Its time to put Windows (Microsoft) and OSX (Apple) firmly out of your mind when it comes to buying a new computer, yes that’s right, you don’t need a windows computer nor do you need the latest Apple Mac.
Let me clarify something first of all, I will presume that you are not an advanced computer user who uses specialist software, this isn’t for you, not currently anyway. Google has 2 major operating systems; Chrome and Android, both operating systems are nothing but excellent. Android is the most widely operating system in the world for mobile devices and it consistently dominates the market despite Apple’s record revenue figures. Google uses its Chrome operating system in either their Chromebook’s (laptop) or their Chromeboxes (desktop) and this is the focus of my article.
I purchased an Asus Chromebox as a new machine for my office, here at Quad Technology, we are at the forefront of Web Design / Development and also Digital Marketing, we live on the web and are constantly researching, collaborating, designing, developing digital media so you could say that we are advanced computer users. I researched thoroughly (as i always do) before taking the plunge into the relatively new world of Chromeboxes.
First of all I noticed that there were very few choices out there so I will sum up what I found. HP, Asus, Samsung, LG and Acer have all entered the marketplace and all offer pretty much the same thing in slightly different form factors. For example, LG offer an all in one machine where the ‘computer’ is built into the monitor, I disregarded this straight away because I like to have the freedom of choosing my own monitor (not that LG monitors bad). Samsung were one f the first companies to enter the market and didn’t make a big enough impact (too early I’d say) and as a result, they have dropped out of the European market so that didn’t fill me with much confidence and that also told me that the Samsung Chromebox was old and out of date. Acer have very recently launched their machine and its the new kid on the block, with that said they have had excellent success with their Chromebooks so they obviously in a great place to launch their own Chromebox (CXI-4GKM). Basically its mounted vertically on its own stand and comes with slightly more hardware then its rivals, the reason I didn’t choose it was 4 fold; 1. It was more expensive, 2. I couldn’t order one at the time easily for some reason, 3. I don’t actually like the vertical mount, and 4. It didn’t bring any noticeable gains than its rivals.
That left HP and Asus which are pretty much the same machine, the specs are almost identical but I felt that the Asus had better technical reviews and it was cheaper, I actually paid £115.00 new on eBay which is crazy to think that I purchased a desktop computer for just over £100 brand new! The normal cost was around £160.00.
The machine itself is tiny and it looks great sitting next to the other devices, I wont go into the specs because pretty much every review that I read talking about shape, specs etc but very few actually covered anything else. Briefly you get HDMI out, plenty of USB (3.0) ports and few other bits. You simply plug in your keyboard, mouse and monitor and away you go. Its super quick to setup too, login using any Goole account and away you go with 2 years free 100Gb cloud storage, wow! Of just while I remember, for those of you which don’t like the whole cloud thing, that’s what people used to say about mobile phones, text messages, social networking, the list goes on, you need to embrace it because everything will be cloud based soon, its only a matter of time.
Anyway, I like the notion of simply logging into any Chromebox and all your programs, settings and files are there, there’s none of this backing up malarkey, remembering where you stored all of those CD’s to re-install Office etc. Its maintenance free, virus free and there’s no software updates to worry about either because the machine updates itself.
The logic behind using one of these devices is that everything is web based, Google Docs can be used to update all your office documents or you can use other paid web based services like Office 365. Once you get your head around the concept its a refreshing way of using a computer. You can tap into apps available on Google and off you go. The other thing that I like is how quickly it starts (around 7 seconds) and wakes up out of hibernation (around 2 seconds) before you can start working.
We have been using the Asus Chromebox now since the beginning of the year and its been great, its not slowed down while we have had around 20 tabs open at any one time doing all sorts of things like word processing, spreadsheets, surfing, social networking, editing images, watching videos and using other web based tools, remarkable machine! Just to note that I only went for the version with 2Gb of ram too, I thought that I would see how it goes and if I need to upgrade the ram, I can do that just like any other machine. Talking about upgrading, I can upgrade all the hardware too, there are no warranty seals etc, you are free to boost the hardware to your hearts content.
In terms of spec, the Chromebook doesn’t really break any records, in fact they are very low spec but on the flip they don’t need big specs to run, the machine is very quick indeed. Windows and IOS are huge pieces of software that require serious processing power but in todays world you have to ask the question, do you really need that?
The answer for us is NO, as advanced computer users, we are using a Chromebox with big grins on our faces!
If you are happy with adapting slightly to make sure of cloud technologies, buying a chromebox and a separate monitor is not only a seriously cost effective but it takes the hassle out of the administration side, i.e. there is none. I would opt for the newer machines like the Asus, Acer and the HP, they are all pretty much the same, it just comes down to price and personal taste.