ASUS Taps Haswell to Power Compact Chromebox Family Starting at $179

We've all got our heads in the so-called cloud these days, and if you want to go all-in, Google's Chrome OS is the go-to platform. Interestingly enough, your options on the hardware side are expanding beyond Chromebooks and into the realm of mini PCs, potentially attracting a new category of customers in the process. That's what is ASUS is hoping for with the introduction of its new compact Chromebox, a NUC-like system running Chrome OS.

"The ASUS Chromebox offers the simplicity, security and speed of Chrome OS in the most compact and powerful Chrome device to date," said Felix Lin, director of product management, Google. "Perfect for home, the classroom or the office, Chromebox is designed for the way we use computers today."

Asus Chromebox and Monitor

Just as Google's been doing with its Chromebook initiative, the pitch for these Chromebox systems is that they're capable of doing everything you need to do in today's connected world. We don't totally agree with that marketing pitch -- gaming, 3D modeling, and a host of specialized tasks are better suited for a well equipped Windows PC -- but there's certainly a market for these devices. They're low cost, fairly well equipped, and able to handle a wide variety of daily computing chores.

Let's start with the hardware. There are two SKUs being released in the U.S. The first starts at $179 and sports an Intel Celeron 2955U processor, and the second features an Intel Core i3 4010U CPU (no mention of price just yet), both of which are Haswell parts.

Asus Chromebox Power
Asus Chromebox USB

Beyond the processor, these fan-less boxes come with two SO-DIMM memory slots with 2GB or 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, 16GB SSD, a GbE LAN port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 2-in-1 memory card reader, four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, a DisplayPort, an audio jack (mic-in/speaker-out), and a Kensington Lock. ASUS also includes a VESA mount kit with each Chromebox, and Google tosses in 100GB of Google Drive space free for two years.

Asus Chromebox Ports

We're seeing a lot of 4K monitors and TVs enter the market as of late, and if you picked one up (or plan to), it's worth pointing out that the ASUS Chromebox supports up to 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) playback (as well as boasting dual-display support). With the included VESA mount, you could attach one of these to the back of your monitor and invest in a wireless keyboard and mouse for a relatively low-cost alternative to an all-in-one.

The ASUS Chromebox will be available in March.