Chrome OS comes on two types of devices: laptops called Chromebooks and desktop machines called Chromeboxes. While the best Chromebooks are more widely known and more diverse in their options, Chromeboxes are a relatively small market where you have one option from each of the major manufacturers that gets updated every few years. 2021 is a good year to be a Chromebox user, as we’re getting updates to the two most popular Chromeboxes on the market. While we may see another Chromebox or two come out in the second half of 2021, the ASUS Chromebox 4 is the one you’ll want to buy for the extra ports and the extra power.
Best overall: ASUS Chromebox 4
ASUS makes some of the best Chromebooks for work, and it’s never afraid to squeeze in every little feature and port it can to try and stand out in an increasingly competitive Chrome Enterprise space. This means that whether you’re buying the business version or consumer-grade, we all benefit from ASUS’s dedication to being the most powerful and detailed machine for the job and the ASUS Chromebox 4 is no exception.
In a desktop world where most work-from-homers need to connect a mouse, keyboard, webcam, and USB mic, it’s easy for all of your USB-A ports to fill up, so ASUS opted for five USB-A ports rather than the four ports on the HP G3. You get two HDMI ports for supporting dual 4K monitors and a USB-C port for adding more peripherals or a third monitor via a USB-C hub. Of course, you need the power to support all those displays, so ASUS is packing a 10th Gen Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 inside along with 8-16GB of RAM.
More ports and more power are always welcome.
Storage is another area where ASUS takes a slight edge over HP and Acer. All of the ASUS Chromebox 4 configurations so far have SSD storage, either 128GB or 256GB. This means that the Chromebox 4 is faster overall because it’s not being held back by eMMC storage, and there’s even more room for Linux apps or offline files. Honestly, even if you don’t need a full-time desktop, the ASUS Chromebox 4 could make a nice little media PC between support for almost all Android media apps and the full Chrome browser for those niche services that don’t support Chromecasting.
ASUS is opting to keep the package and shipping costs small for the Chromebox 4 by skipping the mouse and keyboard in the box. Considering that a great Chromebook mouse can be had for less than a large pizza and more manufacturers are making Chrome OS-specific keyboards, I’m OK with this, especially if it shaves a few dollars off the Chromebox 4’s higher price tags.
- Faster and larger storage options
- Fifth USB-A port
- Wider processor selection
- Wider availability
- Slightly more expensive than other options
- No keyboard/mouse in the box
Best on a budget: HP Chromebox G3
HP was one of the first to announce its next-gen Chromeboxes, and it was also the first to start selling it. Intel’s 10th-generation processors power HP’s Chromebox G3 and Chromebox Enterprise G3, and there is a cheaper Celeron option for which makes it our budget pick. To accompany those processors, HP includes up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM and up to 128GB of storage — though, for the 32-64GB models, you get slower eMMC storage as opposed to the 128GB M.2 SSD. Like most Chromebooks, the HP Chromebox G3 has a MicroSD slot for adding some extra storage if that storage isn’t enough.
Thanks to how USB-C is becoming more ubiquitous, HP added a single USB-C port on the back with dual USB-A ports, dual HDMI ports, and an Ethernet jack. Those dual HDMI ports will come in handy for those who want to use multiple monitors, as the Chromebox G3 is capable of powering two 4K monitors.
While the Chromebox G3 sports a total of four USB-A ports — two up front and two in the back — and a USB-C port, I wish there was a second USB-C port. With so many of our devices already featuring the USB-C port, the ability to plug in a USB-C hard drive and USB-C monitor in addition to plugging in a phone or peripheral would’ve been nice without having to break out the USB-A adapters or USB-C hubs. Having four USB-A ports will make things easier on those of us with older peripherals, even if it doesn’t have as many as the ASUS Chromebox 4.
One other small frustration with the G3 is that it’s not widely available despite launching almost six months ago. It drifts in and out of stock on HP’s website, and B&H only has the Celeron model in stock, so if you need one right now, you’ll either have to grab that cheaper Celeron model or go with ASUS. There are also a few older G2 models drifting around, but please don’t overpay for them because the G3 or the ASUS Chromebox 4 have double the support life ahead of it thanks to the June 2028 AUE date.
- Brand new model
- 2028 AUE date
- Can power three 4K monitors
- Plenty of ports and power
- Limited availability
- Only one USB-C port
- Does not come with a mouse or keyboard
Is it a good time to buy a Chromebox?
As mentioned several times above, we’re in a transitional state for the Chromebox market right now. The ASUS Chromebox 4 and HP Chromebox G3 are out and available for purchase, but availability is still limited at the moment. They’re still better than the Acer CXI4, which hasn’t become available, but if you need a new Chromebox, now is the best time in the last 12 months to buy.
We’ll have wider availability in the next six months, but both of these Chromeboxes have the same guts under their chassis and have the same Auto Update Expiration date of June 2028. The ASUS Chromebox 4 has one extra USB-A port over the HP Chromebox G3 and more SSD configuration options, so if you need the best Chromebook right now, the ASUS Chromebox 4 is your winner.
There are few options on the market when finding the best Chromebox as you could find with Chromebooks, so the pickings are slim, especially right now as retailers and manufacturers are switching from old models to new ones. Now that the new generation Chromeboxes will see Chrome OS updates until June 2028, they’ll last for a long, long time, and they’re user-upgradable if you need to up the memory and storage.
The ASUS Chromebox 4 is what you would expect to see from the best Chromebox. The Intel Core i3 and i5 models available right now are powerful and will easily last you the next eight years. Every configuration has the ports and power you need to have a great experience while staying secure and up to date with Google’s Chrome software. We think it’s the very best Chromebox for everyone.
The best Chromebox upgrades
A Chromebox is great, but one thing makes our top pick even better — it’s user-upgradable. While you can’t swap out the CPU or mainboard, the RAM and hard drive are simple to swap using guides you’ll find on the internet. Here’s the right gear to buy.