Google introduced the Chromebook and Chrome OS concept in the May 2011 Google I/O developer conference. The idea behind the platform is that the Chromebook is an inexpensive, easy to maintain and simple to operate computer, designed for lightweight computing tasks and reliant on Google’s cloud services for the majority of the heavy lifting. Chrome OS was fundamentally different to most consumer facing operating systems released until that point, being the Google Chrome web browser running over a basic LINUX installation. The operating system is relatively lightweight and even the slower models based around the ARM processor take under twelve seconds to boot from cold, with the more powerful models taking a little over half this. Better yet, Google regularly updates Chrome OS to keep the platform as secure as practical and rather than a convoluted way of updating Chrome OS through downloading individual patches, instead Google releases an update to the whole platform, which requires a restart to apply. As these updates are silently downloaded in the background, so an update takes twelve seconds or less. The platform also does not require maintenance in the Windows computer sense – it’s possible to perform what’s called a “power wash,” which resets all Chrome settings, but the configuration is kept behind the user’s Google account.
One potential weakness of the Chromebook platform is that Google’s low cost computer was designed into a laptop chassis, but there are many cases where Chrome OS could be used to replace a conventional desktop computer. It is something of a niche market, but a number of manufacturers launched the Chromebox computer – that is, hardware running Chrome OS but designed to be plugged into a monitor, keyboard and mouse as one might a conventional computer. Chrome OS desktop computers offer a slightly different set of compromises compared with Chromebooks, but can use more powerful processors as they do not have the same power and heat restrictions. Now, Asus released a Chromebox computer around a year ago starting from just $179, showing above, and today the company has announced a successor at the Computex show in Taipei.
The newer model benefits from newer generation processors, higher performance 802.11ac WiFi, quieter fans (idles at a sound level of 17 dB)and reduced power consumption when idle (down to 6W). The model contains a fifth generation Intel processor (compared with fourth generation for the 2014 Asus Chromebox), which supports 4K monitors too. Unfortunately, we don’t know when the new Asus Chromebox will be available or if there will be multiple versions of the hardware but this is a developing story and we will let you know once we have more information.