Chromebook vs Chromebox vs Chrome OS detachable – Which is best?

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Chrome OS has come a long way since it was originally launched all the way back in 2011. Yes, this year we’ll see the tenth anniversary of the Chromebook. A really exciting time when you consider how Chrome OS has changed over the years. In the beginning, it was all about explaining why you should get a Chromebook rather than a Microsoft Windows computer. However, I don’t think that argument needs to be pushed as much in 2021. For the simple reason, people have already made the switch to Chrome OS in droves.

So this article is about, which device you should buy when choosing Chrome OS. You no longer have to think about the different Chromebooks to choose from. If you’re looking to buy a Chrome OS device today you’d need to consider whether you wanted a Chromebook, Chromebox or Chrome OS tablet. Chrome OS tablet doesn’t really give the device justice because it’s a lot more than that. So I’m going to stick with the name Detatachable Chromebook, which Asus will be using for there upcoming Asus CM3000. It’s a much better way of describing what you’re getting for your money.

THE CHROMEBOOK

The original and only device you could get your hands on when Chrome OS was officially launched in 2011. A Chromebook simply means a laptop running Chrome OS. The first type of device available for the OS has meant It’s become widely known as the catch-all name for anything to do with Chrome OS. Whenever you think about buying a Chrome OS device you’ll most likely think about the Chromebook.

The Chromebook laptop
Chromebooks come in many different sizes and configuration types

The great thing about the Chromebook is it has time to mature. Gone are the days when a Chromebook meant buying a budget laptop. Today you can get one to suit all needs. Whether that is budget, medium spec or high spec laptop. The launch of Android Apps a few years ago saw a steady increase in Hybrid Chromebooks. A computer capable of being used as both a laptop and a tablet. This was a great move because Android Apps need a touchscreen to get the most out of them. The Hybrid fixed this problem because you can’t have a tablet without a touchscreen. That being said, although I like Hybrid Chromebooks I don’t love them. I’ve mentioned before I find using a Hybrid in tablet mode rather awkward.

THE CHROMEBOX

It’s fair to say the Chromebox had a bit of a shaky start. The main reason for this was because most people were getting to grips with understanding the Chromebook. Adding a second type of Chrome OS device just confused matters at the beginning. In the last few years, we’ve seen an increased interest in the Chromebox, which I’m really happy about. Even before they were widely recognised I was concerned they were being overlooked by the Chromebook. I think this was a bit of a branding issue, as I’ve mentioned with the Chromebook being known as the catch-all for anything to do with Chrome OS. This meant a lot of people were completely unaware the Chromebox even existed. I’m sure this is still the case to some extent today.

The Chromebox is great for the office setup
Chromebox is a great choice for the office and gaming

The Chromebox simply means a desktop computer. Yes, it’s not going to be for everyone just like a laptop isn’t going to interest everyone. The release of Chromeboxes like the Asus Chromebox 3 helped it turn the corner. The news of further releases this year namely the Asus Chromebox 4, HP Chromebox G3 and Acer CXI4. Shows the Chromebox is definitely continuing to gain traction for Chrome OS computers. If you’re after a computer to us in an office setup. Then I can’t fault the Chromebox at all. I use one on a daily basis for writing articles. In fact, I use my Chromebox a lot more than my Chromebook or Pixel Slate.

DETACHABLE CHROMEBOOK

The detachable Chromebook is more widely known as the Chrome OS tablet or Chrome OS slate. Apart from the pixel slate attempt and a couple of others not worth mentioning. It was thanks to Lenovo with the launch of the Chromebook Duet Ideapad, which has given this type of Chrome OS computer the opportunity to shine. There was a huge amount of interest when Lenovo first announced they were venturing into the Chrome OS tablet world. Understandable really, when you consider Google failed miserably with the Pixel Slate. Don’t get me wrong, the Pixel Slate is an excellent Chrome OS tablet. However, Google launched it when Chrome OS was pretty poor in tablet mode. This caused a poor reception for the Slate and the whopping price tag didn’t help.

