The new Chromebit Chrome-OS-PCs-on-a-stick which TeleRead first reported on in April have finally arrived – from Asus. As Google announced back then, “this summer, ASUS will launch a new type of Chrome device: the Chromebit. Smaller than a candy bar, the Chromebit is a full computer that will be available for less than $100. By simply plugging this device into any display, you can turn it into a computer. It’s the perfect upgrade for an existing desktop and will be really useful for schools and businesses.”
Well, a bit later than summer, the Chromebits are now officially launched, with a retail price of $85. Has much changed in the interim to make them more or less attractive, as e-reading platforms or for any other use? Actually, yes. Windows 10, chiefly, and the series of similar form factors, at similar prices, that are now rolling out, offering a close-to-desktop-PC experience. The Archos PC Stick is one, at $99. Asus itself has also announced the Asus Vivo Stick, at $129. Fine, those aren’t actually available yet. But nor is the Chromebit, at least via official vendor partner Amazon. And the second-generation Chromecast is out there, at $35. Or, for Amazon addicts, there’s the Fire TV Stick, at $39.99.
Given these options, I can’t really see much inducement to buy a Chromebit if you’re not already a Chrome OS user – which, admittedly, covers a fair number of educationalists and schools. If Chrome OS appeals at all, chances are you are an Android user with an Android mobile device – in which case, you have a far cheaper and more versatile option to hand in the shape of the Chromecast. If you’re a desktop Windows diehard, you can get a full Windows 10 experience for very little more.
Maybe schools that have standardized on Chrome OS will find Chromebits cheaper than reequipping their classes with Chromebooks. But the usage scenarios I can envisage for them – mostly, shared e-reading or classroom presentations onscreen – are so restricted that I can’t see the Chromebits being more than interesting but very niche products. And Google’s denials that it will merge Android with Chrome OS mean no Google Play Store for Chromebit in the offing. If you prefer e-reading on the big screen – and there are solid methods to do this – you probably have better ways to spend your money, even at $85.