Asus Chromebox M004U Review

Updated April 30, 2014
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Asus Chromebox M004U
Bottom Line

As long as you understand and can live with the limitations of the Chrome operating system, the Asus Chromebox M004U is one terrific little bargain. It excels at the types of light-duty tasks most computers are used for -- browsing the web, reading and writing emails, composing notes and simple documents, and the like. It's also an excellent media streamer and a good option for cord cutters in search of a simple home-theater PC.

Performance

Perfect for its purpose. The Asus Chromebox M004U is anything but a computational powerhouse. If this PC were designed with Windows in mind, it would a non-starter. However, the light-duty components -- a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, integrated Intel graphics, 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of local storage -- are a good match for the Chrome operating system, and experts say performance is snappy and responsive in normal use. If you are a power user, steer clear says ComputerShopper.com. "But as a secondary system, or a primary PC for those whose computing needs mostly involve email, document creation and a few online games, the Asus Chromebox is an excellent alternative to pricier Windows or Mac machines," Matt Safford says. Keep in mind, however, that Chrome is designed as an online operating system where everything is done in a browser window. Offline use is possible, and usability is improving, but it's still not a great user experience. Windows programs that have not been ported over to run under Chrome will not run at all on the Chromebox. If that is a deal-killer, look instead to a more Windows-friendly option such as the HP Pavilion 500 (Est. $500 and up).

ProsVery inexpensive, Suitable for the way many people use their home computers, Easy to use, once you get used to Chrome, Viruses and other malware not an issue, for nowConsWill only run programs and apps designed for the Chrome OS, Works best with a solid Internet connection

Design

Small and non-descript. That's not a bad thing, by the way. PCMag.com says they look very much like streaming media boxes, such as the Apple TV or the Roku 3, making them an acceptable addition to the living room if you aim to use the M004U as a home theater PC (HTPC). It can even mount to the back of a VESA-compliant TV or monitor via an included bracket. There is a decent selection of ports for such a small box, including four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort. There's also a 2:1 (SD/MMC) memory card reader built in. Both Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth are supported, and there's an Ethernet jack for a wired Internet connection. You are on your own when it comes to a keyboard, mouse and display.

Support & reliability

Asus has a great reputation. When it comes to desktop PCs, Asus has one of the best reputations among companies not named Apple. It takes down yet another Readers' Choice award in PCMag.com's annual survey of satisfaction with reliability and customer/tech support. User feedback, while limited, is largely positive. A small handful of users report issues with getting their peripherals to play nice with the Chromebox M004U. Others are mostly to completely satisfied.

Value

Unbeatable, if it does what you need. If your computer needs align with what Chrome and the Asus Chromebox M004U excel at, getting one is almost a no-brainer. We say "almost" because the lack of a keyboard, mouse and monitor do color its otherwise low price. The good news is that most users report that it's compatible with a wide variety of wireless and wired peripherals. The other issue is that at the time of this report, retail availability remains scarce. It's still back-ordered at many sellers, and some are selling the Chromebox for above list price.

Buy from Amazon

Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

Asus Chromebox M004U, Joel Santo Domingo, March 12, 2014

PCMag.com is impressed enough with the Asus Chromebook M004U to give it an Editors' Choice award. "The Asus Chromebox M004U is a great alternative to buying yet another cheap Windows desktop, and it's a steal for the price," Joel Santo Domingo says. Elsewhere on the site, Asus earns a Readers' Choice award in the site's latest survey on service and reliability.

2. Computer Shopper

Asus Chromebox Review and Ratings, Matt Safford, March 26, 2014

The Asus Chromebox also earns an Editors' Choice award at ComputerShopper.com. Matt Safford has a few quibbles -- he wishes for more storage and memory, for example -- but still thinks that this small PC is a great second computer, or even a first computer for those with lighter needs.

3. PC World

Asus Chromebox M004U Review: Web-based Life in Desktop Form, Just Add Peripherals, Mark Hachman, March 12, 2014

PC World is a bit less enthused by the Asus Chromebox, but says that it is "perfectly adequate" for its intended duties. Performance is called "snappy" when web browsing or playing casual Flash-based games. The price point is appealing, especially for those who have their own peripherals.

4. Anandtech.com

Asus Chromebox Review, Anand Lal Shimpi, March 12, 2014

AnandTech.com subjects the Asus Chromebox to its most rigorous round of testing. Though no rating is provided, Anand Lal Shimpi is impressed. He says that the M004U "is a great balance of price, performance and usability." Its resistance, relatively speaking, to viruses and other malware makes it a great choice for novice users.

5. Amazon.com

Asus Chromebox-M004U Desktop, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2014

Feedback is still limited for the Asus Chromebook M004U, but most of what's available is highly positive. A few owners are challenged in getting some peripherals to work properly. The overall rating following nearly 80 user reviews is 4.6 stars.