Reader question: “Is the Chromebase form factor on the verge of extinction?”

Today in the electronic mailbag is a great question from George and has to do with Chromebase machines. These are all-in-one desktops, complete with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, running Chrome OS.

George says:

“I currently own two Chromebooks and Chrome OS has been my preferred operating system for some time. Much of my computing activity, however, still takes place on an AIO desktop (iMac) which I would ideally like to replace with a premium 4K UHD ‘Pixel’ Chromebase from Google or one of the major hardware manufacturers. The sole Chromebase option at the present time is from Acer, whose Chromebase line-up is outdated (still running 5th-generation Celeron processors and FHD displays). A new generation of Chromeboxes has recently breathed new life into the Chrome OS mini desktop form factor but a similar upgrading has not taken place for the AIO Chromebase form factor. I would prefer a Chromebase over a Chromebox because the latter requires the purchase of a stand-alone display which almost universally lack an AIO’s integrated webcam and microphone required for video calling/conferencing.”

It’s a good question because much of the Chrome OS focus is mainly on Chromebooks, followed by Chromeboxes. Part of the reason in general is that people tend to want a computer for “on the go” use: A Chromebook can be used out and about, but also function on the desk. Of course, you can enhance that experience with a high resolution external monitor.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see a new Chromebase model or two in the next six to twelve months. But I don’t anticipate a slew of options and I definitely don’t see the “Pixel” Chromebase that George envisions. Google’s hardware division is relatively new and for the past two or three years, the company has been focused on turning profits in business lines outside of its advertising revenue streams. Advertising accounted for $26B of Google’s $31B in revenues in the last reported quarter, for example. Simply put: Google can sell far more of it’s Chromebook devices than Chromebase models

That doesn’t mean the Chromebase is a bad device, nor is there zero demand for it. It’s actually ideal for — and marketed to — some small & medium sized business as well as enterprise customers to be used as a kiosk or for videoconferencing. I know this for a fact: I authored the articles for Google introducing the Acer Chromebase and the one announcing the AOPEN Chromebase Mini. 😉

Regardless of those targeted use cases, the desktop market in general has given ground to laptops for years now. It’s simply not a high growth segment. And Google wants to grow its relatively new hardware business with Pixel phones, Pixelbook laptops and Google Home products. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Chromebase is going “extinct” but I’m not expecting many new choices in the pipeline.

LG Chromebase
The LG Chromebase which appeared in 2014 and then was discontinued.

Instead of waiting for a product that will likely never arrive, my suggestion would be to consider a high-end Chromebox (you’ve got new choices from Acer, Asus and HP to choose from now) and add a monitor of your choice.

True, you’ll also need a webcam and (possibly) speakers since there aren’t too many 4K monitors — or small 4K TVs — with those built in. You can even mount a Chromebox on the back of some monitors to hide it and you’ll get to choose a high-quality web cam instead of settling for the lower resolution ones that are often bundled in with a AIO desktop.

Got a Chrome OS related question? Drop me a note at kevin@aboutchromebooks.com and I’ll see if I can get you either an answer, or at the very least, an informed opinion.

6 thoughts on “Reader question: “Is the Chromebase form factor on the verge of extinction?”

  • June 15, 2018 at 12:19 pm
    Permalink

    Bundling your processing power with your display is a bad idea. It’s just one that ergonomics
    force on you for mobile devices because you do not want to carry a processor and monitor
    separately.

    But for a desktop unbundling input device, display and processing power make sense.
    Unbundling long term storage, i.e. using an external drive, also makes sense. Disk drives,
    keyboards, monitors and processors all have their own lifecycles. Bundling them just forces
    you to upgrade them all at once. Cabling them together is simple on a desktop, so why would
    you want to lock in a forced upgrade of the entire set?

    You can even buy Chromeboxes that are pre-certified to work with certain Displays if you
    dislike matching things up yourself. But you’ll be able to upgrade the Chromebox in 3 years
    and keep the monitor, or vise versa. If you buy them as a Chromebase yoou lose that option.

    Reply
    • June 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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      You make some good points in favor of going with separate components. I guess I have been spoiled by my iMac which has functioned flawlessly for nine years. How can one access lists of pre-certified displays for the various Chromebox manufacturers?

      Reply
    • June 18, 2018 at 7:07 pm
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      You’re point is valid enough but we violate the flexibility/upgradability design tenet all the time. Look at laptops, tablets and smartphones. Collapsing different components that don’t obviously belong together into heterogeneous devices has actually driven technological advancement to some degree.

      The problem with Chromebases, it seems to me, is that there isn’t enough of a payoff in the ‘area efficiency’ for the definite benefits of flexibility and upgradability to be willingly traded off. Chromebases look chunky and old school. Where are the super thin and light Chromebases with great screens that might entice buyers in the market for a computer to such a device? Of course, the unceasing advancement of laptops and tablets, i.e. well accepted heterogeneous computers, which have the advantage of being portable and light (if well designed) also have put pressure on all-in-one computers. Maybe, it is all-in-one computers that are going extinct as a species and not just the Chromebase breed. But there are reasons to suppose that Chromebases may survive in some form. Kiosk devices won’t go extinct. They are on the rise as a matter of fact. A large touch panel with a cable providing power may be the evolved form of a Chromebase that will thrive moving forward. All-in-one computers will evolve or fade away.

      Reply
      • June 19, 2018 at 1:12 am
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        A Kiosk, like a labtop, is a special niche where being all-in-one provides value.

        When the all-in-one feature is strictly ease of buying the chromebox will always come out ahead
        of a Chromebase.

        Another aspect of the convenience of not bundling is the ability to share keyboard/monitor with other computers. I don’t have any hard figures, but I suspect that a lot of chromebox owners have additional computers on the same desk with their chromebox.

        Reply
  • June 15, 2018 at 1:33 pm
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    CTL sells their new Chromebox pre-bundled with plain and touch-screen monitors.

    https://ctl.net/collections/ctl-chromebox-and-monitor-2-in-1

    I have the CTL chromebox on pre-order. I didn’t pre-order the monitor because I already have
    a 4K monitor with a hDMI switch that will be shared with my Windows desktop.

    I don’t know which power-niche you are looking at. Nearly everyone has a new Celeron Chromebox with about the same specs either just shippipng or shipping by the end of the month. There are also a bunch of models announced at the same time with higher processing power and price tags.

    Reply
  • September 10, 2018 at 5:01 pm
    Permalink

    In my opinion, the all-in-one form factor is undervalued by the manufacturers. I think that many people would love the simplicity of having only one unit without having to connect anything other than the power, keyboard and mouse. Although I haven’t done the hard research, I’m willing to bet that enough people would love the simplicity of a relatively wireless set up to put up with the drawbacks of having to change out their system every 4 or 5 years.

    I’ve had my Chromebase (LG Chromebase 22CV241) for 3.5 years and I just realized that I need to upgrade to something newer because the speed of simple web browsing is becoming unacceptable. But even now, I’m willing to purchase an all-in-one system just to avoid the annoyance of looking at lots of wires, even if I need to pay a little bit of a premium. I purchased my current Chromebase for $350 and it was well worth it. I’d be more than happy to pay $500 for another similar computer that will last for at least 3 years.

    Maybe what manufacturers should do is develop a standard interface connector that a little computer box can plug into the back of a monitor. Just get rid of the wires!!! Make it like legos, just pull out the old computer and plug in a new one.

    Reply

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