Asus Chromebit – Banana for Scale

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If there’s one thing that the internet likes as much as cats, Leonardo DiCaprio and selfies it has to be the humble banana. And that’s one of the things we have yet to stick into a review so we figured that it was time. A chance conjunction of the spheres, and Craig’s between-meals snack, has finally afforded us an opportunity to do just that – so let’s talk about the Asus Chromebit. Don’t worry, the previous sentence will make a whole lot more sense shortly.

Long story short, we had an Asus Chromebit to test and an actual banana to measure its dimensions against. There was no way we were passing something like that up. Sadly, that’s just about the most exciting part of this review, as the Chromebit could use a few improvements that can’t be conferred by laying it next to bendy fruit. Or seeds. Pods? What the hell are bananas, anyway?

Box Of Tricks

Chromebit For Scale 2

What the Chromebit is, is a little HDMI connector-sporting computer on a stick. You know, the kind you keep meaning to make with that Raspberry Pi that’s just lying there. And you said that this year would be different..

Anyway, the box that the Chromebit arrives in is a bit smaller than most smartphone packaging we’ve seen. Not too surprising considering that the Chromebit itself is about the size of a… well, a banana. Inside the box is the Chromebit itself, a short HDMI extender, an adaptor in case you’re trying to connect to a display that doesn’t fit a full-sized HDMI, and the power cable.

That’s right, you plug the Chromebit into a display but it will need an external power source. There’s a single USB port as well, for a peripheral, but the mini-PC features Bluetooth if you’ve got some wireless gear lying around (this route is recommended – using only a mouse or only a keyboard is a pain in the banana-regions). Other than that, what you see is what you get. Nice design though.

The Blunt End

Chromebit Cap OffWhat’s the point of the Chromebit though? It’s basically a Chromebook, running Google’s ChromeOS, but without the screen, keyboard, trackpad and chassis. Which might explain why you can pick one up for around R2,000 but you’re going to be lacking display and friends. Your TV will work fine for the former, wired and Bluetooth-capable peripherals will serve for the former. Boom, instant computer. That’s supposed to be the point.

But is there that much of a point to a Chromebit? It’s got 16GB of internal storage (which can’t be expanded), 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage (valid for two years), 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 2GB of RAM, and a Rockchip RK3288C quad-core processor inside. It’s about as powerful as the average Chromebook, so you can expect some very minor hitches and starts in normal use. The specs are entry-level in the brain department but it has extra juice when it comes to wireless access.

It’s a complete computer, no doubt about it, with special emphasis on wireless connectivity. But that’s part of its problem. If you’re lacking a smart TV, there are other ways to go about making it one and the Chromebit is overkill in this case. If you can’t afford a home notebook or want to use this as a home computer alternative, you probably don’t have the wireless internet connection that it needs.

Unspecified Audience

Chromebit For Scale 1The Chromebit is a device is search of a user. And maybe they’ve found them overseas but this PC-on-a-stick is going to be tough to recommend in South Africa.

Either you’re going to be a basic user, lacking internet access and sometimes a stable power source. A Chromebook would be a better proposition either way, as it has everything contained in a single unit. Even then, its usefulness drops if you can’t get online.

Or you’re an advanced user and you’re going to struggle to see the Chromebit as anything other than a curiosity. Sure, you can plug it into any HDMI-fitted screen and make it a PC. But you’ll have to haul along the power cables and peripherals to make that happen and the novelty of a stick-PC isn’t going to outweigh the inconvenience. No matter how banana-sized the Chromebit actually is.

Verdict

There’s nothing actually wrong with the Chromebit, as such. It’s well designed and sturdy, fit for purpose and does everything as advertised. It even does it all well, you could use it as an office desktop replacement if you wanted to (and wanted to freak your IT guy out by adding ChromeOS into the mix). It’s that good. But the unusual form factor and the inconvenience of having to lug around the extras, as well as its lack of internal storage and reliance on stable internet makes it a very tough sell in this country. Even if it’ll only cost you two grand.

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