I love the idea of a simple and secure desktop computer that's familiar and easy to use. That's why I was such a big fan of the Chromebox, and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a family PC.
That was then, this is now: I don't think you should buy a Chromebox, at least right now. You should buy a Chromebook and a simple USB Hub instead.
They still have their place, especially as something like a kid's first computer or something to integrate inside your entertainment center for streaming and family video chatting. Outside of these specialized uses, though, a Chromebook with a simple USB hub is a better choice.
It's not because they stopped being great or no longer have some features you need. They still work the same as they always have. It's because manufacturers just aren't giving us the choices we need as they do with Chromebooks.
All Chromeboxes are created equal
Here's something you might not know — all Chromeboxes from the same generation share mostly the same parts. You'll find the same mainboard, the same choice of processor, the same number of RAM slots, and everything else.
This includes the current generation, which is slowly seeing the light of day with products like the Acer Chromebox CXI5. If you find one from Dell, ASUS, HP, or any other company, it will have mostly identical specs because they share the same configuration.
The differences are with things like ports. Some companies offer more USB-C ports or HDMI ports, or something clever like the wireless charging built into the ASUS Chromebox 5, for example. This made it really hard to recommend one over the other in some cases.
Another way they all differ is the price, and that's why 2023 is the year to not buy a Chromebox.
Get your money's worth
You can buy a brand new Acer CXI5 Chromebox for just $350 at Newegg right now. You shouldn't because it's the 5-Core Intel Celeron model with just 32GB of storage. In 2023 you (unfortunately) need something faster, even though it's plugged in and has a fan to cut back on the throttling. You definitely want more than 32GB of disk space.
Bump up to the one you should be looking at, and the Intel Core i5 model with 256GB of storage is $600. You can get a much better computer for that kind of money.
If you want a small-form desktop you can get an Intel NUC or ASUS ExpertCenter Mini PC with comparable specs and a better mainboard for more upgradeability. You'll save over $100 if you go this route which leaves you some cash to put towards things like a monitor.
You'll find plenty of high-quality Chromebooks from companies like Dell, Samsung, ASUS, and more with very similar specs at the same price as the premium model Chromebox mentioned above. They all do everything a Chromebox does and are portable, too.
Pair any of them with this $30 USB-C hub from Anker and you can plop them on a desk, plug in a keyboard and mouse, then connect them to a monitor for the exact same experience you get from a Chromebox. As a bonus, you can unplug everything and move to another room, a coffee shop, or even a picnic table at the park if you want.
I have that hub. I have several Chromebooks. I can tell you this works exactly as described. Other USB hubs work the same way, too.
I don't think we'll ever see a cheap Chromebox again unless it's one with poor specs that will leave you wanting more. They just never caught on, and companies that make computers build and sell the things that make the most money; things like Windows 11 PCs and Chromebooks.
Unless you want to give something to the kids or slap it behind your TV, a Chromebook makes more sense.
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I get where you are coming from. There are a couple of glaring issues with your recommendation of a cheap USB hub.Reply
1. No Power Button
Having used a similar setup with my kids for awhile now, the lack of a power on button in a USB hub vs a real dock has a negative impact.2. No Ethernet
Maybe people don't care about this anymore with his fast Wi-Fi has become, but as someone who works with many large digital assets, I still prefer to have Ethernet for anything sitting on a desk.3. Desk Space
Unless you don't intend to use a monitor, have extra desk space, or intend to buy a monitor stand that you can fit the Chromebook and the USB hub underneath, then a Chromebox or alternative mini PC (nuc, Mac mini, Asus, beelink) gives you way more bang for the square inches.
The other route you can take is what I ended up doing.Reply
Buy a used micro pc for $100 with specs comparable to a good Chromebox (the one I got has a 3.4GHz Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD) , and install Chrome OS Flex on it.
Worked like a charm, and my kids are having no issues using it for schoolwork.