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back to article Review: Samsung Chromebox

Moan, moan, moan: that’s how I suspected this review would come across as I pondered on my initial impressions of Samsung’s Chromebox – its Mac Mini-styled desktop computer that runs Google’s Chrome OS. You know, the online operating system that turns your computer into paperweight when there’s no internet connection. And then I …

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Anonymous Coward

No device that needs 100% Internet, 100% of the time is ever going to work unless you have pre-loaded front end apps that can support Internet outages in the short term.

As a writer I use Google Docs to do a lot of work on the road. When Google is not available all I have on my PC is a 1K shortcut to my doc which does nothing for me.

Put it on the cloud, that is fine, but give me a copy to play with.

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Facepalm

Why

Why were you so generous in giving this paperweight 45%?

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kind of get where they are coming from

ubiquitous wireless internet is not far off.

won't be rushing to buy on the strength of the review, however. I don't understand why this thing exists.

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Re: Why - @ LarsG

For once I actually agree with Lars...this thing is indeed a paperweight. And the thing with the splash screen arrows pointing to nowhere? This smacks of poor testing, and poor design.Which doesn't bode well for the rest of it...and indeed it was proven to be so.

My opinion: Avoid. 300 quid is better spent elsewhere.

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Google have some Offline capability

It is possible to view Documents & Calendar offline. Fairly sure I edited a Calendar offline when I was toying with this stuff. Some of this is still in Beta & clearly it's a moving target. Adding USB Drives etc to a Chromebox/Chromebook must give additional offline capability. Anyway these are all things I'll be trying once I get a Chromebox.

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Anonymous Coward

Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

I'm increasingly not seeing the point Chrome when I can buy a Windows device that does more the money. OTOH, as a desktop/Netbook play, I could see Android (with full Chrome browser experience) succeeding where Chrome is clearly failing.

Good review BTW; it's about time a reviewer took Chrome by the balls.

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Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

You can buy computers built around Android for $50. Built around an Allwinner A10 and usually packing 512MB-1GB RAM and 2-8GB+ of storage they'd be perfectly adequate for browsing and multimedia playback.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

"You can buy computers built around Android for $50. Built around an Allwinner A10 and usually packing 512MB-1GB RAM and 2-8GB+ of storage they'd be perfectly adequate for browsing and multimedia playback."

Go on then give me some links as I've been after such a device for a while

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Facepalm

Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

"Go on then give me some links as I've been after such a device for a while"

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Allwinner+A10

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Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

Ebay is filled with items like this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1G-MK802-Mini-PC-android4-0-Google-Tv-smart-Android-4-0-Box-allwinner-A10-Model-/271011214241?pt=US_Internet_Media_Streamers&hash=item3f1986f3a1

Bid at the low end and eventually you'll get one, or buy direct from Alibaba.com

You'd probably have to buy a usb hub and wifi dongle to use it (and mouse + keyboard) but then you have a perfectly adequate web browser.

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Linux

Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

Yes. There's nothing like a product only being available on Ebay to inspire confidence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

No intention to defend this Google-badged PoS, but...

"Yes. There's nothing like a product only being available on Ebay to inspire confidence."

Yeah, the confidence you get from support you get when you buy from the usual big names is *sooo* much better. Or maybe not.

The idea of "support" from Google is even more ridiculous than the idea of support from Redmond's earthly representatives, or PC World, or Carphone Warehouse.

And has someone forgotten that Windows out of the box hasn't played DVDs for most of its life, for example, and has needed a 3rd party DVD player adding, and will do so again in Windows 8 for those whose system builders haven't added a DVD player before it left the shop (which is what usually happened with XP and previous)?

