Quick quiz : What kind of phone do you have?
OK, that was easy. You probably got that one pretty quickly, right? Samsung Galaxy? iPhone?
Next question : What kind of PC do you have?
(sound of crickets chirping)
Harder isn’t it? Our computers are usually some non-descript black boxes that we try not to kick when we sit down at our desks. You put a lot of effort into selecting the best phone. The one that just felt right. With all the time we spend in front of our computers, shouldn’t you use a PC that gives you that same feeling?
The HP Chromebox isn’t a PC
Chances are you’re reading this article on a Chrome browser. Chances are pretty good you have Gmail or use Google Maps to get around town. I’d even venture a guess that you spend a bit of time watching YouTube.
So why do you need Windows?
Seriously. You’ve changed how you use a computer a lot over the last two decades. Why are you still using a computer that hasn’t changed that much since Windows 95?
That’s what the engineers at Google asked themselves. Their answer was the Chromebook and it’s desktop version the Chromebox.
The HP Chromebox isn’t a PC. Not in the sense you’re used to. It’s the newest Chromebox , from the #2 PC manufacturer in the world. Hoping to capitalize on the initial success of the ASUS Chromebox, HP decided to make their version more stylish and refined, while still keeping everything that makes the Chromebox great.
HP Chromebox Review: The Specs
The HP Chromebox is not an entry-level computer. It’s not even a “cheap computer.”
What it is is a blazingly fast device that prioritizes performance for what you’re going to use most anyway – surfing the web.
Wait, you say. It’s only got 2GB of RAM and a Celeron processor for heaven’s sake.
True. But remember, this isn’t a Windows PC. A Windows 8.1 PC running with 4GB of RAM will boot up in about 45 seconds. The HP Chromebox I tested takes around 8 seconds. That’s over 500% faster using half the resources.
The HP Chromebox gives you everything optimized for a quick web experience. It has four USB 3.0 ports – no older USB 2.0 ports like other devices. It has both an HDMI video out and a DisplayPort video out. You can hook up your HD TV or your LED monitor – or both and run split-screen. It has Gigabit wired Ethernet as well as 802.11 a\b\g\n and Bluetooth 4.0.
HP had a different consumer in mind for the Chromebox than for their Envy line of PC’s. The Envy line looks dark, sleek and edgy with it’s gloss black case, sliver trim and red glowing LED’s.
The Chromebox is the opposite. About the only style option it offers is a powder-coat finish in a choice of colors: white, gray, or turquoise. HP designed the Chromebox to be simple and refined. It doesn’t stand out – unless you get it in turquoise, but that’s a different story.
You know from reading my other articles that I like my technology to be fast and easy, but also to not look out of place in my living room. When I’m using a device, I want to focus on what I’m doing, not the glowing LED on the front panel. So needless to say, I’m drawn to this design in much the same way that I’m drawn to the Amazon Fire TV. If just feels right to me.
Setting up any Chrome device is super easy, and this one is no exception. In the video I show that the entire setup process took just under one minute from the time I hit the power button to the time that I was looking at which apps to install from the Chrome Web Store.
I’ve read a few reports of reviewers having difficulty pairing wireless keyboards and mice to the Chromebox. I didn’t experience that at all. I keep two Logitech keyboards on-hand, as well as a Logitech and Microsoft mouse for testing. All were recognized immediately. If you’re interested in the specifics, the keyboards were the K400 (reviewed here) and the K250. The mice were the Microsoft Arc Mouse and the Logitech M510.
Still, if you still don’t want to take my word for it, HP does offer a Chromebox bundle that comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. It is only available in the Snow White (really?) color, though.
HP Chromebox Benchmarks
This wouldn’t be a very good HP Chromebox review if we didn’t run some benchmarks, right?
The Chrome OS doesn’t really lend itself to an AnTuTu Benchmark, unfortunately. I had to get a little creative. Thankfully, Lon Seidman of Lon Reviews Tech pointed out some Chrome-friendly alternatives.
Since this is my first go around putting a Chromebox through it’s paces, I decided to put it head-to-head against my Windows 7 desktop. A little background first: I built my main computer to be as fast as possible while being cost-effective. It’s running an quad-core AMD Phenom II Black Edition clocked at 3.2 GHz. It has 12GB of RAM and an SSD for the boot drive. It is three years old, so it’s no longer cutting edge, but it still outperforms many of the brand new Windows 8 machines you’ll find at your local Best Buy. Trust me, I’ve benchmarked those as well. 🙂
There were three main benchmark tests that I ran on both machines. Here are the results:
This was pretty surprising to me. Sure, my desktop is three years old, but it’s been tweaked and optimized to run as fast as possible. Considering that it has two extra cores, 50% faster CPU speed and 6 times the memory, this shouldn’t have even been close.
Not only was it close, but the HP Chromebox even beat out the Windows machine in the Browsermark test.
I’m impressed. Really impressed.
I’m a Chromebook fan, like I said at the beginning. I think they make computing easier and more accessible for the everyday consumer. But I think we are stuck in this “I’m a Mac or I’m a PC” world. Well, now there’s a third option.
HP came up with a really tempting alternative to a Windows desktop PC. The Chromebox is easier to setup and easier to use. It has no maintenance and no viruses. It performs as well, or better in some cases, and all for less than half the cost of your typical PC. It won’t look out of place next to your TV, and won’t take up much space on your desk if you want to use it as your primary computer.
Chrome OS devices aren’t for everyone yet, but HP is trying pretty hard to change that.