Back in June when Samsung Series 3 Chromebox was just released, we mentioned the limitations of Chromebox including limited local storage (read this: Chromebox review). Two months later, geeks from Geek.com finally cracked open the Chromebox case and demonstrated how to upgrade your Chromebox with ease.
Samsung Chromebox Cracked Open
According to Geek.com, breaking into Chromebox is extremely easy. The cover could be easily removed without any tools, it’s not even held in with clips. The “motherboard” is mounted by screws, those common ones that could be unscrewed using your eyeglass repair toolkit. Almost everything on board could be removed and replaced, including the WiFi card and USB port (of course, you need to find ways to load new driver into the system if you want to replace these hardware).
As said, the limited local storage of Chromebox makes it less attractive because you probably need to store most of your files online and download only when needed. The good news is since Chromebox is easily hackable, you can simply replace the built-in SSD with a larger one! Geek.com tried to install a Kingston SSDNow mS100 64GB SSD and it only took minutes to complete.
The same applies for memory. The RAM on board could be replaced easily too, guys at Geek.com replaced the pair of 2GB RAM with two 8GB sticks of DDR3-1333 SODIMM RAM without problem.
In fact, there is an empty mSATA port on board so theoretically adding a new piece of hardware should be OK if there is software to support it. For geeks and hackers, the “open design” of Chromebox is a good news, so as for system administrators and home users. It makes system upgrade and checking much simpler. With the chance to increase storage and memory, Chromebox becomes a very attractive set-top box as well as a media center in the living room. Imagine loading 60GB of music into the Chromebox and connect it to the TV, you have a music box with a web interface. The only thing of concern is perhaps how to make use of the redundant memory and SSD… their capacity is just too small to be installed in other computers!
So Samsung Chromebox is released and hot-selling (being the best selling desktop computer in Amazon). Do you like it? Considering buying one? Before you hit the buy button, let’s have a look at what people say about this little Chrome device:
Size and Look
- 7.6 x 7.6 x 1.3 inches big, it can fit into any drawer unnoticed
- Outer appearance and feel is not bad, but it’s not great. It has an “overly plasticly appearance” – GearWERKZ.net
- Boots in 5 to 7 seconds, ready to surf the internet in about 10 seconds. Probably only tablets could be faster.
- “It’s very fast and very stable, and I never encountered a crash or slowdown…” – TheVerge.com
- “The Chromebox handles 1080p video playback without hiccups or drama — watching YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu or Netflix is no longer a gamble… with 4GB of RAM it’s now possible to open a few dozen tabs before noticing any performance hit.” – Engadget.com
- Setting it up is easy, just connect to network via Wi-Fi or ethernet, use (or create) your Google account, and you are good to go
- Multi-tasking is improved in this version of Chrome OS, putting windows side-by-side is great
- Everything stored online, auto-update and virus-protection, this PC is virtually maintenance-free
- Limited to using the apps in Chrome Web Store
- It’s great for simple casual use. “If you want to spend hours on productivity programs, video or picture editing for instance or constructing complicated office documents, then the Chromebox is probably not for you.” – TechRadar.com
- Using your own keyboard is OK, because you can map most keys of the keyboard to the Chrome OS specific keys, EXCEPT Caps Lock (according to theverge.com)
- There are plenty of ports (6 USB ports!!!)
- However, there is no VGA or HDMI port, so you need a separate DVI-to-HDMI cable to connect to your HDTV
- It supports dual-display output, but right now it only mirrors the desktop to two displays
- There is only 16GB flash storage on board, so if you want to use it as a media center, you may need an external harddisk
- It recognizes many common webcams, however, USB-based microphones are currently not supported – CNET.com
- At $329.99, it’s more like a net-top, good for low-end use
- Much cheaper than Apple’s Mac Mini (but of course, Mac Mini is more powerful)
So what’s the verdict? Most reviewers thought that Chromebox is good for some simple and lightweight use. Given it’s limited local storage and fair CPU speed, one should not expect to use it for heavy tasks. It has the potential to be a home theater PC, but the lack of HDMI port and web-only user interface make it not the perfect choice (think Apple TV if you only want streaming media, and it’s much cheaper). If you are looking for a device for light-weight web surfing in the living room, occasional document editing and watching online video in YouTube, Chromebox is something you may consider.