Google Chromebox: A Walk in the Cloud

By Alex Jenkins
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Laptops can become bogged down with software applications and can take a minute or two – or much longer – to start up. Google saw this and took a step in the right direction with their Chromebooks. These internet-dependent laptops store virtually no data on them. Everything from movies, music and pictures are all stored online instead of on a traditional hard drive. Google's operating system is simple and app oriented and will be ready to run 20 seconds after you hit the power button. But if you are looking for a cloud-based system that is more desktop than laptop, may we recommend the Google Chromebox?

The Chromebox is Google's version of a desktop that includes cloud computing. Still using the same OS as the Chromebook, this desktop introduces the ability to hook up your own peripherals (i.e., a monitor, keyboard and mouse) minus the bulkiness you get with a traditional desktop tower. The hardware is a bit of an upgrade from the Chromebooks, but you still won't be using this for gaming or intense computing. If you are into more web-based computing, or you are an educator looking to simplify the computers at your school, then you have the right idea in pursuing a Chromebox.

Design & Features
The Chromebox looks like a mini desktop and has a square chassis with its own internal power supply. The basic setup comes with a 16GB solid-state drive, which helps the system start up in 18 seconds. The computer also comes with 4GB of RAM. It doesn’t allow you to upgrade the memory, but with the 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space, this is actually a good amount for what is basically a web terminal. This is all you will need to have for a web-browsing computer as you can have multiple tabs upon in the Chrome browser without slowing your system. Plus, you aren't going to be running any system-heavy programs like Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Office on it.

Since this isn't a Windows PC or Mac, you will have substantially fewer malware threats to worry about. That is because Chrome OS uses a processes called sandboxing, which means all applications are unable to interfere with other apps on a system. And if there are any known problems, your computer will automatically update and return to its last known good state. What is nice about using the Chromebox and Google OS is that if you already have the Chrome browser set up on your PC or Mac with all its extensions, bookmarks and other customizations these preferences are loaded when you sign in.

The Chromebox has several ways to connect any peripherals. There are ports for DVI, Ethernet and audio. Then there are six USB 2.0 ports and two DP++ ports, which are capable of supporting up to 2460 x 1600 resolution displays. The downfall of Chromebox is its lack of an HDMI port. This means you will have to purchase a separate adapter to use the Chromebox with an HDTV or HD monitor.

Performance
The Chromebox features a 1.9GHz dual-core Intel Celeron processor. This, meshed with the 16GB SSD, is what helps the system boot up in 18 seconds, or awake from sleep in just two seconds. If you have an older LCD monitor, the Chromebox will wake up quicker than the screen's backlight warms up. There is also the traditional Intel HD Graphics 3000 video card inside. This isn't too powerful and it is second-generation technology (Intel is into third-generation chips now), but we were able to watch trailers for movies like "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hobbit" in pristine 1080p HD.

You can't load Microsoft Office onto the new Chromebox, but Google Docs is easier to use and is easy to bring up, depending on your internet connection. One nice improvement Google has made is making their apps more offline friendly. That means if you are editing a document, writing an email or saving a file and lose your internet signal, everything will be updated, emails will be sent and your information will be backed up as soon as you are connected to the internet again. Although, you shouldn't often find yourself using a Chromebox without an internet connection, since it is supposed to replace your desktop.

The Google Chromebox is an interesting option, especially if you are in corporate or educational environments. These desktops provide simple ways to access the internet, download and use apps and work on documents. Google handles updates, security and admin, so you won't have to worry as much about malware issues. Plus, the Chrome OS syncs with your Android phones or tablets that run the Chrome browser. So if all you need is the internet without the Windows or Mac experience, then it may be time to consider the Google Chromebox.

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