Google and Samsung have expanded the Chrome OS family of devices with the introduction of the first desktop computer based on Google's cloud-based OS. The Chromebox features the same cloud-centric focus of previous Chromebooks, but in a compact desktop configuration – meaning you'll need to provide your own mouse, keyboard, and monitor.
The basic premise of Chrome OS is simple – your average PC user spends most of their time on the internet, so Chrome OS is nothing but the web, the first cloud based operating system of its kind. Google and its partners released the first retail Chrome OS devices in May of 2011, but they've hardly set the world on fire. This is possibly due to the rise and rise of the tablet over the same period.
The original Chromebooks were also crippled with performance issues, the hardware was unable to keep up with graphically intense web apps, and would often freeze during HD video playback. One year later, Google is leaving nothing to chance, and the hardware behind Chromebox should be more than satisfactory for its purpose.
Some of the specs may sound underwhelming, but this is not a traditional Windows based PC – Chrome OS is a light-weight operating system, and can perform well with less processing power since a lot of the work is carried out in the cloud. Additionally, because this is a cloud based PC, 16 GB of local storage isn't exactly a deal breaker thanks to web based services such as Google Drive and Google Music, and the ability to attach external HDDs via USB.
The Chromebox also manages to deliver performance that you wouldn't expect from a budget PC. For example, despite having an integrated graphics card, the Chromebox is built to handle two high resolution 30-inch monitors at once.
The Chromebox is a major step forward for Google's young operating system, the hardware has evolved and the software has been updated and refined. As with previous Chrome OS devices, the Chromebox boots in less than 10 seconds, and wakes from sleep in less than five. However, like any cloud based technology, the Chromebox loses much of its functionality without an internet connection, but this is likely less of an issue with a desktop computer, as you shouldn't have to worry about searching for Wi-Fi in your own home. However, the Chromebox is still only for those comfortable with placing their trust in the cloud.
The Chromebox measures 7.5 x 7.5 x 1.3 inches (19 x 19 x 3.3 cm), weighs 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) and is available now for US$329. The keyboard and mouse package is available as an optional extra. It's also worth noting that, while the Chromebox is currently only available online, Google has plans to make the device available in bricks-and-mortar retailers in the not too distant future.
Alongside the Chromebox, a new Series 5 550 Chromebook was also introduced, which is more powerful than its predecessors and retails for $449 for the Wi-Fi model and $549 for the 3G-enabled model.