The low cost alternative doesn't have to be eBay or AliBaba. Those in the UK might like to look at eBuyer for the current incarnation of the Sumvision Cyclone Astro+, a moderately decent ARM/Android box for £80, for example. Obviously not x86 based, of course, and not *much* support (mine won't even run TuneIn Radio out of the box) , but in comparison with this Samsung box...

http://www.sumvision.com.cn/productinfo/cyclonetablet/cyclonetablet_astro.asp

http://www.ebuyer.com/341447-sumvision-cyclone-astro-tablet-pc-sumv-astrocyctab

Or, as others said already, Raspberry Pi (or similar but less hiptrendy ARM alternatives, or whatever follows Raspberry Pi).

Who needs x86 in a box like this? Weird choice, and not in a good way.

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Big Brother

Re: Was Chrome, as an OS still born?

Windows has played DVDs since the dawn of time, the need for an optical drive is not the same as the issue with this device which is that it seemingly doesn't have the software to decrypt commercial DVDs, which the writer was talking about.

Also yes there are android based computers *everywhere* (check amazon) that are designed as media players that are probably more functional as a PC than this thing.

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I wonder where these will end up?

Bargain bin or landfill?

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when my raspberry pi comes

I'll have a better computer, in an altoids tin than this for 65 odd quid.

Better in that I own it, and can do what I like with it

Better in that I can work offline

Better in that raspberry pi dot com is not sluriping up everything I do and subjecting my life to an algorithm that then tries to sell me pole dancing lessons (as my gmail just did)

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Re: when my raspberry pi comes

The Pi doesn't fit in an Altoids tin though.

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Re: when my raspberry pi comes

http://www.bendobson.co.uk/snaps/raspberry_altoids.jpg

warning large image

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Anonymous Coward

Re: when my raspberry pi comes

If you're like me you'll find that when your Raspberry Pi arrives you'll have no such thing.

RAM is really not enough for a graphical environment, it chokes with just a web browser, and non-accelerated X sucks the will to do anything with it. Great on text console though, so you can always use Emacs/Vi (no preference) and LaTeX.

But yeah don't buy this garbage. At this price it doesn't even make sense to hack it.

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Happy

@ Charles Calthorp - Re: when my raspberry pi comes

That Pi fits into that tin as much as this girl fits into these shorts: http://momgrind.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/muffintop.JPG

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Re: when my raspberry pi comes

You can do a lot better than the Raspberry Pi for 65 pounds. Type "android tv box" into Alibaba.com or Ebay.com and see the amount of Android based devices your money could buy. Most of these are built around the Allwinner A10 so they are hackable, and the CPU / RAM is more powerful than the Pi. They also sell with the case, remote and PSU.

Where the Pi has the advantage is it's a single platform which has gained a lot of interest from hobbyists. It means it might attract a critical mass of development which might permit XMBC or similar to work quite well as a dedicated media player. There are DLNA players for android and VLC like media players but I doubt the experience is quite so seamless.

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Re: when my raspberry pi comes

That is one ugly piece of work.

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Anonymous Coward

No you won't.

You'll have a far cheaper but far far less capable computer with the Pi. It might have a more useful OS installed on it if you do it right though. The Samsung hardware is quite neat, a little overpriced perhaps but it's just a generic nettop really.

The Pi does suck as a desktop, sure it's good for <£30 but performance is terrible. I've got one, I don't use it with a GUI.

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Re: No you won't.

That's odd .. try sticking XBMC on it [ http://www.raspbmc.com/ ] and then come back and say performance is terrible [ hint: it is really rather slick for £30 ].

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No you won't.

Nothing odd about it. XBMC doesn't use X11, it talks to the GPU directly. The slowness is all in the X11-based desktop environment.

Great if you want a media player (that was the original purpose of the hardware), but it's not suitable for desktop use.

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Re: when my raspberry pi comes

I have two of these wonderful RasPi beasties but neither of them will fit in an Altoids tin and the lack of VGA monitor output is just insane.

The Samsung thingy looks great and I am sure will work wonderfully when used as a normal computer.

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Re: No you won't.

