Samsung Chromebox Reviewed

Last week, Chromestory brought you complete specs and price of  upcoming Samsung Chromebox. And then an unboxing video.  Now, here is a review of the Samsung Chromebox! 

This is a review from  Jay of GearWERKZ.net (thanks a lot Jay!!). He used Chromebox for a week and provided me his initial thoughts as a guest article. Check out his blog for more interesting reviews and tips! Stay tuned for a detailed review of the Chromebox, coming soon!

Additional commentary can be found over at my blog, GearWERKZ.net, including an unboxing and another 1-week report, covering slightly different content (heat, noise, apps, and benchmarks).

Is The Chromebox For You?

If you are on this website, you probably have already made the decision that you are capable of handling a paradigm shift from normal ops in other x86 OS’. Some people cannot, and I perceive that that is the root-cause of negative perceptions of the Samsung ChromeBox XE300.

chromebook  Samsung Chromebox Reviewed

No, neither the ChromeBox nor anything that is powered by ChromeOS, is going to be able to do everything that a Windows PC or a Mac is going to be able to do. But a question to be asked is why you are going to pay more than you would pay for the ChromeBox to be capable of doing things you only do 2 to 5% of the time? Granted, sometimes that 2% to 5% is the most critical capability you need. I only produce a podcast once a month, but when I need to do audio editing, I absolutely have to have a device that does that, so I get that end of the argument.

However, there is a gray area in that thread, and sometimes the question needs to be asked whether or not the real problem is that you just need to consider a different way of doing something, in order to gain other advantages. After one week, I will say that my own opinion is that the ChromeBox appears to be a totally serviceable computing solution. It is a paradigm shift, however, and some may not be willing to entertain that change.

Is It Good?

The ChromeBox is a good, simple, easy to use device that provides plenty of power for basic computing and media consumption needs. Of this I am absolutely certain. Does that mean that the ChromeBox is for everyone? No, not really. The device is a curious paradox of being both a low-end inexpensive, simple device that also interestingly requires one to do some digging to extract certain basic Windows-equivalent functions out of it. I struggled for a couple of hours (off and on, not continuously) trying to figure out how to find out how much storage space I had left on the device as I loaded local versions of music files, pictures, and video to the SSD.

The argument might be that the average user of a ChromeBox would likely not be loading a lot of local files. But then I ask, does the average consumer have the use of Cloud Apps completely threaded into their normal workflow and use-cases? Most of my friends and family are not deeply rooted into DropBox, Evernote, Google Play Music, iCloud, or the other services that you really have to be savvy about in order to survive without local storage. Once I knew how to make sure I was not overstuffing the ChromeBox, I then had to figure out how to to use and access and especially organize local storage. That was a slight side-step from Windows/OS X conventions, and non tech-savvy users might get annoyed unless they have someone to walk them through it the first time. For users that already use Chrome as a browser on Windows, or are familiar with the Google Drive style interface, the change will be less. For users who do not mind a little Googling to get up and running, this will also be an easy step as well. But a lot of users expect to just GO when they take a computing device out of the box.

My Life With The Samsung Chromebox

In the last week, I have gotten around to trying out some productivity apps on the ChromeBox . I have predominantly been using Scratchpad, but I have also tried using Sticky Notes as a blotter for managing article ideas and content planning for my blog. Sticky Notes is a good fit for this type of work and organization. The webapp has an export function that generates code for exporting your notes to another PC, although I have not tested that function at this point. I could see using Sticky Notes for planning PC Projects, house projects, and continuing to use it as a blog planning tool. I also like the background options and color schemes for notes.

chromebook  Samsung Chromebox Reviewed

The main point is, the ChromeBox meets my minimum needs for productivity apps for writing, note taking, and project planning. There are options that meet those needs in the Chrome WebApp store and users should be able to find something that meets their basic needs. I have still not found a good notebook-style app that allows me to categorize or label notes, partitioning them into discrete sections by topic or other filters. I found the Versitek Organizer, but it requires signing up for an account, which I have not wanted to do yet. I may get around to checking that out in the 2nd week of the review.

On the audio-visual front, I have received a lot of questions on how the ChromeBox might do as a home-theater PC (HTPC). My plan for the 2nd week is to hook it up as a component in my entertainment center. I was a bit befuddled by the dual DisplayPorts at first, having not worked with this type of connection before. I had to spend the first few days testing the ChromeBox out over a DVI connection. Once I got up and running, however, a few minutes of research turned this up on Amazon. I ordered it and it arrived before the weekend got started. This allowed me to connect dual displays. You can see notes here on the limited functionality of dual displays in ChromeOS as it works today. I have tested the cable hooked up to a 23″ Acer LCD and it works just fine, although it is rendering at 1280 X 1024, vice this display’s max resolution. Of course, display resolution is not something you have control over in ChromeOS, at least not without being in Developer Mode. It just is what it is.

I still have a question as to whether or not the ‘Box puts out audio over DisplayPort and I am thinking it must given Samsung’s apparent use-cases the device is intended for. Add that there are no other audio ports except for the 1.8mm jack up front. There are not any speakers on this display, so I have not been able to actually test sound output over the DisplayPort-to-HDMI. All research I have done points to an expectation that this will work once I hook it up to my 50″ plasma.

