A Cloud-Based Desktop Computer for Under $200

Credit: Courtesy of HP

The future of most computing might be in the cloud, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be tethered to small screens and mobile typing. There’s a best-of-both-worlds option: the Chromebox. And you can set it up in under five minutes — for less than $200.

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Championing the death of the desktop is great in theory, but in practice, a small screen, battery woes, and a fixed keyboard and trackpad don’t always make for much of a comfortable working experience. The beauty of the Chromebox is that you’re still mobile: a Google drive and all its document applications, Chrome, and dozens of other apps sync effortlessly to separate devices. 

The main downside is that the Chromebox lacks serious physical storage. There’s just about the same standard memory as a base model smartphone, meaning you won’t be importing a photo library anytime soon. But with four USB ports, Bluetooth, wireless, and an SD slot, it’s easy to add on when you need to most. Also, while HP offers packages that include a keyboard and a mouse, the monitor is an add-on, as are any other peripherals (like extra storage).

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We were up and running in about four minutes — from cracking the seal on the box to the first Google search. It’s as easy as attaching the keyboard, mouse, monitor, and then hitting the power button. Because there’s no boot-up, the only initial setup is logging into a Google account (necessary for the system, but free), and picking a wireless source if you’re not using a cable.

Once connected, we ran dozens of windows at the same time while surfing Youtube and doing work, but we never experienced speed issues. It’s a bare-bones product, but that’s what makes it great: efficient with all you need, without everything you don’t.
[$180; hp.com]