by Ed Sawicki - January 2012 - updated June 2016
The Chrome family consists of the Chrome browser that you may already have installed on your computer as well as the Chrome computers consisting of the Chromebook, Chromebase, Chronebox, and Chromebit.
The Chromebook was first released in 2011 by Acer and Samsung. One cost about $175 and the other about $225. At the time, people took notice of the price, rapid bootup and shutdown, security, and 6-hour battery running time. Since then, several other companies now offer Chromebooks. Current Chromebooks now offer battery running times of 8 to 12-hours that depends greatly on your screen brightness. Reducing the brightness in darkened rooms will extend the battery running time.
Chromebooks are notebook computers that run the Google-designed and maintained operating system called Chrome OS. They are sometimes referred to as cloud computers because much of what you use the Chromebook for requires that you be connected to the Internet (the Cloud). However, there are many things that you can do with the Chromebook that does not require an Internet connection, so the cloud computer designation is an exagerration.
Chromebooks have built-in video cameras, speakers and microphones. You can watch videos from Youtube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO, and most other sources. You can plug-in your headphones for excellent sound and private viewing. My wonderful and expensive Bose noise-canceling headset with microphone that works so well on my iPhone for phone calls also works on the Chromebook.
The microphone (or headset) allows you to speak to your browser:
"What is nineteen trillion dollars divided by three hundred nineteen million?".
It responds by speaking:
"The answer is fifty-nine thousand five-hundred sixty-one point one three U.S. dollars."
The browser is not yet smart enough to understand:
"What is the U.S. national debt divided by the U.S. population?"
In early 2015, several vendors announced their intention to build chromebook technology into monitors, similar to Apple's iMac product (and Windows-based copycats). These products are called Chromebase. The manufacturer LG was the first to offer such a product in 2015. Other manufacturers offer them now.
Chromebase products have at least two USB connectors for connecting your own keyboard and mouse. Additional USB connectors may be useful for connecting an external hard disk or some future device. I recommend a Chromebase product with at least four USB connectors, but keep in mind that a USB hub can be used to get more USB ports if you need them.
The Chromebook technology is available in another form factor - the Chromebox. This was introduced in 2012. This is a small box that contains the processor and memory, with connectors for an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. One advantage over a Chromebook and Chromebase is that you can connect a monitor as large as you like.
Here's what the back panel of a typical Chromebox looks like. There's an Ethernet connector if you need to connect to a LAN. Wireless networking is built-in. There's two connectors for your display: HDMI and Displayport. The Displayport can connect to monitors via their Displayport, VGA, and DVI interfaces.
This Samsung Chromebox has 4 USB connectors - two on the front panel and two on the back panel. You might want to plug a USB flash drive into your Chromebox, so it's useful for at least one of the USB ports to be compatible with USB version 3.
A Chromebit is a tiny Chrome computer built-in to a tiny package. You plug it in to the HDMI connector of a monitor or high-definition TV and then run a power supply cable to it. There is only one USB port available. If you use a wired keyboard and mouse, you'll need a USB hub to expand the number of ports. Alternatively, you can a wireless keyboard and mouse.
You can also run it without a keyboard and mouse. Why would you want to have no keyboard or mouse?
Because one of the applications for the Chromebit is "Signage in a stick". Imagine large monitors in an airport, hotel, or retail store whose video is supplied by a small inexpensive computer directly attached to the monitor - and physically secured so it can't be stolen. The Chromebit has built-in wireless so it can display information that it fetches from a central server periodically.
Meet the Chrome computers
Google designed the Chrome computers but it doesn't manufacture them. Instead, it licenses the design to other companies who do manufacture them. Google offers a Web page called FOR THE RIGHT FIT that let's you choose from the current models of Chrome computers. It doesn't include ALL Chrome computers. There are many still being sold that are not on their page because they are older models. But in the world of Chrome computers you don't have to have the latest computer. They all run the same operating system and support the same apps. Unlike Windows, your computer hardware doesn't become obsolete in a few years.
Click the button below to go to the Google page. It will open in another tab. Come back to this tab when you're done.
Copyright © 2012, 2016 by Ed Sawicki