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Can Google Save Desktop Computing?

We found the new Asus Chromebox to be a very good performer. Our Celeron-clad test unit was plenty fast and, for the most part, an absolute pleasure to use. It was a stellar performer when it cam to anything you can do in a browser from dealing with spreadsheet calculations to playing media from Spotify, Netflix (NFLX) and YouTube. It even handled navigating Pharrell Williams' wonderful "24HoursofHappy" music site with ease.

However, there is one annoying problem, concerning "timing-out" of the screen. The Chromebox sometimes dimmed the screen after the system hadn't been used for a few hours. Sometimes the screen didn't dim. Sometimes the screen turned itself off and, upon awakening wouldn't allow us to open any Websites. A quick reboot fixed any problem.

Chromeboxes seem perfectly for enterprise use. Despite warnings for employees to "turn-off" computers when they leave work, many forget or just not bother. The test unit needed to be restarted every day to function properly. It's something that Google and Asus may need to address.

There is also the question of price and value. Chromeboxes start at $179. You also need to factor in a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Businesses can use peripherals they may have on hand but that still adds to the overall cost of the system in the long-run.

Chromebooks have built-in displays, keyboards and mice in one, neat package. And some really terrific Chromebooks sell for only slightly more than this new desktop equivalent. Chromebooks can also be easily moved (or taken home) if desired.

The Celeron-based Chromeboxes are available now for pre-orders at Amazon, Newegg and TigerDirect. It will be available at leading resellers beginning March 28.

Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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