ASUS Chromebox M115U Highlights -
Pros: Inexpensive. Compact. Efficient processor with great performance. Lots of connectivity options.
Cons: Low 2GB memory. Only 16GB local storage.
Most probably by now you must be very well aware of the Chrome operating system (OS) by Google. For those are not familiar with Chrome OS, it is an alternative to the Microsoft Windows operating system. Basically it is entirely built around the Chrome web browser. It still has a similar look and feel of a traditional Windows desktop, including a task bar and even a start menu to open windows which is very similar to the Windows OS. Where Chrome OS differs is that users won't be able to install commonly used programs like Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop and even computer games. Considering how much time most people spend on their browsers, it works pretty well as an OS. Since users can't install typical programs, it is very secure as there is less of a chance that the computer will be infected with viruses and malware. Another great upshot of running Chrome OS is that it doesn't need powerful hardware to run smoothly, thereby costing less than a traditional desktop. No wonder manufacturers have quickly adapted and started making desktops that run the Chrome OS nicknamed the "Chromebox".
ASUS Chromebox M115U is one such example of this current trend. The first thing you will notice is just how small the Chromebox is. Measuring 4.9 x 1.6 x 4.9 inches and weighing just 1.3 pounds, this Chromebox is tiny for a complete desktop solution. It even includes a VESA mount if you want to hide the Chromebox behind the monitor, making it completely invisible. The Chromebox is well designed with round edges and the whole body is made of delicate thin black plastic to keep it's cost down. Inside there are pretty modest specifications with a dual core Intel Haswell based Celeron processor, 2GB of memory and 16GB Solid State Drive (SSD). Setup is very easy and if you're already using Chrome web browser, then all your preferences and bookmarks will automatically appear and you'll have an entirely new computer setup in just a few minutes. Once it is up and running, it is basically like using Chrome on any other computer.
Main Features at a Glance:
* Small and lightweight form factor with support for VESA mount.
* Instant boot up in seconds.
* 4th generation Intel Celeron 2955U processor.
* 2GB of memory with 16GB SSD.
* HDMI and DisplayPort for dual display support.
* Fast USB 3.0 ports.
* Dual-band Wireless-N connectivity for streaming HD media and web surfing.
Performance - The ASUS Chromebox M115U features Intel Celeron 2955U dual core processor with a clock speed of 1.4 GHz. It is based on Intel's 4th generation Haswell based micro-architecture, which is fairly new. The processor is quick, responsive and definitely gives users enough processing power in terms of general productivity, web browsing, basic applications and general multimedia tasks. Compared to the Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, many features like Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading are missing. Regardless, it doesn't feel like a long wait for the processor to catch up. This is partly attributed to Chrome OS, as it doesn't require powerful resources to finish it's tasks. The Intel HD Graphics offers good video acceleration and multimedia experience especially in respect to what the Chrome OS environment is designed to offer. It is not inherently a gaming based platform and definitely not meant to be a full blown gaming computer. Nevertheless, game titles that run on web browsers will have no issues when played on this device. As shown below, overall the processor scored 6.0 compared to some Intel Core i3 processors in terms of performance, power consumption and features which is pretty decent (source: CPUBoss).
Storage & Memory - The desktop comes with 2GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory and 16GB SSD storage space. The 2GB of memory is probably it's weakest point but even that's not too bad. You could still keep 10 tabs open and have things working nicely and responsively. Watching YouTube even on HD is no issue and website browsing works fluidly as well as music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. For some users, having just 16GB of storage may be disappointing but probably thats because the desktop is running the Chrome OS and pretty much everything gets transferred to online cloud storage. You could also replace and upgrade the memory and storage to have something much bigger if required. Regardless the SSD hard drive will definitely speed up the boot time and will have much faster transfer rates compared to a traditional hard drive.
Operating System - Chrome OS.
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The Chromebox M115U is very rich in connectivity. There are plenty of ports and connectivity options with a pair of USB 3.0 ports upfront and a SD card reader along the side. In addition to couple of more USB 3.0 ports at the back, there is also a HDMI and DisplayPort to connect to a monitor. Additionally, there is an air vent underneath the Chromebox to keep it cool and quiet even under load. One welcome addition is the built-in dual band Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), which is consistently able to keep a strong signal. This is definitely important for a computer that relies almost entirely on network connectivity. In addition, there is a Bluetooth V4.0 and an Ethernet port (10/100/1000Mbit/s) connectivity option. There are no in-built speakers so it is advisable to get a portable bluetooth external speaker like The OontZ Angle by Cambridge Soundworks. The M115U model comes with a keyboard and mouse that are especially designed with unique Chrome OS shortcuts making the use of the Chromebox even faster and easier to use. There is also a model available - ASUS Chromebox M004U, if you just want the Chromebox without the keyboard and mouse.
The ASUS Chromebox M115U is a great alternative to buying a traditional desktop running Windows OS. A lot of people just use their web browser to work at home or school, and if this sounds like you then using this Chromebox running Chrome OS makes perfect sense. The 4th generation Intel Celeron processor is very responsive and ensures users won’t be kept waiting when working on documents, streaming HD content, web browsing or playing games. Since users are basically running a web browser, the performance offered by this processor is pretty good. Also, the connectivity options offered by the Chromebox are rich with multiple USB 3.0 ports and dual display support. Power users should stay away from this desktop but we would definitely recommend it for home users and students alike. Overall, the ASUS Chromebox is a compact, yet powerful device capable for delivering an amazing Chrome OS experience at an unbelievable price of less than $200. Please note that there is also a model with a faster Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB memory - ASUS Chromebox M075U.