Asus Chromebox Review

I purchased the Asus Chromebox i3 with 4GB RAM. I added 8 GB of Crucial RAM and now have a total of 10 GB in the box. Performance was smooth before the memory upgrade, but since the addition of the RAM there is absolutely no lag and I'll be able to dual-boot with Linux with no problems. The Core i3 processor and minimum of 4GB of RAM seems to be the sweet spot for Chrome OS devices (Chromebook & Chromebox).

The i3 Chromebox came with a wireless keyboard an mouse. The keyboard and mouse are OK and it's great to have Chrome OS specific keyboard but the quality of the kit is not worth the $50+ they are being sold for. You would be better served picking up a Logitech or Anker bundle or using peripherals you already own. The Chromebox is hooked up to a 27"Asus IPS monitor and has no problems handling the 2560 x 1440 resolution via HDMI or Display-port. With few exceptions my transition to the Chromebox from my Dell Core i7 Windows 7 desktop has been smooth and uneventful.

Software
Google Docs is a great MS Office replacement and I have found web based applications to replace Visio (Lucidchart) and Project (Smartsheets). While there is a monthly charge the benefit of these apps is that I can access them anywhere and they integrate with Google Drive. This flexibility and ease of collaboration make these apps worth the price.

If you're a Microsoft Office fan, Office 360 and Outlook.com also works great in Chrome OS.

PDF handling is weak in Chrome OS and I haven't yet find an app that is good at merging or editing PDF. I usually do this on my MacBook Pro when needed.

I also stopped using VMware and now use Amazon Web Services for any VMs I need for testing or development. I haven't yet tested the Chromebox with AWS Workspaces (virtual Windows desktop), but plan on doing so in the near future. If this works well I may be able to shut down my Windows workstation completely.

On the rare occasions I need to access Windows I use Chrome Remote Desktop. I use that machine primarily for video rendering and the occasional CD/DVD rip or burn.

I have a Synology NAS and run a Plex server on it. I can watch any movies via Plex for Chrome plug in.

One thing I haven't been able to do with my Chromebox is share my desktop via join.me. I can attend join.me sessions but not share. I can also attend Adobe Connect sessions, but don't know if I could share. Webex does not work on the Chromebook due to lack of Java support and I have not yet tried GoToMeeting.

The Chromebox is also great for managing customer desktops via Logmein Central and supports most USB peripherals. I have had no issues using USB devices. For example, my Audioengine D1 DAC works without issue.

I am considering picking up one of the Celeron based models and installing Linux on it so I can run Plex and Squeezebox server on it and take the load off of my NAS.

Conclusion
If you have good Internet connectivity and are comfortable computing in the cloud, the Chromebox is a capable machine. I find the i3 w/4Gb of RAM to be an ideal set up. I can stream music from Google Play, work with 10+ tabs open, watch video and edit documents with no performance hits.

When I purchased the Chromebox, I initially thought I would try it out and ultimately use it as a media PC on my TV and replace it with a Mac Mini when Apple refreshed them. After using the Chromebox for 6 months I no longer see a need to buy the new Mac Mini and can't see a reason I will ever buy another Windows machine.

The Chromebox or Chromebook may not be for everyone. You need to know your requirements. That said, for the majority of users checking email, social media and basic productivity the Chromebox is a very capable machine.

One last point in this ridiculously long post. I now get angry every time I have to troubleshoot a Windows machine. It is an avoidable and colossal waste of time.

I do not hesitate to recommend Chromebook or Chromebox to anyone looking for an affordable, reliable and flexible computing device.

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