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.

Asus Chromebox

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.

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28 replies on “Asus Chromebox is a tiny, Chrome OS desktop for $179 and up”

    1. Yeah, I saw that… but I’m skeptical. Several stores have listings, but most show it as not in stock. I suspect the one that does say it’s in stock is jumping the gun.

  1. I’m interested to see what the upgraded versions cost. I might be in for one to switch over to Linux for the right price

  2. What are the prices for M.2 SSDs now? I’d like to make this into a Linux box. By Linux I mean not Chrome OS even though it’s still Linux.

    I hope I don’t have to do anything special to get normal distro ISOs to boot and install. If so, I’ll pass on this and just get a NUC.

    1. I doubt these will support M.2 SSDs. I suspect they will be running something like a SanDisk iNAND eMMC chip.

  3. I would like to see a comparison between this and the Zotac Android/Linux boxes. The NUC is also very price competitive and has a lot more OS options.

  4. Of course the first cheap fanless Haswell mini-PCs are running a gimped OS and only seem to have support for ultrabook-sized M2 SSDs. And yes, I’ve installed Linux on a Chromebook before and it was a clunky process.

  5. I think small and affordable is a good combination.
    It will be interesting to see how many will try installing different operating systems on it. I have seen a thread at the forum at http://www.os2world.com and http://www.reactos.org where there were those who tried succesfully installing a different operating on a ChromeBook. Perhaps the same method could be applied to a ChromeBox?

  6. Oh yes! As soon as these have been proven to be able to run linux well I will be buying one!

    1. I have seen threads at forums where they put Linux and other operating systems on a Chromebook and they were succesful. Perhaps the same way it was done on a Chromebook, one could do it with a ChromeBox?

    2. If I can just create a regular Linux install USB and install Linux like on any other x86 device then I’ll buy one of these as well (ie. no special installations like on Chromebooks). That is, if all the hardware are working well.

      1. It’d be nice if ASUS releases a barebones version with a regular BIOS/UEFI that can boot a Linux distro’s regular ISO and install Linux. If I have to rely on workarounds like on Chromebooks, I’ll also pass on this.

        1. Latest x86 chromebooks [ Acer c720 for instance ] do not need workarounds as such, you just need to enable developer mode and boot from your USB thumb drive

  7. Why a display port AND HDMI? Don’t you typically use one or the other?

    1. Chrome OS *does* support dual displays, so it’s actually nice to see Asus do this. Makes it a bit more work-friendly.

      1. That makes sense. Thanks! Still wondering why it wouldn’t be two HDMI outputs though.

      1. Yeah, my question was mostly on the other side of the cable. Most usage I’ve seen of Displayport are going to an HDMI connection on the other side. Are there that many displays these days that support some kind of DisplayPort connection without HDMI? If not, then wouldn’t two HDMI ports be better?

          1. Thanks all. I learned a lot more about DisplayPort today. Good stuff.

    2. It gives versatility to users when it comes to max resolutions and refresh rate.
      DisplayPort: 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz
      HDMI: 4096×2304 @ 24 Hz or 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz

      The maximum color depth also different. I don’t recall what they are.

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