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Asus announces Haswell-based Chromeboxes

Asus announces Haswell-based Chromeboxes

The Asus Chromebox is sleek and compact, but can it interest buyers where Samsung's own Chromebox failed?

Asus has officially thrown its hat into the Chromebox ring, announcing a family of Haswell-powered small form factor PCs based on Google's Linux-powered Chrome OS software.

'The ASUS Chromebox offers the simplicity, security and speed of Chrome OS in the most compact and powerful Chrome device to date,' crowed Felix Lin, director of product management, at Asus' partner Google. 'Perfect for home, the classroom or the office, Chromebox is designed for the way we use computers today.'

Asus has indicated an intention to offer the machines at a low cost in order to tempt households that have yet to join the information revolution - or who fancy a secondary system for the living room - and pledges that the first and most basic model will cost just $179. For that, buyers can expect an Intel Celeron 2955U processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory, a 16GB M.2 next-generation form-factor (NGFF) solid-state drive, gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 801.22a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, and a peak power draw of 65W.

Higher up the range, but without pricing details just yet, are models with 4GB of DDR3 memory and a choice of Core i3-4010U or Core i7-4600U processor. All models, meanwhile, will be based on a 124mm x 124mm x 42mm chassis and include a two-in-one card reader, four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity, the wired Ethernet socket, analogue audio connections and a Kensington security point. At launch, each will also come with a free upgrade to 100GB of storage on the Google Drive platform.

Even at its suggested pricing, Asus may struggle to interest buyers: while the low-cost Chromebook laptop family has been selling relatively well, Samsung's attempt at a Chromebox from 2012 met with extremely poor sales - at, admittedly, a higher $329 launch price.

UK pricing and availability for the Asus Chromebox family has not yet been confirmed.

31 Comments

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damien c 5th February 2014, 10:48 Quote
Might be tempted with a cheap one and see about installing a slim copy of windows on it for a media pc.
faugusztin 5th February 2014, 11:12 Quote
Windows ? For media PC ? Why ? It would make much more sense to put something like OpenELEC on it - you would fit easily (it uses ~2GB of the dirve), it is a fast booting XBMC install...
damien c 5th February 2014, 11:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
Windows ? For media PC ? Why ? It would make much more sense to put something like OpenELEC on it - you would fit easily (it uses ~2GB of the dirve), it is a fast booting XBMC install...

True would have to have a look at that stuff.
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 11:40 Quote
Honestly I can't see this having any better performance than a Raspberry Pi as a media centre - Celeron processor + 2GB ram doesn't exactly have the grunt to do much more than a Pi could.
faugusztin 5th February 2014, 11:56 Quote
I think you are completely mistaken by the "Celeron" name. It is a low clocked Haswell CPU with a cut down Haswell IGP, which is still more than enough for any media centre tasks. And Pi is completely out of picture, compared to the performance of this CPU and GPU.

Take a look - http://www.cpubenchmark.net/mid_range_cpus.html - it is between AMD A4-3300 APU and AMD A4-3400 APU in CPU performance, and even if it is has only half of the Haswell GPU, it is still more than enough for HTPC stuff.

And 2GB RAM... Have you seen actual memory usage of a linux with XBMC on it ? Good luck finding cases when it uses more than half gigabyte of RAM.
RichCreedy 5th February 2014, 12:01 Quote
Pedant time "4GB of DDR3 memory adn a choice of "
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 12:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
I think you are completely mistaken by the "Celeron" name. It is a low clocked Haswell CPU with a cut down Haswell IGP, which is still more than enough for any media centre tasks. And Pi is completely out of picture, compared to the performance of this CPU and GPU.

Take a look - http://www.cpubenchmark.net/mid_range_cpus.html - it is between AMD A4-3300 APU and AMD A4-3400 APU in CPU performance, and even if it is has only half of the Haswell GPU, it is still more than enough for HTPC stuff.

Oh I'm sure its up to the task I just don't know what it could do that a Pi couldn't as a HTPC? You aren't going to game on it so its really just media playback and the Pi can do 1080p fine in my experience.

