Update: Acer has rolled out a two new models of the Chromebox CXI featuring a 4th generation Intel Core i3 processor that's sure to add even more performance.
Chrome OS has revolutionized the way we look at "inexpensive" and "capable" in the computing world. After producing some truly long lasting laptops, including the Acer Chromebook 13, the Taiwanese electronics maker has turned its attention to desktops with the Chromebox CXI.
No bigger than most wireless routers, the Chromebox CXI brings Google's cloud-based OS to desktops. Of course, small family computers aren't a novel concept. Mini-ITX systems equipped with only a bare minimum of components have long existed. Similarly Intel has also introduced its own line of compact computers with the NUC and then there's also the all-in-one LG Chromebase.
Starting at $179 (£178, about AU$230), the Acer Chromebox CXI is a wonderfully affordable way of turning any monitor or HDTV into a capable computer.
The Acer Chromebox CXI looks best standing up and, for a simple plastic box, it's quite attractive. The exterior of the unit is adorned with a diamond-like engraved texture that's a refreshing change to the usual slab of matte plastic on most Chrome OS devices.
The miniature computer is also about the size of a small paperback book. The unit's small footprint makes it easy to place anywhere, whether you're standing it vertically next to a monitor or placing it horizontally into a small corner of your desk.
Users can also attach the Chromebox CXI onto a small stand accessory with rubber feet to prevent it from sliding off surfaces. Alternatively, the small Chrome OS desktop comes with a fully metal VESA mounting bracket, which allows the device to hook onto the back of a monitor or HDTV, turning displays into a makeshift all-in one PC.
Looking around the device, you'll also notice the Chromebox CXI is outfitted an abundance of ports. In the front we have two USB 3.0 ports with a SD card reader. Around back there are another two additional USB 3.0 ports along with a DisplayPort as well as HDMI.
The position of some of the ports also ends up ruining part of the Chromebox's design. Firstly, Acer chose to put the headphone and microphone combo jack on the back. My other issue lies with the hard L-shaped power that plugs into the back, which just ends up sticking out whether you place the unit on its side or standing up. It's an unfortunate design choice that detracts from the CXI's otherwise clean look.
Plastic, fantastic peripherals
The Chromebox CXI ships with an included mouse and keyboard that are surprisingly more than decent considering the low price of this overall package.The keyboard is firm and solid despite being entirely made of plastic. What's more, the action on the keys feels nice and springy, with each button traveling approximately two centimeters when depressed.
Similarly, the mouse is more than serviceable with audibly clicky buttons. The sides of the peripheral also feature a dimpled texture, which adds a bit more for users to hold onto with a claw-style mouse grip.
Of course, you're free to hook up any peripherals you see fit. The Chromebox had no qualms with connecting to my gaming keyboard or gaming mouse. I was also able to easily pair a set of Wearhaus Arc bluetooth headphones with the Chrome OS desktop.