Asus Chromebox M031U

There are several specifications of the this PC available, including a rather over-specified, £500+ Intel Core i7 version. The one on test here is the more reasonably priced £208 version, powered by a 1.4GHz Intel Celeron 2955U processor. It’s a pleasingly designed mini PC, with a footprint a little smaller than a CD case. The dark metallic blue top and black sides look classy and don’t give away this PC’s ultra-cheap origins. Its tiny size means it can fit practically anywhere: on a desk, on the back of a monitor (with a mount) or even in your media cabinet if you fancy a dedicated web browsing PC for your TV.

You get full size HDMI and DisplayPort connectors at the rear, along with two USB3 ports, a gigabit Ethernet connector and 3.5mm headset jack. There’s two more easily accessible USB3 ports on the front of the Chromebox, and there’s also an SD/MMC card reader on the left-hand side. There’s also built-in dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 as well.

Included in the price is a wireless keyboard and mouse set, although the two peripherals require a USB dongle and don’t take advantage of the Chromebox’s Bluetooth connectivity. This means one of the four USB3 ports is permanently occupied, which seems like a bit of a waste. Still, the mouse, while comically small, is reliable and comfortable to use. The keyboard, meanwhile has a childlike feel to it and certainly won’t suit quick typists. What’s more, it’s slightly weird dimensions means some of the keys feel out of place and takes a fair amount of time to get used to. The keyboard also replaces the entire top row of F-keys with Chrome OS-specific functions including window management, browser navigation, audio controls and, oddly for a desktop PC, brightness controls.

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