For those desiring Surround Sound, you should expect that sending this to a receiver equipped with HDMI inputs using this cable, or something similar-to, will provide the audio experience you are looking for.

The Good

  • instant up/instant down; start-up and shutdown times are basically instantaneous
  • thermals very low; ambient noise non-existent
  • video playback handles various codecs; capable of playback of direct dumps from digital cameras, camcorders, and playback of older .avi files with no issues. Did not play back my 1-week review video, but it did transfer it off the camera and then file-transferred it to YouTube
  • handles video playback in one window and multi-tasking another app into a different window with no problems
  • handles bluetooth pickup out of standby as well as any device; better than most Android devices and at least as well as most Windows PC’s

The Bad

  • offline capability is very limited
  • multi-tasking workflow management is not the best; In one instance you are looking at a single spawned instance of an app, the next all of your app tabs and windows appear to have collapsed into a single browser icon.
  • scroll wheel on at least some Bluetooth mice are not recognized
  • opening File Manager automatically has the first file or folder selected. If you do not know this, and then select a file and then select “Delete”, you’ve blown away the one you wanted and unintentionally blown away the first object in the list because it was auto-selected
  • not viable as a gaming platform due to apparent dearth of non-casual games in the WebApp Store; jury is still out on this one as I have more games to test

Those are some of the basic notes of what I have experienced so far on the ChromeBox, but not everything. Please feel free to post questions here. If I do not see them directly, Dinu will send them to me and I will get you guys a response as soon as I can. Check back in another week for the 2-week wrap-up!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wow, it seems there are a lot more negatives than I realized!

    No control over output resolution? Sound problems! Poor multiwindow and multitasking?

    I really was hoping for a better experience than your reviewer reported.

  • So its always going to be at that resolution? That really is a big letdown if true. Like native resolutions on my monitors.

  • I would be interested to know if Airmech.com will run on a Chromebook or Chromebox.

  • All those negatives surprised me, except for the one about opening up multiple tabs/windows. The first Chromebooks had a poor processor so this is an issue. My parents are getting a new computer soon and I’m hoping they get the Chromebox, but I don’t know if it would work right with their wireless router. Love Chrome :)

  • Jack, resolution control and better multi-window management should be arriving in the software very soon. I personally believe that’s why the hardware launch has been delayed.

    Games to try should include, Bastion, From Dust, Wolf3D, and Mini-Ninjas.

  • A practical problem with Chrome OS is that it’s limited to only Chrome browser – how many times have you had to pull up a secondary browser to get a site to work? Once or twice a week I launch Firefox specifically to view a site that won’t work correctly in Chrome.

    Perhaps it’d be possible to shove an alternate browser into a Chrome ‘app’…

  • Essentially a net-top which costs more than average net-top, but limitations in every department apart from speed of boot. I like the concept. For a life on the cloud, hardware is pretty much immaterial, all you need is bandwidth and the ability to run a HTML 5 browser…I use a Chromebook and find it very effective when connected, but significantly crippled when off line.

  • I love Google and Chrome, but I really dont understand why the average person would want one of these?
    If I got one the first thing I would try and do is stick Windows and then Chrome on it. By the sounds of the specs it would run Windows nice and I have absolutely no clue as to why ChromeOS would be better than Windows with Chrome?…the cloud? Ive got Chrome and dropbox installed on my Windows machine, what else do I need?….what else do I get if I go with ChromeOS?
    Seriously, can anyone say?
    (Feel free to swap the word Windows with Linux if your a geek and Mac if your a sheep)

    I can see advantages for ChromeOS in a multi user business or school situation, but that’s it.

  • So the update pushed out today adds multi-task window support. It still feels a bit like a kludge, and auto-sizing of windows as you push to the left or right edges does not re-size perfectly; some scrolling left or right might still be required depending on the site. No extended display support in this build.

  • And here is a copy of part of a conversation between Melissa Daniels of Google and I via Google+. She recommended I try cycling through the CTRL + Full Screen button to see if that addressed the monitor display issue. My response:

    “Thanks. So this behaves in a manner that forces dual-displays to the same resolution? Sending video to two displays of disparate resolutions, they both get forced to the lowest common resolution they can support, in this case 1280 X 1024.

    Cycling through the full-screen button allows one of them to display at their native resolution, and blanks the other display.”

    But it cannot support two displays at their native resolution if they are different, at least with one over DisplayPort and the other over DVI, unless it is just not doing it with me using the DisplayPort to HDMI cable.

  • A chromebook or a Chromebox instills the essence of lightweight computing, as compared to high-spec, heavily loaded Windows machines that bog down to a crawl after extended use. Windows user must constantly deal with virus attacks and endless patches that put the OS under extreme stress. A good analogy is comparing a lightweight and fast Lotus sports car and a heavy and bloated SUV. Some reviewers wrongly accuse Chrome OS machines of being underpowered, because they were not designed to run inefficient Windows OS. A 250 HP Lotus is fast, but a 250 HP SUV, weighing over 5000 pounds, is a snail.