Asus and Google announced a PC-on-a-stick concept called Chromebit earlier this year. The Chrome OS-based mobile computer was expected to launch over the summer for less than a hundred bucks (marketing speak for $99.99) but ultimately, it was delayed… until today.
Also see: Asus Chromebit reviews and ratings
The Chromebit carries an attractive price point of just $85 – well under the promised sub-$100 price point. But is it actually worth your hard-earned money? For that answer and more, we turn to the Internet for some feedback from those that received early review samples.
Digital Trends’ Brad Bourque discusses aesthetics and form factor:
Asus manages to find a little bit of room to stand out in a form factor that doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity. The rounded edges and dark port interiors help the Chromebit blend in behind a monitor or television, and build quality is high. The device looks and feels more durable than Intel’s rickety Compute Stick.
It’s light, at just 75 grams, which will help keep the device from bending or stressing out an HDMI port once plugged in. If that’s still an issue, the Chromebit includes an HDMI extender. Power is provided by an AC adapter instead of a USB port, like some other stick PCs.
The Chromebit includes USB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Setting it up is as easy as hooking up the power and HDMI, and connecting a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, or plugging one into the USB port. Log into a Google account, and the Chromebit is off and rolling.
Chris Velazco from Engadget ran into some issues with wireless connectivity:
Well, things can be a little more complex than that, especially if you're trying to set up a purely wireless Chrome experience. I occasionally ran into frustrating stretches of keyboard input lag, even when I was less than six feet away from the Chromebit and TV. And that Bluetooth mouse didn't work at all, even though the Chromebit recognized it during the initial setup.
Normally this wouldn't be a huge deal since every other Chrome OS device has inputs built right into it, but since the Bit is a headless piece of kit, wonky peripheral connectivity is a potential deal breaker. It got to be so frustrating that I had to "power wash" (or hard-reset) the Chromebit just to get the pairing process working normally again. I didn't face as many of these connection woes when the Bit was plugged into a monitor mere inches from my face, but they still happened from time to time.
Fast Company’s Jared Newman on how the Chromebit handles streaming:
The Chromebit's advantage, in theory, is that it runs a full desktop web browser, letting you visit any website. For instance, you can access the free version of Hulu, or watch full episodes of TV shows on sites like CBS and Comedy Central. Even if you have a streaming box such as a Roku or Apple TV, the Chromebit could be a stand-in for when your favorite video or music site doesn't have an app available.
Unfortunately, Chromebit is so underpowered that it can't even handle Flash video without choppiness, which is distracting if not unwatchable. Sites that use HTML5 instead of Flash fare better, but many popular websites haven't made the switch yet, and appear to be in no rush.
That doesn’t mean it’s totally useless, Newman continues:
The Chromebit is better suited as a lightweight desktop computer. If you've got a spare monitor sitting around, you can plug in the Chromebit, connect a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and put the whole setup in the kitchen, family room, or anywhere else you might want to access a full web browser. (Schools and businesses might also get some use out of Chromebit this way.)
As a simple way to browse the web and use web applications, it works. I've been able to type this entire review on the Chromebit using Word Online, with no major performance issues. Even with a half-dozen other browser tabs open, the Chromebit remains a tolerable experience.
Dieter Bohn of The Verge concludes that it’s all about keeping expectations in check:
If you're well aware of what the Chromebit can and (more importantly) can't do, then by all means give it a shot. Since it runs Chrome OS, you won't have to deal with a lot of setup or maintenance — Google handles all of that for you. Many people have found real uses for Chromebooks — it's entirely possible to get 90 percent of what most of us use computers for done on them. Worst case scenario: you have a spare computer sitting in your junk drawer, just in case.
All images courtesy Digital Trends