Asus Chromebit CS10 review

In the few years that Chromebooks have been around they’ve proven themselves to be easy-to-use, reliable, lightweight, affordable computers for people who don’t need the power or price of a high-end PC. Now the Asus Chromebit CS10 has taken this ethos a little further by taking the core components and packing a full version of ChromeOS into a dongle the size of a Mars bar.

If you're wondering how this differs from an existing device such as the Google Chromecast 2, then let us explain. With a Chromecast you can display photos, videos, or stream music from the internet, all on your TV. The difference lies in the fact that to do this you first need to send the information from another device, be it a tablet, laptop, or mobile phone, then the Chromecast goes and finds it online. The Chromebit on the other hand doesn’t need any help, as it's a fully fledged browser plugged directly into your television. This means you can surf the web, create and edit documents on Google Docs or MS Word Online, go through your email, or catch up with people of social media, just as you would on a normal Chromebook or Windows PC.

Asus Chromebit CS10 review: Price

Having done away with a screen, keyboard, and touchpad, the CS10 has also lightened itself of financial burden. At £89.99 from Amazon, it represents very good value for money, especially if you already have a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse lying around. The value obviously diminishes somewhat if you need to acquire these peripherals, but it does offer you the freedom to select the typing experience you prefer, rather than being stuck with the one that comes on your laptop. There’s also the added benefit for those who own tablets, as bluetooth keyboards can also work with them.  Of course the Chromebit isn’t the only dongle-style PC around, with Intel offering the Compute Stick for around £115, Hannspree's PC on a Stick, and a fair collection of Android based devices popping up regularly, but the simplicity of ChromeOS actually makes it feel better suited to this sort of format than its competitors.

Asus Chromebit CS10 review

Asus Chromebit CS10 review: design

There’s not really much to talk about in terms of design with the Chromebit. Essentially it looks like a USB stick the size of a chocolate bar. At one end, under a removable cover, is the HDMI fitting to slots into your TV, in between is a small, circular power input, and at the other end you’ll find a USB 2.0 port. No lights, buttons, or other ephemera. Our review model came in black, but for those with a flair for the dramatic there’s a bright orange alternative on its way.

As it might not always be practical to have something this long sticking straight out of the back of your TV, Asus has included two HDMI cables that allow you to position the Chromebit in a way that best suits your needs. One is a short extension lead, while the other is a strong, bendable holder that can be adjusted to any angle. Nice touch.

Asus Chromebit CS10 review

Asus Chromebit CS10 review: performance

Traditionally Chromebooks have never really been renowned for the ability to set land speed data transmission records. They’re cheap, cheerful, and get the job done for most normal users’ needs. The Chromebit follows this template, offering a perfectly acceptable level of performance for general tasks. Streaming HD movies from the web or an attached USB device presented no difficulties to the Chromebit, and we were able to work on writing this review while streaming music in another tab without issue. Having several web pages open simultaneously though, especially if they were image heavy sites, did mean things got bogged down. Facebook seemed a particularly naughty culprit, so maybe it would be worth closing that down when you’re not on the site if you want to keep things sprightly. The lack of pace could be due to the Rockchip Quad Core RK3288C processor, but we suspect the majority of blame lies with the inclusion of only 2GB of RAM, which does seem below the comfortable minimun these days.

One part of performance that was more trouble than it needed to be was the initial setup. In principle it should have been very easy. You plug in the device, turn it on, then turn on your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, wait for them to attach, and you’re good to go. Well, it didn’t quite run that smoothly. On our first couple of attempts one of our peripherals would be recognised, but not the other. This was only rectified by resetting the device, via the Power Wash function, and starting again.

Eventually the devices could talk to each other and we were able to get going, but we’d like to see a firmware update, or even component change in future models to ensure a better first experience. That being said, we did try powering the Chromebit down and back up to see if it would have the same problems, but it found the Bluetooth devices again without the need for any help.

Chromebit CS10: Specs

  • Pocket-sized ChromeOS device that plugs into the back of your TV
  • Pocket-sized ChromeOS device that plugs into the back of your TV

OUR VERDICT

The main question about the Chromebit is what would you use it for? If you want to assemble a cheap home PC for basic work and internet duties, plus you have a screen and peripherals knocking around, then it’s an excellent, cost-effective device. Similarly if you travel frequently and don’t want to watch movies on your laptop when you get to a hotel, the Chromebit could plug into the back of a standard TV and stream or play content simply and quickly. It’s not likely to replace a full home PC or laptop, although it’s possible that if you attached a USB hub to the device then it could work as a normal desktop with wired peripherals. This could in fact make it a decent starter machine for children, students, or anyone who just want to use the web on a bigger screen. It has a few quirks, and the initial setup needs work, but for less than a hundred pounds we think this one is a winner.