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Nov 18 2015

Asus and Google Launch Chromebit

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Most people think that after reaching the smartphone stage, PC architectures couldn't get any smaller. They were dead wrong: the freshly introduced Chromebit device, available from Asus and Google, adds a whole new flavor to miniaturization.

"Honey, they shrunk the PC!" That's the most likely reaction users of Asus's and Google's new compute stick will draw from their peers. While it may not breathe the elegance and neatness of the latest mobiles, it's still somewhat awe-inspiring: you can't help but wonder how the heck hardware designers managed to stuff an entire Chromebook into a device that's smaller than a Snickers bar. Yup, you heard that right – this ultra-portable edition of a Google-ized laptop fits into any pocket or purse, enabling users to work and/or play from literally any place where they have a WiFi/WLAN connection.

Both manufacturers' marketing teams have likened the device to a Chromecast, and that's correct insofar as it connects to any TV or monitor via an HDMI port and 'speaks WiFi' according to the 802.11 ac standard. However, there are a few substantial differences:

  • With measurements of 123 x 31 x 17 millimeters and a weight of 75 grams, the Chromebit is markedly larger than the Chromecast, and weighs about half as much as a latest-gen smartphone.
  • Chromecasts use Marvell Armada chipsets and Cortex A-7 or Cortex-A9 processors. By contrast, the Chromebit comes with a Rockchip RK3288C quad-core SoC.
  • Chromebit offers a full 2 GB of main memory, whereas the original Chromecast was limited to 512 MB.
  • Chromebit uses a dedicated ARM® Mali™-T624 quad-core GPU that supports Full HD playback. Chromecast dongles essentially rely on external graphics chips.
  • Chromebit comes with a 16 GB eMMC card, thus offering 8x as much storage space as the original Chromecast. For every device sold, Google also gives away 100 GB of Google Drive space for free for two years.
  • Chromebit runs a full-blown copy of Chrome OS.

Ports include DC in and USB 2.0; an 18 watt power adapter is also on board. Like the Chromecast, the Chromebit can be used for entertainment; the main pitch, however, seems to be aimed at professional users, as both Asus and Google recommend the product for digital signage, employee and customer kiosks, and educational purposes. Consequently, Google will release a monitoring and reporting tool, called Single App Chrome Device Management (Single App CDM), in the upcoming weeks.

Chromebit sticks are available for order either from Google's sales partner Promevo or from Asus (as Chromebit CS 10). The raw device sells for $85, and Single App CDM costs an extra $24 per year. Prices are U.S.-only; so far it remains unclear whether or when it goes on sale elsewhere.

 
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