Putting Chrome OS on a stick PC is tricky — Chromebooks have carved out a nice niche in the notebook market by being noticeably cheaper, compensating for the limits to usefulness, like not being able to run third party programs. The new Asus Chromebit CS10, announced by Asus and Google in March, is still cheaper than a lot of the stick PCs we’ve seen from Lenovo and Asus themselves, among others, but with a smaller price difference between the two, it’s hard to say if it’ll be worth it.
The Chromebit, like other stick PCs, is shaped like a flash drive. It measures 12 cm long (about 4.7″) and has one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI connector, and a DC charging port (meaning the charging cable isn’t likely to be interchangeable). Using that HDMI connector, the Chromebit can be plugged into any television or monitor to turn it into a PC running Chrome OS, although with just one USB port, a USB hub will likely be needed to use both a keyboard and a mouse (assuming the ones you have require dongles). Because it uses an HDMI connector, the Chromebit can be used to play Netflix movies and shows in 1080p.
Like most Chrome OS-based PCs, this one isn’t particularly powerful — nor does it need to be, since it will only be running websites and web apps like Netflix. It has a quad-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. That’s mid-tier smartphone specs, which is low for a Chromebook, but about what we would expect from a stick PC.
While these are being marketed to everyday consumers, Asus and Google are also trying to push them out to businesses that have digital signage and public PCs. The former would come in to replace the traditional PCs that you don’t realize run digital signs until you see one displaying a Windows error message instead of a Michael Kors ad, while the latter would be for hotels and hostels in search of cheap PCs (making sure they don’t get stolen is a whole other issue).
The Chromebit CS10 is launching today for $85, but it isn’t yet listed on Asus’ site. Usually we see Windows-based stick PCs run between $100 and $150, so while the Chromebit still manages to compete on price, the difference isn’t as drastic as what you see between Chromebooks and Windows PCs. Seems like a tough sell for an OS that, while well-executed, is still limited by design.