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Chrome OS is blasting it’s way haphazardly onto different form factors – can it really take on the all-in-one desktop? Not too long ago, we took a look at the ASUS Chromebox, a device reminiscent of a Mac Mini which ran the Chrome OS operating system, but required the user to provide their own monitor and speakers.
LG has taken that concept to it’s logical conclusion with the Chromebase ($329). This device is also a desktop version of a Chromebook, but is more reminiscent of an iMac rather than a Mac Mini. The result? You get an entire system in one physical unit (dubbed “all-in-one”), which can lead to some overall cost and space savings.
But does it really save you that much money? Is it a system worth owning? Keep reading to find out more, and to enter the giveaway for a chance to win the Chromebase!
About the LG Chromebase
The LG Chromebase looks very much like an iMac: the internals are built-into the rear of the screen. You can grab it from Amazon for just $329.
The included specs of the LG Chromebase are nothing to write home about, but they should be enough to get the job done. Given the (relatively) low price – is the hardware up to scratch, and how does it fare against other recent Chrome devices?
The Chromebase is running unopposed (for the time being) in the segment of “all-in-one Chrome OS desktop systems.” However, if you branch out slightly to include other desktop Chrome OS devices, you’re now looking at the ASUS Chromebox (reviewed) and the HP Chromebox. The low-end ASUS Chromebox (with which the Chromebase is equivalent to in terms of internal specs) is priced at $199 with a keyboard and mouse, which means that the Chromebase becomes is a better deal if you can’t settle on a monitor + speakers that total less than $120.
A quick search on Amazon shows that the cheapest monitor of similar size that includes speakers is $129, so the Chromebase seems to hold up in terms of value. You’ll save some space too, but at the expense of flexibility.
There’s a lot in the box: the unit itself, some components for the stand, screws to assemble the stand, a power brick (this hasn’t been internalised), a keyboard and mouse. Assembly is straightforward, thanks to the included instructional pamphlet and stickers on the unit.
Taking cues from an iMac, there’s not a lot that could go wrong with the design. The screen has a relatively small bezel, with a silver finish. The system is obviously made of plastic, but at the price it’s sold at, that’s to be expected, and it doesn’t feel too cheap.
As a 21-inch all-in-one device, it’s quite large with dimensions of 20.8″ x 7.5″ x 15.6″ and a weight of 9.5 pounds – not bad considering it’s a complete desktop package.
The right side of the bottom edge has some capacitive buttons that can interact with the monitor’s built-in functions. The most important one in the bunch is the on/off button. The lower part of the right edge has a USB 3.0 port and a combo microphone/headphone jack. The backside contains most of the ports, which includes the power port, gigabit Ethernet, 3 USB 2.0 ports, a Kensington lock slot, and an HDMI-in port so you can use the Chromebase as a second monitor for a different system.
The only complaints that I would have so far is that the HDMI port is located on the side, which somewhat limits your placement when used as a second monitor. I’d also like for there to be more than just one USB 3.0 port, though the number of devices that can use the latest generation of USB is still small.
Starting up the system for the first time is the exact same experience as on any Chromebook or Chromebox. Once you’re done with the getting started dialogs, you’ll be able to head straight into the Web with Chrome. Connecting to the Internet is made simple with the gigabit Ethernet or 802.11n WiFi. Again, for the price, 802.11n is sufficient enough to get good performance.
Once you have the Chromebase standing, you’ll get to appreciate its 21.5-inch display and the fairly thin bezels on the edges. The screen has full 1080p resolution with great colors. The viewing angles are quite good, so you shouldn’t have any problems using the display. You have to move quite far to the side in order for the display to start becoming obscured. It’s a great performing screen, which surprised me. The only time it didn’t perform so well was when my room was bathed in bright sunlight. In slightly darker environments, it’s quite beautiful.
The included two downward-facing speakers are terrible, and I’m not surprised considering that they’re integrated and the system is so cheap. The main complaint about the speakers is that they’re very quiet despite setting them at max volume, and they have distortion problems when you do try to crank up the volume. Will it make your ears bleed? Not quite, but it won’t come remotely close to sounding heavenly.
Keyboard and Mouse
The keyboard feels good with acceptable key travel. The spacing between the keys could be a little better, but LG tried to make a full-sized keyboard as compact as possible. The mouse works well enough, but it feels cheap to the touch. While they both do the job, I wish that they were at least wireless so that the entire setup would have a cleaner look.
Webcam and Microphone
The webcam is bad too – you can see yourself with it, but it’s far from “high-definition” at just 1.3MP. The Chromebase’s webcam is passable then, but you won’t have very much fun using it. The microphone is acceptable, but not necessarily high-quality either. This is typical for a Chrome OS device – not because the operating system is at fault, but most systems with the operating system aim for a low price which necessitates cutting corners on hardware.
Performance was surprisingly good even though it only packs a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 2955U processor and 2GB of RAM. It has enough grunt to power the 1080p display and do whatever you want to do on Chrome, and YouTube video playback works well, even with full HD playback. The entire time I used it, I didn’t come across any stutter severe enough to remember later on.
In the end, is the Chromebase a good system to own? It’s not very good, but it’s decent enough, especially for the price. I must admit that I had higher hopes for it, but it wasn’t too disappointing either. For a Chrome OS-based desktop system, I would personally go with a Chromebox and then pick my own peripherals that I’ll like more and can swap out at any time, but that’s just me. If you don’t care about that and like the style of an all-in-one, then go with the Chromebase.
MakeUseOf Recommends: Buy. It’s good value, but consider the Chromebox first as it’s more flexible with peripherals.
How Do I Win The LG Chromebase?
The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.
Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.