Asus Chromebit CS10 review – a PC smaller than a Bar One

When Asus and Google first announced the Chromebit in April, they billed it as a full computing device the size of a memory stick.

This was a bit of an exaggeration, it turns out. It may have the shape of a memory stick, but the Chromebit is much larger than the typical USB flash drive.

Since the device was launched, Asus has started advertising the Chromebit as a “candy-bar-sized computer”, a more accurate description.

What’s in the box?

Asus Chromebit CS10 with Bar One and flash drive for scale
Bar One for scale
Asus Chromebit CS10 Specifications
Operating System Chrome OS
Processor Rockchip Quad-Core RK3288C Processor
Graphics ARM Mali T624
Memory 2GB LPDDR3 at 1066MHz
Storage 16GB eMMC (9.75GB available to user)
Cloud storage 100GB Google Drive 2 year free usage
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac – Bluetooth 4.0 – USB 2.0
Dimensions 123 x 31 x 17 mm
Weight 75g

The Chromebit will go on sale through Takealot during January 2016 for a recommended retail price of R1,639. It will also come with two HDMI extensions, four soft feet, and an AC adapter (12V, 1.5A).

Powered by Chrome OS running on a quad-core Rockchip processor with 2GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage, this little stick PC might not be able to run GTA V, but it promises the ability to play full HD video.

Its connectivity options are solid too, offering 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a USB Type-A port.

While a USB 3.0 port would have been nice, it’s not a critical element to compromise for the sake of price.

Chrome OS on the Chromebit – when is simple too simple?

Chromebit review - Chrome OS main menu
The main menu in Chrome OS

The Chromebit boots within seconds and you can use it to browse the web with minimal set up.

To get going, you will need to plug in the AC adapter, and connect a keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth or USB.

I didn’t have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for the test, but a Microsoft Wireless Desktop set worked well enough.

The cable of the AC adapter is 1.5m long, which proved only just long enough for even a compact set-up.

With a keyboard and mouse connected, the Chromebit will take you through a quick configuration wizard – asking you to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

At this point it became apparent that the Chromebit’s Wi-Fi radio is not strong, or perhaps susceptible to electronic interference.

I tried to connect it to two different Wi-Fi networks: one coming from a Huawei ADSL router near the TV, the other from a Ubiquity wireless broadband router roughly 10-15 meters away, up a flight of stairs and around a corner.

The 2012 Samsung smart TV I was testing on, my smartphone, and my laptop were all able to connect to the upstairs network, but the Chromebit couldn’t.

Chromebit review - Chrome OS search
Chrome OS search and app installation

Once connected to the Wi-Fi network of the nearby ADSL router, further setup – which involved signing into my Google account, updating the Chromebit, and installing some apps I wanted to try out from the Chrome Web Store – was simple.

I installed and signed into Telegram, Hangouts, and Google Play Music. Then I loaded WhatsApp Web, Gmail, and hit the MyBroadband forums.

The Chromebit handled this well, though a bit of sluggishness was evident after the sixth browser tab.

When I started opening more than one YouTube video, though, performance slowed dramatically.

The Chromebit may be able to play 1080p video, but you’ll have to load videos one tab at a time.

Chromebit review - Chrome OS running DOSBox
Chrome OS running DOSBox

One task I found difficult on Chrome OS was uncompressing archives. It seems the operating system can’t read ZIP files by default.

There are some Chrome apps that work around the problem, but these require an Internet connection and therefore may not be practical for large ZIP files.

The hack solution that worked for me in the end (without switching on developer mode), was to install DOSBox from the Chrome Web Store and download PKUNZIP from the Internet Archive.

The Verdict

The Bottom Line: Asus Chromebit CS10
The Good The Bad
  • Decently priced, considering the exchange rate
  • Boots blisteringly fast
  • Very compact
  • HDMI extensions included
  • AC adapter cable a tad short
  • No microSD support
  • USB port isn’t SuperSpeed
  • Wi-Fi radio may be weak, or susceptible to interference
Tweet-length review: While not without its niggles, the Asus Chromebit is great for what it is.

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Asus Chromebit CS10 review – a PC smaller than a Bar One