Lenovo ThinkCentre Chromebox Tiny review

A modular Chrome OS PC

Chromebox Tiny

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Lenovo has made creating an AIO Chrome desktop easy by bringing Chrome OS to its Tiny-in-One ecosystem. The modular design brings several different benefits to users.

First, this makes the Chromebox Tiny easily upgradeable. In the future, if you want to keep your ThinkVision display and want to upgrade the performance of the Chromebox, you can buy a new Chromebox from Lenovo and snap it into the rear of the monitor. Second, if you want to migrate between Windows and Chrome OS, you can do that by switching out the Chromebox Tiny for a ThinkCentre M Series Tiny system.

And finally, unlike a one-piece all-in-one desktop, if you damage your display or if Lenovo makes a higher resolution ThinkVision monitor in the future, you can just upgrade the screen and keep using the Chromebox. The space-saving design of the Chromebox makes it easy to use with your existing office or home setup, so you don't need to invest in a ThinkVision display if you already have a screen you want to use.

We liked

With a metal enclosure, the Chromebox Tiny feels like a solid device, but one that takes up very little space on your desk. The Chromebox Tiny is a versatile Chrome PC that can be used on your desk or in the living room to transform your HDTV into a smart TV.

When compared to more inexpensive devices, like Asus's Chromebit, the Chromebox Tiny's higher price feels justified, as it includes a wired keyboard and mouse, peripherals you'll need to supply with the Chromebit. The Chromebox Tiny also has a much faster Intel Core i3 processor, which makes it a better value than the Asus Chromebox M075U, which ships with an older Haswell processor, and the Celeron CPUs on HP's unit. Dell's Chromebox with a similar Core i3 processor is pricier.

Chromebox Tiny

The Core i3 Broadwell processor also feels snappier when paired with Chrome OS compared to a micro PC form factor Windows desktop, like the HP Pavilion Mini and Lenovo's ThinkCentre M73 Tiny. Additionally, the Chromebox Tiny is cheaper than the Windows-based rivals, as it doesn't require as much local storage or RAM.

We disliked

The protruding swivel antenna makes the Chromebox Tiny look more like a TV box from the late 80s rather than a modern desktop. Lenovo could also do more to make the Chromebox Tiny user serviceable for easy upgrades of internal components, like adding a larger capacity SSD or increasing the RAM.

The Chromebox Tiny's black box design may limit its appeal to business users, as students and home users may prefer more stylish alternatives with playful design options. It's also somewhat ironic that Lenovo is marketing the Chromebox Tiny's desk-saving form factor, but the included peripherals are wired, contributing to cable clutter on your workspace.

Final verdict

With high-end hardware, the Chromebox Tiny delivers great performance. It's one of the cheapest ways to get Intel's Core i3 processor on a desktop, but going the Chromebox Tiny route means you'll be limited to Google's Chrome operating system.

Whether you're streaming songs on Pandora or playing a Netflix movie, browsing the web or checking your emails, the Chromebox Tiny can handle multiple Chrome browser windows and tabs without slowing down. Multitasking business users who rely on the cloud will find a lot to love about the Chromebox Tiny, especially if they've migrated to Google Apps or use Office 365.

Creative professionals and gamers will want to look elsewhere. You won't find Adobe's creative titles on Chrome OS, although there are a few third-party substitutes to Photoshop, and there aren't any native games for the platform. A Windows-powered solution or even Apple's Mac Mini will be better for these uses, but these devices come at a far higher cost.

If you're okay with Chrome OS and aren't tied to Windows, then Lenovo's Chromebox Tiny offers exceptional value for an internet-connected computing experience in a compact package.