Thinking inside the ChromeBox

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The Asus ChromeBox

Instead of thinking outside the box, how about thinking inside the box, the ASUS Chromebox to be specific. Today there are more and more alternatives to just either a Windows or Mac machine. This is something that more people should be aware of.

So, what is a Chromebox? Firstly it is called a Chromebox because it runs the operating system called Chrome OS. But what is Chrome exactly? Google created Chrome back in 2008 to compete with Windows Explorer, Apple Safari, and FireFox. It is a very successful web browser and by 2014 it is estimated that Google Chrome has a 45% worldwide usage share of web browsers, indicating that it is the most widely used web browser in the world.

Google announced in 2009 that it would be releasing an operating system based on the Chrome browser. It was not until 2011 when Samsung started selling Chromebook, laptops running the Chrome OS. The Google Chrome OS is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, it is what is called a web thin client operating system. Basically what that means is that it is a web browser on steroids. Following the Chromebook came the Chromebox, which is a small desktop device running the Chrome OS. The Chromebox is made by several manufactures, ASUS, HP, and Samsung.

The Chrome OS is not for “Power Users”. Meaning, if you are a intense gamer, graphic designer, or programer and you run lots of proprietary software or need a very high powered machine then the Chrome OS is not for you. That leaves just the other 75% of computer users to enjoy the Chrome OS. Most people, especially kids and the older generation just need to be able to get online, check emails, go on FaceBook and maybe do some light document creation or spreadsheet work. For people like that Chrome OS is perfect.

Because of the way the operating system is designed it is very resilient to viruses and malware. Because the operating system is based on a web browser it is very intuitive for people to operate. Everyone is familiar with how a browser works which means a first time user has a very flat learning curve, making the transition from a Windows or Apple machine very easy.

My experience with setting up the Chromebox and teaching my 72 year old mother how to use it was very pleasant. She had been using a 2007 Mac Mini and when it finally gave up the ghost I went on the search for a new machine for her. I ended up with the ASUS Chromebox M004U (see specifications below). Because she already had a monitor, keyboard and mouse the Chromebox didn’t include any extra stuff we didn’t need. The unit starts up very fast and it is very quick on the web. My mother is fairly tech-savvy and it didn’t take long for her to get the hang of using it.

Each time you turn on or use the Chromebox, it automatically checks for updates and installs them. The Chromebox also lets you know when new updates are ready so that you’ll always have the latest version of the operating system. Which is great for me knowing that my mother’s machine is always up-to-date even if I don’t check up on it. And because it can’t really get infected with viruses or malware I do not need to worry about keeping the machine, and my mother, protected.

The Asus ChromeBox Upgradable The SSD Hard Drive for the ChromeBox

The Geek in me likes the fact that the ASUS Chromebox is very easily upgradable, unlike the new Mac Mini. The Chromebox is simple to open and the RAM can be expanded up to 8GB and the SSD can be boosted to 128GB. It is even possible to install a full blown Linux operating system on it. The machine comes with everything you would need, USB 3 ports, HDMI port, Display port, WiFi and Bluetooth to name a few things. In my opinion this is how a small computer should be made. It should be easy for the owner to upgrade its performance and it should be able to run different operating systems. The ASUS Chromebox M004U was only $179 (I’ve seen it as low as $149) which is a very reasonable price for such a quick little machine.

Inside the Asus ChromeBox inside the ChomeBox, you can see the easily removable RAM.

Back of the Asus ChromeBox The Back of the ChromeBox, you have a port for everything you’ll need.

There are some downsides, such as they needed to get a new printer because of the unique way Chrome OS handles printing and scanning. Lucky my mother’s printer was having some problems, so the upgrade to a new printer is not a bad thing for her. They do have limited internal storage, just 16GB. But expanding the storage is as easy as plugging in a UBS thumb drive or an external hard drive. They also come with 100GB of FREE Google cloud storage, so storage should not really be an issue.

When people are looking for a new computer, for themselves or someone else I would advise very strongly they look into the Chromebox and even the Chromebooks. They are not very expensive for the performance you are getting which makes them a great gift for kids, parents or grandparents. Remember, there are alternatives to Windows and Mac, sometimes to find them you just need to think Inside the box.

ASUS Chromebox M004U

Operating System: Chrome OS
CPU: Celeron 2955U Processor
Graphics: HD Graphics 4000
Memory: 2GB Dual Channel, DDR3 at 1600MHz
Storage: 16GB SSD
Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth V4.0
Side I/O Ports: 1 x 2 -in-1 Card Reader, 1 x Kensington Lock
Front I/O Ports: 2 x USB 3
Back I/O Ports: 2 x USB 3.0
  1 x HDMI
  1 x RJ45 LAN
  1 x DC-in
  1 x Display
  1 x Audio Jack(s)

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