could have just used Bluetooth accessories). That ate up both of the rear USB 2.0 ports, but there's also a USB 3.0 port on the front panel, along with an audio jack and an old-fashioned VGA video output on the right side panel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If the good looks and low price were the only things we were concerned about with the Endless Mission One, it would be an immediate hit. But, like many budget computers, it has one big caveat: It's slow.

And not simply "doesn't perform well on benchmark tests in a lab setting" slow. Everything on the Mission One feels like it takes a few extra beats, from opening files to navigating the OS. Even basic web surfing can veer from perfectly smooth and acceptable to stuttery in a flash. Having a couple of tabs open or streaming HD video also seems to have a big impact. I expected a slightly more robust experience from a PC running a 1.58GHz Intel Celeron N2807 processor (plus 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive), especially as it's running a very "light" OS.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Mission nearly impossible

It's a real challenge, building a fully functional desktop PC for $250 without sacrificing design, performance or usability. The ambitious Endless Mission One scores big points for its overall design -- it not only looks great, it's small enough to sit neatly tucked out of the way on any desk or shelf. It also has just enough ports and connections to be usable, plus a decent amount of storage -- so another, smaller, win there.

It's going to work best as a homework machine for younger kids who might appreciate the expansive preloaded educational material, or as a secondary desktop for less challenging workloads. But the slow performance and lack of support for user-installed software make this less than the universal good-for-everyone cheap desktop it could be.


Endless Mission One

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 6