Lenovo Ideapad Chromebook Duet
Lenovo Ideapad Duet

At the moment the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is the only model released in the last couple of years. So you could argue how can we possibly know this type of Chrome OS computer will be a success. Well, we don’t at the moment, but I’m almost certain it will be. This is helped by the news that Asus will be releasing their own detachable Chromebook this year. From what I’ve seen of the Asus CM3000. It looks like an improvement on the Ideapad Duet, which is just what we’d need to see for Chrome OS detachable’s to have any sort of future.

THE SPECS

Just like the Chromebook the Chromebox is available for all budgets. Lower priced Intel Celeron powered processors right the way up to Intel i7. The same can be said for RAM and storage. This means whether you’re looking for a computer on a budget or you want a computer with the latest specs. Choosing between a Chromebook or Chromebox isn’t a hard choice in terms of specs. This is because both offer budget price with low specs or higher priced/higher-spec models.

Chromebook and Chromebox offers many different processor configurations
The Chromebook and Chromebox offers better performance

When it comes to detachable Chromebooks it’s a slightly different story. Sure, the Pixel Slate is available in different specs, but we could argue this was launched before this latest interest in Chrome OS tablets had taken place. If you’re looking for a detachable Chromebook at the moment the only one released recently is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. The specs of this device are more geared to someone looking for a computer on a budget. The display is fine, but the internal specs are what you’d expect to see in a budget Chromebook. This will not change with the release of the Asus CM3000, as the internal specs are very similar. This may change in the future, but for now, anyone looking for a medium or high spec computer will want to avoid what detachable Chromebooks currently offer.

PORTABILITY

If you’re looking for a computer you can use on the move. I think we can safely say the Chromebox isn’t going to be the right choice. This leaves just the Chromebook vs detachable Chromebook. It’s pretty hard to choose, which is best when it comes to portability because both offer something a little different. When it comes to protecting your computer from damage. I think the Chromebook slightly wins a detachable because you’re getting a solid computer. You don’t have to worry about the display being scratched because you’ll have it closed when in transit. Also, you don’t need to worry about accidentally leaving the keyboard behind because it all comes in one unit.

Chromebook in bag for travelling with
Chromebook ideal for travelling

On the other hand. If you were on holiday and just wanted to take your computer to the beach to read a digital magazine. I’d much prefer the option of a detachable Chromebook. This is because you could leave the keyboard in your hotel. If you were using a Hybrid Chromebook you’d have to worry about sand getting into the keyboard. Also, a detachable Chromebook offers a true tablet experience. Whereas a Hybrid is going to be much heavier and bulkier to manage. If your Chromebook doesn’t come with a Hybrid design. Then this would be even more limiting when using in places such as a beach or by the side of a pool.

Chromebook is easy to use on your lap
Unlike a detachable – The Chromebook is easy to use on your lap

One big advantage for the Chromebook over a detachable is not having to worry too much about having a stable flat surface. If you were taking your computer down the beach with some serious typing in mind. You could easily do this using a Chromebook on your lap. The same could not be said for a detachable Chromebook. I just can’t imagine it would be easy typing on such a device unless you had a decent flat surface to use.

CONNECTIVITY

Connectivity is important when choosing a new computer. Typically a tablet will have a lot less external ports and this is the case with the detachable Chromebook. This may not be a problem but it does depend on what you’ll be using your Chromebook for. It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing different types of USB ports on detachable Chromebooks. Both the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and the upcoming Asus CM3000 offer Type-C USB ports only. This is the right choice because Type-C is the USB port of choice in 2021. It also means you can connect an external display with this type of port. That being said, if you have older peripherals, which use the older USB connection. You’d have to buy an adapter to use these on the latest detachable Chromebooks.

