14 Comments

Summary:

LG surprised many with the Chromebase, an all-in-one 21.5-inch desktop that runs Chrome OS. My hands on was mainly positive but there’s one missing piece of data before I say if this is a good buy: We don’t know the price.

LG Chromebase octane

The LG Chromebase is making an appearance this year’s CES but it’s not easy to find. I did track it down in LG’s massive show floor booth; actually I tracked them down. I found the LG Chromebase all-in-one desktop in both white and black models. The Chromebase is a twist on Chrome OS devices, which are typically laptops or small desktops without a monitor.

The actual devices are well designed and the build quality is about on par with an HP Chromebook 11: Lots of plastic involved so not a high-end feel but put together well.

Chromebase side

The 21.5-inch IPS display panel is a standout feature. Viewing angles are good and the screen is bright. While 1920 x 1080 resolution sounds high, this isn’t an “retina display.” At 108 pixels per inch, you can see individual pixels without much effort.

Chromebase Gigaom

What you do gain here is more screen space to work with. I was able to open several Chrome apps outside of the browser and still have room to spare. Folks that use a Chromebook with multiple apps at once will appreciate the extra space.

Like most other new Chrome OS devices, LG chose Intel’sHaswell processor to power this all-in-one computer. So performance is likely on par with the latest Chromebooks. I did run some performance tests but with so many people playing with the Chromebase, the benchmarks would likely be better in a fresh testing environment.

Chromebase Sunspider

LG has a matching keyboard and mouse for the Chromebase. Both worked fine in my brief testing and the keyboard does have Chrome-specific keys. It also includes a separate numeric keypad, which is handy.

Chromebase keyboard

I didn’t test using the Chromebase as a an external monitor but it can do that trick through an HDMI port. There’s also one USB 3.0 port and a trio of USB 2.0 ports. That makes it easy to add external storage or connect a camera, for example.

Chromebase USB

The big factor here is price and LG simply hasn’t said what that number will be. My own guess is around $500. Anything less and I think this is really good value; anything more and it’s a tough sell. Would I buy one, depending on the price?

Possibly: I often connect my Chromebooks to a 27-inch iMac for more workroom. If I could get the same experience on a dedicated device for $500 or less, I probably would. I do wish LG had opted for 4 GB of memory though: There’s little chance of adding more to the Chromebase on your own.

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  1. i am surprised we have not seen more ‘chromium OS’ custom distros that would bring the chrome OS experience to any PC. we have hexxeh build which have a very experimental fell to them. i would love to see driver loaded installable cd/dvd that lets me convert any PC laptop or desktop into a low maintenance chrome OS box with the same ease as installing ubuntu. we would than have the massive base of wintel hardware to choose from.

    1. Much like Chrome and Android, ChromeOS isn’t really open. The core functionality is ostensibly open-sourced, but the amount of work you have to put it to get it from that state to something that’s functional is non-trivial, and not really worth it. After all, ChromeOS doesn’t really do anything that you can’t do with Ubuntu or Windows (which comes with most computers anyway).

  2. Totally understand but then Google wouldn’t be able to control the whole experience between software and recommended or “approved” hardware.

    1. now its time for the lg,asus,samsung,hp to bring their custom apps … similar to android skins .. to substitute the missing apps and features … would be a step in the right direction…
      I saw a huge advisement of Chromebook in India . A better offline experience is still required with a decent Hard-disk space, not everywhere u have crazy broadband speed .

  3. I’m with you 100%. Why in the world they wouldn’t put 4GB of RAM in this stationery device is ludicrous. I listened to your podcast earlier where you talked about the strangeness of all these OEM’s opting for 2GB of RAM instead of 4GB and trying to differentiate themselves from the other OEM’s. My conspiracy theory is Google is working on a great midrange ChromeOS laptop that they want to stand out from the rest of the crowd. :).

  4. Why would anyone buy a Google Chrome based computer or an Android OS device is beyond me.

    Every single keystroke you make or piece of content you create is being scanned and sent to Google to come back to as advertising related streams to make them money.

  5. I would actually rather have an hdmi out as well as in. I’d take this over the extra RAM actually.
    I’d be happy if it had 4GB RAM but from everything I’ve seen these Haswell models get along quite well on 2GB.
    The HDMI in is nice as it means the machine will have a little more flexibility.
    However with HDMI out I could also use dual screens.

    I am thinking $350 to $450 tops for this. It doesn’t seem massively different from the HP Android AIO and they are selling for $399 I think.

    I understand the market for this and the unit makes more sense for it. But for myself I’d have to weigh it against just using something like an Acer C720 and an external monitor of my choice.

  6. Keep in mind the Chromeboxes made by Samsung (no monitor, no mouse, no keyboard) retailed for about $300 to $330. Add a 21″ IPS screen, keyboard, and mouse and you’re sitting at least $500. I’d bet on a suggested retail price of $599 with street sales of around $530.

    And at that price 2GB of RAM is criminal. This box, above all other Chrome OS boxes, needs more RAM because there’s screen real estate for spreading out and opening lots of tabs.

    Keep in mind that Chrome OS devices remain a tiny niche industry overall, so LG is going out on a huge limb to produce this unit.

    More Predictions: This box won’t sell particularly well — I’d bet on less than 100,000 units. Chromebooks will remain vastly dominant in Chrome OS world. LG will kill this device in less than a year due to poor sales. I’d say the Chromebox was a better idea, but clearly that didn’t sell squat.

    Still waiting for a proper midrange Chromebook myself. Requirements:
    * Haswell Celeron processor
    * 4GB RAM
    * 16 or 32GB SSD
    * 13-14 inch screen, preferably 16:10 ratio
    * full-size well-made keyboard
    * minimum 4-square-inch high-quality touchpad
    * IPS screen at 1400×900
    * good overall build quality
    * 3lb or less
    * USB 2 and 3 ports
    * HDMI out
    * 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi
    * price tag of $500 or less

  7. Joel Montfort Sunday, January 12, 2014

    I get that this is something of a geek forum (and I say “geek” with affection, not malice), but all the whining about “only” 2G RAM or “only” 16G storage is kind of looking at things from a PC perspective. Chrome’s resource demands are not very large, and the whole point of the paradigm is cloud storage. My bet is that most folk will find the LG’s specs plenty adequate.

    1. Totally valid point, Joel. The folks who are pushing the Chromebook envelope are likely active readers and commenters here. For many people, 2 GB of memory in a Chromebook will surely suffice. I use a Chromebook as a full time device, so I like the extra memory: It helps when I have more than a dozen tabs open, for instance.

      1. More than a dozen tabs?

        Okay, then. You’re a better multitasker than I am. :)

        Anyway… I did not mean to imply that requests for more hardware grunt should go unanswered. Choice is not a bad thing, and if it attracts more people to the platform, I’m all for it. I just don’t want to see the lower-powered alternatives abandoned in the process. I think there is a market for the modestly-powered but ‘comfortable’ to use products like this Chromebase: big screens, numeric keypad, etc. Some people are particular about attributes like that which are more immediately apparent to them, even with just a couple of tabs open.

        1. Oh, I totally appreciate your thoughts. You provided a nice (and needed) reminder that Chrome OS devices can appeal to all types of users: casual and power! :)

  8. If it’s ~$450 I’ll be getting one – I wanted to upgrade my monitor for a year now and love my Chromebook. Anything more and it’ll be a tough sell, for me at least.

  9. Frederik Van Assche Monday, January 27, 2014

    The chromebase would be an ideal device for an internet kiosk in a hotel/ public library

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