This Vs. That: Chromebook or Chromebox?

For educators, a comparison of the desktops and notebooks that run Google’s Chrome OS.

Four years after its introduction, Chrome OS, Google's open-source, Linux-based operating system, is increasingly realizing its potential.

1.4 million

The estimated number of Chromebooks sold to businesses in the first five months of 2014 — 250 percent more than in the same period in 2013

SOURCE: NPD Group, July 2014

Available on notebooks (known as Chromebooks) and desktops (Chromeboxes) from manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, HP and Samsung, Chrome OS started off as a purely browser-based operating system; users needed an online connection to work in everything from Google Docs and Calendar to Slides and YouTube.

The advantage of such a light local load is fast performance at a low price, as well as web-based management consoles for easy remote adjustments by administrators. But the operating system is growing up: Chrome OS now supports packaged applications that can run offline as well, helping both Chromebooks and Chromeboxes work in any setting, from the home to the office to the classroom.

So which is better for your school or office — a desktop or a notebook? The comparison chart below will help you decide.

Chromebook

Chromebox

PORTABILITY

As notebooks, all Chromebooks are inherently portable with screens ranging in size from 11 inches to 14 inches

Most Chromeboxes are small, square and not much bigger than a salad plate, making them easy to move from one classroom, desk or office to another.

BATTERY LIFE

Up to eight hours, depending on the model.

None; all Chromeboxes need an AC power wall connection.

DISPLAY

Built in, with sizes ranging from 11-inch, 1366x768, 135 pixels-per-inch displays to 14-inch, 2560x1700 HD, 239 ppi touch screens.

Chromeboxes don’t come with displays, but they can hook up to external monitors via HDMI or DisplayPort connections.

CONNECTIVITY

All current models have built-in wireless 801.11a/b/g/n capability and at least two USB ports, some of which are USB 3.0, as well as built-in SD memory card slots. Most models also have HDMI output for connecting to classroom projectors or monitors.

Besides wireless capability, Chromeboxes offer Ethernet connections, which are faster and more reliable, making them ideal for streaming video or other bandwidth-dependent functions. Most Chromeboxes have built-in card readers, two to four USB ports (usually of the faster 3.0 variety), as well as HDMI and DisplayPort connections.

PERFORMANCE

With offerings ranging from modest Celeron processors to the capable Intel core i5, Chromebooks are fast. RAM ranges from 2GB to 4GB in capacity.

Because of their less standard size, Chromeboxes make use of both proprietary hardware and the light Serial ATA solid-state drive technology typically seen in budget notebooks. As a result, many Chromeboxes are not as powerful as Chromebooks.

UPGRADE OPTIONS

As with most notebooks, users have two easy upgrade choices: increased memory and hard-drive capacity. Bear in mind that disk space is not usually a big issue with Chromebooks, since most user storage is cloud-based.

Some systems offer modular memory and replaceable hard drives, so do your research as you’re shopping if you are considering future upgrades.

PRICE

$250 to $1,500, which usually includes 100GB of online cloud storage.

$175 to $700, which usually includes 100GB of online cloud storage.

BOTTOM LINE

Chromebooks will be more familiar to end users than Chromeboxes will, if only because they behave like regular notebooks. The only real difference in this regard is the operating system, which will provide a learning curve on either device.

Chromeboxes are a better fit for fixed environments, though their small size and wireless capability make them easier to move around than a standard desktop. If you choose to make these a stationary solution, however, consider investing in a cable lock so they stay put.

Dec 22 2014

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