The Asus Chromebit is a tiny stick that you can plug into the HDMI port of your TV to run Chrome OS on a big screen. It’s the first device of its type to ship with Chrome OS, although we’ve seen similarly-sized PC-on-a-stick products running Android and Windows.
Asus first unveiled its Chromebit in March, and now the company is getting ready to begin selling it in the US and parts of Europe, Asia, and a handful of other countries. It will sell for about $85, which makes it cheaper than a Windows PC stick but more expensive than many Android models.
It’s also more than twice the price of a media-streaming device like an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast.
So is the Chromebit any good? That depends on who you ask… and what you expect it to do.
On the one hand, the hardware looks respectable. The pocket-sized computer features a Rockchip RK3288 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, fanless design, and support for dual-band 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Unlike some other models in this space there’s no microSD card slot.
Since it runs the same software as a Chromebook, you can use it to view just about any websites or run just about any Chrome Web Apps that you’d use on a Chrome OS laptop. That means it supports Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play Movies, and much more.
But since it has a desktop/notebook-style operating system, you’ll need a keyboard and mouse to navigate. You can use a Bluetooth model or pick up a keyboard & touchpad combo like the $20 Logitech K400 and plug the wireless receiver dongle into the single USB port on the Chromebit.
If you’re hoping for an easy-to-use, media-centric user interface you’re probably better off with a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV Stick. All of those products come with a remote control, while the Chromebit is basically useless until you plug in a keyboard and mouse.
But if you’re looking for a device that lets you surf the web, edit documents (using Google Docs or Office Web apps, for instance), play casual games, and do much more, the Chromebit might be a more versatile option. It doesn’t just turn your TV into an internet media streamer. It turns it into a PC.
Some of the first reviews are coming in, and TechCrunch figures the Chromebit makes more sense in education or enterprise settings than in your living room. According to CNET, the device had no problems streaming HD video or opening a half dozen browser tabs at once. PC World notes that 4K video is a non-starter, but 1440p video plays smoothly.
Engadget finds that Chrome OS is a good fit for this type of small, low-power device, because the relatively simple operating system is designed not to be too resource-intensive, and Chrome OS doesn’t seem significantly hampered by the Chromebit hardware the way Windows can feel on an Intel Compute Stick with limited memory, storage, and processing power.
Android Central notes that the Chromebit works reasonably well if you use it as a desktop, but that it can get a bit sluggish if you ask it to do too much at once. And if you need more than one USB port you could plug in a hub… or you could just spend a little more money on a Chromebox with more ports and more powerful hardware.
via Android Central