Asus is launching its first computer designed to run Google’s Chrome operating system. The Asus Chromebox is a tiny desktop computer that measures less than 4.9″ x 4.9″ x 1.7″ but it packs a lot into that space.
The Chromebox features an Intel Haswell processor, Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band WiFi, and a starting price of just $179.
For $179 you get a model with an Intel Celeron 2955U processor. Asus also plans to offer a model with a Core i3-4010U processor in the United States, but pricing hasn’t yet been set for that model. The company will offer a version with an Intel Core i7-4600U CPU in select markets.
All three models features 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI and DisplayPort, 4 USB 3.0 ports, a headset jack, and an SD card slot.
Asus tells me the case will be fanless.
Update: Asus decided to include a fan after all, but I’m told it will run quietly and infrequently.
Asus it outfitting the little PCs with 16GB of solid state storage and up to 4GB of RAM, although the entry-level model will have just 2GB. Google will provide customers with 100GB of cloud storage with Google Drive for free for 2 years.
Like other devices running Chrome OS, the Asus Chromebox is designed primarily to run web apps — although web apps have come a long way in recent years. You can do everything from editing multimedia projects to composing documents using web apps, and many Chrome apps can also be downloaded and saved for offline use so you can play games or edit documents even without an internet connection.
So far PC makers have offered more Chromebook laptops than Chromebox desktops. But Samsung has been offering Chrome desktops for a few years and LG recently introduced a ChromeStation all-in-one desktop. Asus seems to agree that Chrome is ready for desktop use — at least in some situations.
The company says the Asus Chromebox is aimed at “business, education, and home.” It could make an interesting alternative to a Roku for streaming content from internet video sites, for instance. Or you could set it up as an inexpensive kiosk-style system by setting the homepage to a website or web app. Asus will include a VESA mount that you can use to attach the Chromebox to the back of a TV or monitor.
I suspect plenty of Liliputing readers will be interested for another reason: With a starting price of $179 and Chrome hardware’s proven track record of allowing support for Ubuntu and other Linux distributions, this could be a small, cheap, hacker-friendly computer.
Asus will also offer optional accessories including a wireless keyboard and mouse.
The Asus Chromebox is expected to be available in North America in March.