Ethernet port allows you to hook up to your router using a cable

The Chromebook and Chromebox on the other hand typically come with a more wide range of connectivity options. Not all Chromebooks offer a different type of USB connection, but you can at least consider this if you’re considering buying one. The Chromebox offers more choice compared to the Chromebook when it comes to connectivity. First of all, you’ll find an HDMI port, which is not present on a Chromebook. So unless your Chromebook has a USB Type-C port you’ll not be able to connect it to an external display. Some older Chromebooks do come with HDMI, but most of the newer models replaced this with USB Type-C. If using an external display is important to you. Make sure your Chromebook as one of these connection types. The Chromebox has the upper hand when it comes to connectivity when it comes to streaming games.

GAMING ON CHROME OS

When it comes to streaming games one thing you need more than anything else is a solid internet connection. I’ve got a pretty fast internet connection, but when the internet is being used a lot in the area. I tend to have problems streaming advanced games over WiFi. Most of the time the internet is fine and I can easily stream games using Nvidia GeForce Now on my Chromebox using WiFi.

I’ve been able to stream games on my pixel slate and even play games on my Toshiba Chromebook 2. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 was the must-have Chromebook when originally launched. However, in 2021 the specs are hardly cutting edge. The fact I can still play games on it shows the internet connection is more important than the specs of your computer.

Chromebox is great for gaming
The Chromebox is great for gaming

The big advantage for the Chromebox when considering a computer for gaming is the Ethernet Connection. If I want a good solid stable connection for a serious gaming session. Then I always connect my Chromebox to Ethernet. This means I’m getting the best possible internet connection from my router and minimises the risk of buffering issues when playing. Don’t get me wrong, you can still stream games perfectly fine over WiFi. However, you do need to ensure you’re located near enough to your router to get the best experience. Also, playing games on an external display is much better than using a laptop display, but I appreciate an external display can be used on a Chromebook providing you’ve got the right connections.

USING ANDROID APPS & A STYLUS

When it comes to using Android Apps the Chromebox can be limited. A lot of Android apps work perfectly well with a keyboard and mouse. That being said, there are plenty of Android Apps, especially games, which needs a touchscreen to work well. This is why when it comes to using Android Apps I’ll always reach for my Pixel Slate or Hybrid Chromebook. You can get around this if you want a desktop Chrome OS computer. A device type not discussed in this article, but fixes this issue is the Acer Chromebase. Still not mainstream enough to be part of this article, but they are much better than they were a few years ago.

A Hybrid Chromebook or a Chromebook laptop with a touchscreen offers a much better experience when using Android Apps. This is also true for a detachable Chromebook. Both of these Chrome OS computers offer the best option for using Android Apps. The detachable Chromebook offers the best experience of the two. This is because you can detach the keyboard and use it as a tablet when playing Android Games. Sure, a Hybrid can also do this but it’s a pretty heavy device to be holding in your hands as a tablet.

A Hybrid Chromebook with stylus
Some Hybrid Chromebooks are compatible with a Stylus

If you’re looking for a computer to use with a Stylus. Again, the Chromebox is not going to be the best choice. There are a few Hybrid Chromebooks to choose from. That being said, the best way to use a Stylus is with a tablet. The much lighter design gives a more natural feeling as if you’re drawing on paper compared to a bulkier Hybrid device. The Lenovo Duet is capable of being used with a Stylus, and the upcoming Asus CM3000 comes with one included in the price.

IT’S GOOD TO HAVE THE CHOICE

The type of Chrome OS computer that is right for you will depend on what you’re wanting to get from your computer. Neither is necessarily better than the other because they all offer something different. Personally speaking, I love the Chromebox for working and gaming. When I’m travelling through, I’d take either a Chromebook or my Pixel Slate with me.

At the moment detachable Chromebooks are relatively new. Although I’m convinced they will be a great success. We’ll only truly know when we see more of these devices being launched. At the moment the manufacturers are playing it safe by offering budget spec detachable Chromebooks. Things will start to get more interesting. When they step up a gear and start offering detectable’s with the same specs we get from the Chromebook or Chromebox.

The good thing is that you now have a choice. If detachable Chromebooks take off in a big way. Then we’ll have three types of Chrome OS computers to choose from. This is a good thing for Chrome OS enthusiasts out there. It also means there are more options for people deciding whether they should switch to what Chrome OS offers compared to the competition.

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