PC-on-stick is the new cool! Until a few years ago, the most portable a fully functional computer could go was a 2-3 kg laptop. This weight came down significantly over the years and with the advent of smartphones, everyone’s view of computers took a turn for the greater good.
But what about people who want to use a full-blown computer when they are travelling? What about those of us who have old but working display units rotting in our garages?
The solution to all these questions is a PC-on-stick unit. There are tens of products related to this in the market today. In fact, a quick search will show you that most of these chocolate bar-sized units come in with either Windows 10 or Android.
But there’s another prodigy from Google that could compete with the mainstream solutions and that is Chrome OS.
Asus Chromebit comes in with stock Chrome OS running on-board. Even though Chrome OS might have greater limitations when compared to Windows and other competing OSes, the operating system seems to be a smart choice for Asus as it provides enough utility for most users who want to bring life to their old hardware with just web-based apps.
|CPU||1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288-C (quad-core, 28nm, ARM Cortex-A17 Harvard Superscalar)|
|Memory||2GB LPDDR3 RAM|
|Connectivity||1x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI 2.0, power port, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
|Graphics||Integrated Rockchip Mali T764 quad core|
|Dimensions||123 x 31 x 17 mm|
The first thing you will observe when you see the module is that it isn’t one of the more compact units. At 125 mm long, the Chromebit is easily on the larger sector of the PC-on-stick market. But that is still considerably smaller than what a traditional PC would take up.
Picking up the device, it will be evident that it isn’t one of the lighter ones, too. The device comes in a basic dongle design. It can be connected to a display unit using the HDMI pin on it. It has a kind of a matte finish, no matter which colour you opt for.
The Chromebit has a very spartan look to it. There aren’t any buttons on it. The only features of importance on the aesthetic body are two ports– one for the power and the other a USB port. You can use this USB port to plug in devices like a keyboard, a mouse or anything else (in case of multiple devices, a USB hub can be utilized) or connect your input devices using Bluetooth.
Comparing the size and functionality of the Asus Chromebit with the other PC dongles out there, we can safely say that the Asus device isn’t the best in any way.
Setting up the Chromebit is a fairly straightforward approach. And most of that credit goes to Chrome OS which is nothing but a simple Chrome browser window opening up as soon as you plug in the device. There is some initial sign up requirement, which is again simple if you have a Gmail account.
Just plug in the device on the display and plug in the power supply. Wait for the system to run you through the auto-initial setup which includes adding a keyboard and mouse (wired or wireless) and voila! Your device is ready to use.
One thing of note here is that, the dongle easily recognizes all devices connected to it fairly quickly. Wi-Fi reception in particular was pretty impressive, considering that it is just a few inches longer than a pendrive and still continues to do almost everything a normal PC would be able to do.
Do note though, a “normal” PC.
Features and Performance
Let me be straight with this. Chromebit is not your hard core PC which can multitask 15 different programs at the same time. In fact, you can see a lag almost immediately, if you open multiple tabs on the browser and there are apps open on the background. And if more than a couple of those tabs are playing videos and other moving stuff, running around with the Chromebit could be troublesome.
Make no mistake though, the device is fully capable of performing daily corporate tasks like viewing/editing documents (Google Drive) sending/receiving mails and playing videos.
The Asus PC-on-stick device comes in with most of the basic features you’d like to see in a PC. As it runs Chrome OS, all the apps that can be run on this computer are web based. However, even though the device performs fairly well on multitasking, it still isn’t in the same range as the Intel or Amazon devices and high bandwidth processes are also unsupported.
Downloads, streaming, music, browsing, etc do not bring down the performance of the device by much. In fact, the Chromebit is one of the more efficient and best responsive devices in this respect. The power consumption of the module is also quite low, making it highly economical to the energy department and green too.
And when you are getting all of this for just under ₹8,000 (much much much lower as compared to Intel’s version), you can let these few performance issues pass.
At just under 8K, the Chromebit is really a great deal. While there are other similar devices with better functionality features and performance out in the market, the Chromebit is unique when it comes down to an overall experience. That is largely because, even tough ChromeOS comes with minimal functions, it is soetimes best to have things simple when you’re travelling and need documents on the go.
If you have an old display unit which is simply lying around or you are travelling and need to use a portable PC every now and then or you’re on a business rendezvous and require a portable computer for presentation and stuff, the Chromebit is ideal for you.
But if you are someone who likes power over simplicity, there are still better solutions you can find.[wp-review]
We’ll soon be coming up with a short hands-on video with the Chromebit as well, Stay tuned!
Founder of the The Tech Portal. Now a consulting editor for the platform. Has advised and worked with numerous early/mid-stage startups during past 5 years in various roles. You can click on his LinkedIn profile and drop in a message to get in touch.