In Depth

Google Chromebit: a computer the size of a memory stick

A new micro-PC from Google can plug into any TV or monitor, offering a cheap alternative to a laptop

It's not how big it is, it's what you can do with it. This seems to have been the guiding principle behind Google's latest device, the Chromebit – a computer housed in a memory stick-sized shell.

With the launch of the device, Google hopes to create a whole new category of computing: small dongle computers that plug directly into a television or monitor and all for under $100 (the UK price has yet to be announced).

So will people buy it?

Chromebit styling

The Asus Chromebit looks "like an oversize flash drive", Cnet.com says, and will turn any screen or monitor with an HDMI video port into a fully functioning computer. The device comes in three colours, and features a "super-smart" swivel that means it can plug into almost any HDMI port without needing an extension chord, Gizmodo says. "If you ask me, all dongles should feature that".

Chromebit features

Chromebit connects via wi-fi, so after you plug it in to any monitor or TV set, you can run Google's Chrome browser, check Gmail and watch YouTube through Google's Chrome operating system.

The company says the $99 device is aimed at educational institutions and developing countries, according to The Verge. Google also hopes that the device will suit regular travellers, who will be able to use it with hotel TVs and for presentations.

Chromebit specs

The Chromebit is fitted with a Rockchip RK3288 processor. It has 2GB of RAM – double that of an iPhone 6, so should be fast. Although it has a fairly paltry 16GB of solid state storage, Chrome products are not designed with storage in mind – instead, users are expected to use web-based cloud storage system, ideally those provided by Google.

Chromebit offers fast wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a single USB 2.0 port at the back, so you can plug in external devices.

"it won’t be the most powerful PC you could plug into a TV," says Gizmodo, "but it shouldn’t be too bad for the browser-based OS."

Conclusion

Dongle computers have been around in China for about a year, but Google's decision to bring them to the West is probably down to the success of its cheap Chromecast streaming stick, the Daily Mirror says.

In a nutshell, it is a small, cheap computer with no screen or accessories. "It won't replace a decent laptop - or a tablet like the Surface 3 for that matter," the Mail says, "but it is an affordable way to get hold of another computer."

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