Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Lenovo is now selling the smartphone-sized Chromebox Micro, a tiny ChromeOS computer that’s intended for retail signage but may be useful to hobbyists, tinkerers, and DIYers.

On paper, the Chromebox Micro is a proper ChromeOS desktop computer. Its Celeron N4500 processor, while somewhat weak, is also used in several consumer-grade Chromebooks. The port selection is excellent, with Gigabit Ethernet (Wake on LAN-enabled), a 4K-capable HDMI 1.4b output, plus two pairs of USB-A and USB-C connectors. Plus, Lenovo is using a nice Intel AX201 wireless module, which supports both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

The Chromebox Micro isn’t really intended for desktop use. Instead, it’s meant for digital signage, billboards, video conferencing screens, artistic video installations, and the like. Lenovo is aiming at “single-purpose” applications, a goal that is reflected in the Chromebox Micro’s compact and utilitarian build.

This computer is smaller than some smartphones, measuring just 6.4 x 3.1 x 0.8 inches (163 x 79 x 19.7 mm). It can mount to the back of a screen with just two screws (it’s VESA compliant) and may be powered with as little as 45 watts—you could run this puppy off a USB battery or a monitor’s passthrough power, if necessary.

“The first micro form factor Chromebox by Lenovo, the device is built for 24/7 digital display deployments in the challenging conditions of high-traffic facilities. The fanless, ventless, dust-proof ChromeOS compute solution supports dual displays at 4K resolutions. And it is built compact enough to fit into tight environments, in fact it is smaller than most smart phones.”

Lenovo also went with a fanless design to keep dust and hair out of the Chromebox Micro. A fanless design is ideal for high-traffic areas or dusty retail offices, though it almost certainly creates a thermal bottleneck for the Celeron N4500 processor. Some companies, including Instorescreen, plan to sell monitors and accessories for the Chromebox Micro. But these products may be limited to enterprise customers, and the Chromebox Micro should mount to any VESA-compliant product.

While we don’t suggest using the Chromebox Micro as a desktop computer, it could be an excellent option for a creative project. You might use the Chromebox Micro as the brains in a wall-mounted digital media player or calendar, for example.

If you’re looking for a ChromeOS desktop machine that’s actually made for desktop usage, try the HP Chromebox G4, the HP Chromebase AIO, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M60q, or the Acer Chromebox CXI5. And, if you’ve got an old Windows PC laying around, ChromeOS Flex will convert it into a Chromebook.

You can order the Lenovo Chromebox Micro today at B&H, Newegg, Walmart, and other retailers (some stores list it as a pre-order item). This computer is supposed to come with a choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage, though the 64GB version isn’t on sale yet. Also, Lenovo says that pricing starts at $219, but retailers are charging $300 or more—maybe the $219 price tag is exclusive to business customers.

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By John P.

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