When I compare my (admittedly aging) Nvidia Ion HTPC and my Pi HTPC both running openelec the interface is slightly faster on the Ion but by no means unacceptable on either. Comparing both the only reason I keep the Ion is because it has a DVD drive for those occasions that I might want to play an actual disk.
AlienwareAndy 5th February 2014, 12:03 Quote
Don't under estimate Celerons. They're extremely capable little processors.

If you want to see what a Sandy Celeron can do then by all means have a skim over this review I wrote a while back -

http://www.fruitforums.com/vb/showthread.php?34744-Celeron-G530-Review&highlight=celeron+g530

Note I swear a lot, but the figures don't lie. Paired with a GPU they can actually game with the big boys.
Gareth Halfacree 5th February 2014, 12:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
Pedant time "4GB of DDR3 memory adn a choice of "
Still getting used to this new keyboard - fixed, ta!
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 12:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienwareAndy
Don't under estimate Celerons. They're extremely capable little processors.

If you want to see what a Sandy Celeron can do then by all means have a skim over this review I wrote a while back -

http://www.fruitforums.com/vb/showthread.php?34744-Celeron-G530-Review&highlight=celeron+g530

Note I swear a lot, but the figures don't lie. Paired with a GPU they can actually game with the big boys.

This machine though doesn't have the option of a dedicated GPU so as a HTPC (and only as a HTPC) I don't see what it does that a pi doesn't. As a web browser sure its plenty fast enough and assuming this is around the £130 mark its not a terrible price for that. The faster models seem pointless unless you stick Windows on it which would require a bigger SSD which are hard to find in that form factor just now.
GeorgeStorm 5th February 2014, 12:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitloaf
This machine though doesn't have the option of a dedicated GPU so as a HTPC (and only as a HTPC) I don't see what it does that a pi doesn't. As a web browser sure its plenty fast enough and assuming this is around the £130 mark its not a terrible price for that. The faster models seem pointless unless you stick Windows on it which would require a bigger SSD which are hard to find in that form factor just now.

I thought the pi struggles with large libraries/high bitrate files?
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 12:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeStorm
I thought the pi struggles with large libraries/high bitrate files?

I have 300+ movies, 3000+ TV episodes and 257 albums so not a tiny collection and it works fine. Normally I play 720p files but I do sometimes play 1080p which also have always played well for me.

If you had a mostly 1080p collection I'd probably consider something else - I'm not sure how good this chromebook with its cut down GPU would be though - but otherwise a Pi is more than good enough.
GeorgeStorm 5th February 2014, 12:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitloaf
I have 300+ movies, 3000+ TV episodes and 257 albums so not a tiny collection and it works fine. Normally I play 720p files but I do sometimes play 1080p which also have always played well for me.

If you had a mostly 1080p collection I'd probably consider something else - I'm not sure how good this chromebook with its cut down GPU would be though - but otherwise a Pi is more than good enough.

Fair enough, I don't personally have one but I thought I remembered hearing it did have issues, maybe now that some of the software used has matured a bit it's got better.
Bindibadgi 5th February 2014, 15:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by damien c
Might be tempted with a cheap one and see about installing a slim copy of windows on it for a media pc.

Can't be done, can't access the BIOS. Goog locks it off for ALL Chrome-machines.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitloaf
Honestly I can't see this having any better performance than a Raspberry Pi as a media centre - Celeron processor + 2GB ram doesn't exactly have the grunt to do much more than a Pi could.

I'm sorry but this is pure crap. Haswell Celeron obliterates a Broadcom ARMv6, even if they were running at the same clock speed.

ARMv6 (ARM11) does ~0.9 DIPS/MHz
ARMv8 (Cortex A9) does 2.5 DIPS/MHz
OLD Atom core (in-order) does 2.5 DIPS/MHz
Haswell Celeron is not even mobile - it's a full fat Core core.
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 15:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Can't be done, can't access the BIOS. Goog locks it off for ALL Chrome-machines.

Tell that to my chromebook running Ubuntu.
Bindibadgi 5th February 2014, 15:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitloaf
Tell that to my chromebook running Ubuntu.

