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No need for a $99 USD Windows license, this baby is open source and a bargain at that

ASUTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357) promised us computers in 2014 running Google Inc.'s (GOOG) red-hot Chrome operating system (Chrome OS) and it's already delivered in impressive fashion.

The just announced ASUSTek Chromebox fits in the palm of your hand and costs only $179 USD.  Google archrival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is fond of saying what Chromebooks "can't do", but in reality unless you're an enthusiast, graphic designer, or code developer, you won't be missing much.

With the tepid public response to Windows 8/8.1 in full swing, Google is presenting its Chrome OS as a compelling alternative to marching back to Windows 7.
Chromebox
While it won't play Crysis, it can fulfill all of your fundamental computing needs ranging from document processing (via the cloud-connected, offline capable Google Docs suite), gaming (via a growing legion of Chrome browser apps), image editing/creation, media (video, audio) playback, and internet browsing.

ASUS Chromebox

The tiny computer is complemented by a 100 GB cloud stroage allotment for Google Drive, which is good for two years.  After that, you can shuffle your data off the cloud and onto external storage, or pay $59.88 USD/year at current rates for the same allotment.  Of course, cloud storage costs are dropping fast, so you can expect that cost to be $30 USD/year perhaps, or less, by the time your subscription expires.
ASUS Chromebox
The base spec of the device includes:
  • Dimensions
    • 4.88" x 4.88" x 1.65"
  • Processor (CPU+GPU)
    • Fourth Generation Core i-Series system-on-a-chip (SoC) from Intel Corp. (INTC)
    • Second-gen. 22 nm transistors
    • SKUs
      • Celeron 2955U
        • 2 core / 2 threads
        • 1.4 GHz
        • Celeron HD (shaders: 200 MHz / DDR transfer: 1000 MHz)
        • U.S., Int'l editions
      • Core i3-4010U
        • 2 core / 4 threads
        • 1.7 GHz
        • HD 4400 (shaders: 200 MHz / DDR transfer: 1000 MHz, 4K ready)
        • U.S., Int'l editions
      • Core i7-4600U
        • 2 core / 4 threads
        • 2.1 GHz (stock) --> 3.3 GHz (turbo)
        • HD 4400 (shaders: 200 MHz / DDR transfer: 1100 MHz, 4K ready)
        • Int'l edition only
  • Memory
    • 2-sticks DDR3
    • 2 GB or 4 GB options
  • Storage
    • 16 GB SSD (M.2)
    • 100 GB Google Drive cloud storage
  • Connectivity
    • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
    • dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n
    • BlueTooth 4.0
  • I/O + Readers
    • SD card reader
    • 4 x USB 3.0
    • 1 x HDMI
    • 1 x DisplayPort
    • 1 x Audio Jack (mic-in/speaker out)
  • Power
    • Max (supply): 65 W
    • Avg. Draw:  ~15 W
Okay, so there are some minor disappointments, including the lack of 802.11ac and the fact that the Core-i7 model is only shipping in Asia and other foreign regions (expect some supply to trickle into the States, though, via resale channels).
ASUS Chrome
In a press release, Google product management director Felix Lin says of the partner device:

The Asus Chromebox offers the simplicity, security, and speed of Chrome OS in the most compact and powerful Chrome device to date.  Perfect for home, the classroom or the office, Chromebox is designed for the way we use computers today.

It's true some apps may be absent, but according to chromeosapps.org, there are currently 33,000 apps.  With Chromeboxes (desktops) and Chromebooks (laptops) growing faster in sales than any other personal computer platform, many developers are dropping Windows exclusivity.

Chrome OS
Chrome OS 
packs over 30,000 apps, many of which run well both connected to the cloud and offline. [Image Source: Google]

We've seen similar Windows 8 mini-PCs, which are inspired by Intel's "NUC" Haswell reference design.  But a key problem is price.  For example, Gigabyte Technology Comp., Ltd.'s  (TPE:2376) similar Celeron 1037U 1.8GHz equipped "Brix" model is only $167 USD.  Likewise, Intel's own first-party NUC product (with a Intel Core i3 3217U Haswell inside) is $179 USD.  But with the $99 USD "Windows tax" added on, you reach $270-290 USD, roughly $100 more than the ASUS-Google box.
 
Gigabyte Iris
With a Windows license, Gigabyte's Iris Pro model will set you back $600 USD.
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

A small number may find the Iris Pro-equipped Brix that Gigabyte offers for $499 USD more compelling (the loud fan is a bit of a turnoff), but you're talking about a $600 USD system, with the cost of your Windows license -- roughly three times the cost of the ASUS Celeron-sporting Chromebox.

ASUS Chromebox
Microsoft is reportedly kicking around the idea of making Windows RT free, which could open up new low-price options.  But until that happens, Google has Microsoft beat on pirce -- the deciding factor for many consumers.

Source: ASUSTek Computer





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