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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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!