How'd you get access? They 'should' be locked :P
Phil Rhodes 5th February 2014, 15:39 Quote
Looked at Chromebook for the maternal unit a while - say nine months - ago. Seemed completely unusable. No local storage? Er, okay.
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 15:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
How'd you get access? They 'should' be locked :P

All of them as far as I'm aware can be put into developer mode where they can then be booted from usb or SD card. Certainly all the chromebooks that I know of can be and I assume this chromebox will be the same.
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 16:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Looked at Chromebook for the maternal unit a while - say nine months - ago. Seemed completely unusable. No local storage? Er, okay.

They do have some local storage, usually 16GB ssd but some have spinning rust. I tend to think of them more as tablets with keyboards rather than traditional computers and in that regard so long as you have internet access they can do a lot.

For some people they may well be enough to replace a laptop but for others maybe not. Local storage is overrated imho - a server or cloud storage is usually superior.
damien c 5th February 2014, 16:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Quote:
Originally Posted by damien c
Might be tempted with a cheap one and see about installing a slim copy of windows on it for a media pc.

Can't be done, can't access the BIOS. Goog locks it off for ALL Chrome-machines.

Well if Asus cannot get around this then it would be off the table :)

Nah if I had to do something that wasn't meant to be done to enable me to do it then I would but still it certaintly adds a potential issue to it for those who won't risk it, and want to change from the Google OS to something allot better.
faugusztin 5th February 2014, 17:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
How'd you get access? They 'should' be locked :P

ChrUbuntu for example. Or developer mode as others said.
bawjaws 5th February 2014, 18:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitloaf
They do have some local storage, usually 16GB ssd but some have spinning rust. I tend to think of them more as tablets with keyboards rather than traditional computers and in that regard so long as you have internet access they can do a lot.

For some people they may well be enough to replace a laptop but for others maybe not. Local storage is overrated imho - a server or cloud storage is usually superior.

Local storage is overrated until you find yourself somewhere where there's no internet connectivity... or your mobile data allowance is used up. Then it becomes really rather useful :D
Fruitloaf 5th February 2014, 18:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by bawjaws
Local storage is overrated until you find yourself somewhere where there's no internet connectivity... or your mobile data allowance is used up. Then it becomes really rather useful :D

It depends on what you're doing. Nowadays I find that so much of my work depends on an internet connection that if I know I won't have one I have to set things up especially for that scenario.

I've come to depend so much on online documentation that I rarely have offline copies anymore so to me at least local storage really isn't that big a factor. Where it is is in gaming but outside of that the local disk drive size I need has shrunk markedly over recent years.
Gundam God 5th February 2014, 19:07 Quote
Sounds good and would be nice to replace my ageing WDTV Live but does this have spdif? Kinda pointless if it doesn't.
faugusztin 5th February 2014, 19:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gundam God
but does this have spdif? Kinda pointless if it doesn't.

Pointless ? You got HDMI, what more do you need ? In case you would really need SPDIF for some strange reason, there are boxes which can extract it for you from HDMI.
Gundam God 5th February 2014, 21:34 Quote
HDMI to telly and spdif to BD allinone for surround, not my choice I argued for amp and speakers but to no avail.
faugusztin 5th February 2014, 21:40 Quote
HDMI ARC ? HDMI to SPDIF spliiter boxes ? You got choices, no need to limit yourself to "spdif only" boxes.
Bindibadgi 6th February 2014, 03:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
ChrUbuntu for example. Or developer mode as others said.

I will ask about dev mode when I get back to work :)
Gareth Halfacree 6th February 2014, 09:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
I will ask about dev mode when I get back to work :)
I'd be interested to hear the result; if the Asus Chromebox *doesn't* have access to developer mode, it would make it unique in the Chrome OS world - and I don't mean that in a good way.
edzieba 6th February 2014, 14:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
Windows ? For media PC ? Why ?
- MPC-HC
- MadVR
- ReClock
The triumvirate of video playback quality. You won't match it, let alone bet it, without investing quite a bit in dedicated video filtering and scaling hardware. Certainly not on an embedded ARM platform that relies on integrated hardware decoding and scaling to handle video.
koola 8th February 2014, 12:08 Quote
So this is just a Chromebox NUC right?, albeit heavily discounted.
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