I know that and that's exactly my point .. its not the hardware that is at fault its the *current* lack of an accelerated X server. The point is this £30 piece of kit has a lot of potential ... e.g.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Fy63w6WxOw

http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=4649

So I suspect it will just be a matter of time (and OSS effort 8-) and considering the >300,000 Pi orders, worth it, to get a faster X server running. I'd certainly be interested in helping out with the effort where possible as I have 3 Pi's humming away here and I did a fair amount of work on X11 back in the 90's R2 R3 and R4 days.

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Huh

I really don't understand why they continue to peddle this shite.

Bin it and if they really must dabble in PC OSes do it with Android.

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FAIL

much, much, MUCH too expensive

for £150 I'd have one of these (I've actually had a decent amount of hands-on with one). But at £280? Not a bloody hope. Same problem with the Chromebooks - at least twice the price they should be.

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Re: much, much, MUCH too expensive

Aren't you the tight fisted twat? A basic nettop starts at about £190 without an OS. £280 may be a little steep, but this is more powerful in hardware than an average nettop and has better design.

The reviewer is guilty of this too. That desktop he quoted doesn't have an SSD, and is in a standard desktop box.

The device has its flaws but you are stingy bastards if you think the price is one of them.

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Re: much, much, MUCH too expensive

I wouldn't call him too tight fisted. This is a cloudy OS, where everything you do and everything you type is more than likely being keylogged and mined for all it is worth by the world's largest ad company. It's a paperweight if, like me, you have an Internet connection that comes from a phone and isn't there when the phone isn't.

If anything, £190 is over the top. I'll have one if it's free and Google pay me to use Chrome OS, but not otherwise.

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If it was £100 then I could see why some people might want one of these. As it is, you are paying more money for a system that will only run limited software and is almost useless with no internet connection. I just don't get who these things are aimed at.

Charles Calthrop - sorry but you are going to be very disappointed. Desktop environments on the Pi are currently /very/ slow to the point of being unusable in my opinion. The device is great for command-line programming but until someone writes a GPU accelerated driver for X it's not usable as a desktop PC for things like web browsing. But then that's also not really what it's designed for. To put things in perspective, the 700MHz ARM11 CPU it uses is roughly the same real speed as a Pentium II 300MHz so no where near the performance of that 1.9GHz Celeron.

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JDX
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Pi IDE

I am a bit surprised that Pi can't do an IDE. It may be far below modern standards (I assumed it would be on par with a PIII 700 rather than a PII 300 but either way), but it was not so very long ago we were using 300MHz PII with 256Mb RAM as desktop PCs - I worked with Visual C++ 6, Borland JBuilder and MS Office on such PCs as did everyone else, probably only a decade ago. And those PCs had nothing in the way of GPU acceleration at all.

And with Linux being so much faster than Windows (semi serious Linux barb) that should make it usable as a low-power PC. If not why not?

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Mushroom

Re: Pi IDE

>And with Linux being so much faster than Windows (semi serious Linux barb) that should make it usable as a low-power PC. If not why not?

Sarcasm aside maybe in low memory environments compared to modern windows linux is faster but in general about the only thing Windows can still claim over linux is a desktop speed advantage. It amazed me how much more output BOINC based science apps would do on windows compared to linux. Granted a lot more compiler optimization work has gone into windows due to large market share and most shops would spend most of their time optimizing the windows client because %90+ of users would run those but it was still on the order of at least %25 to %50. Plus one can look no further than gaming as well. Granted this is my experience from a few years ago and linux was catching up but still.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pi IDE

> And those PCs had nothing in the way of GPU acceleration at all.

That's not exactly true. PCs have had "GPU" acceleration for a very long time. I remember buying an S3 Virge around 1995 which had 2D and even sort of 3D acceleration too.

The Tseng Labs ET4000 used ever since the 486 was also quite a screamer back then, offloading many of the Windows GDI operations (and later for X too) to it's 2D acceleration hardware.

