After so many years of the launch of Chrome OS by Google, I never thought of getting or reviewing one. Reason: devices run on Chrome OS is basically running on Chrome browser. For regular Chrome browser users, you would know that Chrome browser is practically like an OS, supporting extensions that run like apps that adds so much functionality to web-browsing and media-editing. When ASUS offered me to review the Chromebit, the world’s smallest Chrome OS in a stick, I was initially not keen, but I reconsidered and decided to give it a try.
Design and Set Up
Setting up is straightforward: just plug the Chromebit into any display with HDMI port. In the package, there are 2 HDMI extension adapters, one is the normal extension cord, the other is a Flex Connect accessory that you can flex and hold the Chromebit in position.
At the other end of the HDMI male connector is a full-sized USB port which you can plug any USB device or USB hub to let you plug more USB devices. The package also comes with a power adapter that you must plug in at the side in order to power up the Chromebit. That kind of spoils the sleekness of the device.
For my review, I plugged a USB wireless dongle to control my mouse, and paired a Bluetooth keyboard for typing. After powering up the Chromebit, the display prompts me to login to my Google account, but not before I connected to my WiFi network, without which there is no way Chrome OS can verify my login.
Once login is successful, it takes a few moments for Google to sync all your Chrome settings, including installing extensions and importing bookmarks, so the initial experience may be somewhat laggy and non-responsive.
Chrome OS: More Than Just A Browser
Like I mentioned, if you are used to Chrome browser, then the Chromebit would be straightforward. At the bottom of the screen is the Taskbar with preset icons on the bottom left. When you click any of the icons, the Chrome browser will pop up with tabs. Click more icons and the same browser will add another tab. The bottom right is the settings and notifications not unlike Windows. This is where you chooses to enable or disable Bluetooth, configure WiFi, adjust volume, and logout of the session.
The Chromebit does not run very fast when multi-tasking, but it is adequate. What I find Chromebit useful is converting any TV or monitor into a web browser with full-fledged Chrome browser compatibility. Watching YouTube videos can never be easier and fuss-free with Chromebit.
But there is more to Chrome than web-based content. A visit to Chrome Web Store and you will find like productivity tools, photo editors, music apps, even games. The Chrome desktop theme is also customisable by installing themes from the Web Store. Some apps and games can be run as standalone window apps while others are extensions to the web sites for content engagement. With the right apps installed, Chromebit can simply be run as an offline computer. And yes, you can plug in external storage and access it using file explorer apps.
Should I Buy? What Other Options?
To decide whether to get a Chromebit or a TV box running on Android OS, you have to decide what is your primary purpose. If you like the UI of Google Chrome browser tabs and its interactions, then you should get Chromebit. If you find the Android apps more useful, then you should settle for the latter.
Personally, I feel that Android is a touch-based OS, hence it does not work that well with keyboard-and-mouse input methods. Chrome, on the other hand, is optimised for desktop and presents web content more accurately. For that, the Chromebit is definitely a better option and takes up less space.
Another alternative product is the Intel Compute Stick, the equivalent in Windows 10. Users might feel more familiar with Windows OS, but it depends on what you want to use it for. Windows OS might be too processor-heavy and more hassle to setup from scratch. In contrast, the moment you login to Chrome OS with your Google account, all your Chrome settings, extensions and apps are promptly synced.
What about Chromecast? It is a device that is primarily video service content driven and requires a smartphone or computer to interact effectively. It is more user friendly and less reliant on keyboard and mouse to interact. Chromebit, however, runs on Chrome OS, so it looks and works just like a Chrome desktop browser but on a TV or any display with HDMI input.
ASUS Chromebit, an official product from Google, is a hassle-free solution for users who are familiar with Chrome browser and its web store apps, and want to easily access the web easily and without compromise of a limited mobile-based platform (like smartphone or tablet) on any HDMI display. Google positions the Chromebit as a viable solution for digital signage or kiosks.
ASUS Chromebit retails at S$169 in Singapore.
Official product website: https://www.asus.com/sg/Chrome-Devices/Chromebit-CS10/
Operating System: Chrome OS
CPU: Rockchip Quad-Core RK3288C Processor
Graphic: ARM® Mali™-T764 GPU *
Memory: 2 GB LPDDR3 at 1066MHz
Storage: 16GB eMMC, 100G Google Drive for 2 Year free usage
Wireless Data Network: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac , Bluetooth V4.0
Side I/O Ports: 1 x DC in
Front I/O Ports: 1 x HDMI Out
Back I/O Ports: 1 x USB 2.0
Power Supply: 18 W Power adapter
Dimensions (W x D x H): 123 x 31 x 17 mm
Weight: 75 g (0.16 lb)