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Review: Dell Chromebox i3 A Powerful Platform

Dell's latest little box can do big things in the cloud, finds the CRN Test Center.

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There's a lot going on inside a new little box from Dell. Into a 5 x 5-inch footprint, a fully configured Dell Chromebox i3 packs an Intel Haswell Core i3 1.7GHz processor, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM in two DIMM slots, a 16-GB SSD, four USB 3.0 ports (two front, two rear), HDMI and DisplayPort+ outputs with 4K resolution, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth, a full-size SD Card/Multi Card reader, speaker and a headset jack.

What's more, it boots in just a few seconds and automatically detects and configures connected monitors to their fullest resolutions, extending the desktop across both. Unveiled in September, the Chromebox i3 began shipping Nov. 6 at prices starting at $179 with a Haswell Celeron processor, 2 GB of 1,600MHz RAM and no keyboard or mouse.

[Related: Intel-Based Samsung Chromebook 2 Runs Faster, Longer]

Like any device running ChromeOS, powering Chromebox up for the first time presents a list of available Wi-Fi access points and screens to log in or create a Gmail account. With that out of the way, the ChromeOS desktop appears. When it's time to transfer ownership of a Chromebox, IT departments will appreciate ChromeOS' new Powerwash feature, which scrubs the device of all user data and account information and restores a factor-fresh image in a single operation.

Dell's i3-based Chromebox is by far the fastest ChromeOS system we've tested. It was running the 64-bit version of ChromeOS 38.0.2125. Applications were responsive and input from keyboard and mouse are snappy. Single and multiple videos played back at full frame rate and with minimal lag or visible artifacts, even when driving two monitors, one of which was displaying ultra-high-definition. Our test system was able to simultaneously play three videos while streaming a music video using the included YouTube app.

Chromebooks also can open, edit and save documents -- including those for Microsoft Office -- without an Internet connection, though ChromeOS devices work best when online. Additional apps can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, which currently lists a few hundred apps and growing. Of course, a company's own apps also can be executed through the included Chrome browser. There exist numerous tools for building ChromeOS apps.

As tested, the Dell Chromebox i3 would have listed for just shy of $362 with a keyboard, mouse and one-year mail-in warranty and 65-watt AC adapter. For solution providers seeking a powerful, low-cost platform for classrooms, point-of-sale systems, call centers and other single-purpose enterprise application users, the CRN Test Center recommends the Dell Chromebox i3.

PUBLISHED DEC. 11, 2014

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