However currently the Pi doesn't even offer this, so it's really slow. It also doesn't offer the full 256MB of RAM since some (depending on resolution) is used as graphics memory.

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Re: Pi IDE

To speed up your Raspi, run the latest Debian version Wheezy, or the Raspbian Hard float version which makes everything a LOT faster. And you can usually overclock to 1GHz with no ill effects. Should get you between 30 and 70% faster overall. It's still early days for the Raspi, and a lot of great work is already being done.

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Wait for the lawsuit

What's up with Samsung and ripping off Apple designs? There are a multitude of shapes their devices could take, so it's mysterious how often they come to resemble rival companies' designs.

As for chrome OS, Google ffs just dump this thing and fold the best things into Android.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wait for the lawsuit

Indeed, look at the circular access port? under the Samsung, Apple's Mac Mini had that a long time before.

Why can't Samsung style their own products in their own style?

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FAIL

the point?

I just don't see the point oft his now. Rasberry Pi maybe doesn't have the performance to do what this proposes to do but Pi2 and the Chinese / Taiwanese Pi copies will and for a lot less money. and they'll work when BT cuts you off unexpectedly.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 11:33

You can use Google Docs offline: http://support.google.com/docs/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1628467

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Anonymous Coward

Get A Cheap Chinese Android Box

You can get a Chinese Android box for a lot less than this and it is going to give you just the same functionality.

Dear oh dear Google what are you thinking ?

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Anonymous Coward

DisplayPort

Will someone kick the PC makers and tell them to stop this nonsense and fit HDMI ports instead.

Not that it matters on this, I can't see anyone buying one anyway.

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Re: DisplayPort

It's a desktop machine not a media centre?

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Re: DisplayPort -> HDMI

quote: "Will someone kick the PC makers and tell them to stop this nonsense and fit HDMI ports instead.

Not that it matters on this, I can't see anyone buying one anyway."

DisplayPort is effectively a dialect of HDMI, so you just need a (passive) physical DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. So 2 Displayports = 2 HDMI with the caveat that you'll need to spend a little money buying the adapters, e.g.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/DisplayPort-HDMI-Adapter-DP-Male/dp/B0027HYK7S

Expect to pay under a tenner each (some are near the 5 quid mark) so an extra £10-15 should give you 2xHDMI connectivity.

Also bear in mind that DVI-D is also effectively a dialect of HDMI, and you can also buy passive DVI -> HDMI adapters for a similar sum (£5-10 depending on where you shop). ~£20 should get you 3 HDMI outputs from that box, should you somehow have a use for 3 HDMI outputs :)

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This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

Looks like....

an Acer Revo.

For casual, non techie users, I've set a few Acer Revos up among the usual friends & family cohort one gets the "help!" calls from. With Ubuntu installed, the phone certainly rings less often.

The Linux variant of the Revo is usually less than £200 (& it has HDMI).

I think Google & Samsung are onto a loser here. The review is clear, the thing isn't going to do what even the mst casual user expects.

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Re: Looks like....

Agreed. Revo plus Ubuntu = great platform for browsing, email and docs. And so cheap. My AP has one bolted to the back of his monitor and support calls are very thin on the ground.

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Stop

Buy a Zotac Zbox

and put Linux Mint on it

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Silver badge

329 quid, what?

That's all I needed to know. That's insane.

What's the point at that price?

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Could have been a slick XBMC machine

Going by the looks only, of course. Add an HDMI port, replace the intel part with AMD - and you've got the perfect HTPC..

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Meh

Re: replace the intel part with AMD ...

You had me up until that rather inane statement.

FTR I used to be a rabid AMD fanboy back in the days of the K6, etc, when they totally kicked Intel's butt - but >every< AMD-powered machine I have worked on for the past six years or so has struggled badly in comparison with similarly-specced Intel jobbies, to the point where I sadly have had to stop recommending AMD as a platform to clients.

CPUs aren't a religion; they are a means to an end.

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