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Asus Chromebox M031U review

Michael Passingham
3 Jul 2015
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Asus Chromebox under monitor
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
209
inc VAT

A charming little Chrome OS-based PC with surprisingly sprightly performance

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Specifications

Processor: Dual-core 1.4GHz Intel Celron 2955U, RAM: 4GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 2x USB3, Total storage: 16GB SSD, Graphics card: Intel HD Graphics, Display: None, Operating system: Chrome OS

Chrome OS has long been associated with budget laptops, with its lightweight operating system and browser-based applications very suitable for people who have modest needs while on the move. We've seen substantially less desktop-based Chrome machines but, when you think about it, there's very little reason why a Chrome desktop PC can't be a great buy.

Step in the Asus Chromebox. There are several specifications of the this PC available, including a rather over-specified, £500+ Intel Core i7 version. The one on test here is the more reasonably priced £208 version, powered by a 1.4GHz Intel Celeron 2955U processor. It's a pleasingly designed mini PC, with a footprint a little smaller than a CD case. The dark metallic blue top and black sides look classy and don't give away this PC's ultra-cheap origins. Its tiny size means it can fit practically anywhere: on a desk, on the back of a monitor (with a mount) or even in your media cabinet if you fancy a dedicated web browsing PC for your TV.


Asus Chromebox front angle

In such a small form factor the Chromebox would be forgiven for failing to provide all the ports and connectors you'd expect of a larger PC, but it's actually surprisingly well-endowed. You get full size HDMI and DisplayPort connectors at the rear, along with two USB3 ports, a gigabit Ethernet connector and 3.5mm headset jack. There's two more easily accessible USB3 ports on the front of the Chromebox, and there's also an SD/MMC card reader on the left-hand side. There's also built-in dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 as well.


Included in the price is a wireless keyboard and mouse set, although the two peripherals require a USB dongle and don't take advantage of the Chromebox's Bluetooth connectivity. This means one of the four USB3 ports is permanently occupied, which seems like a bit of a waste. Still, the mouse, while comically small, is reliable and comfortable to use. The keyboard, meanwhile has a childlike feel to it and certainly won't suit quick typists. What's more, it's slightly weird dimensions means some of the keys feel out of place and takes a fair amount of time to get used to. The keyboard also replaces the entire top row of F-keys with Chrome OS-specific functions including window management, browser navigation, audio controls and, oddly for a desktop PC, brightness controls.

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