MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
LG Chromebase 22CV241 all-in-one desktop PC
Google's Chrome OS lands on desktops with LG's Chromebase all-in-one system
- Neat all-in-one unit
- Simple to set up and use
- Full HD, IPS screen
- Capacitive OSD controls
- Small-ish input peripherals
LG's Chromebase represents a new way of computing that’s more online-based than a traditional Windows or Linux machine, and it’s best suited to those of you who want a simple system that will only be used for Web browsing, email, streaming Web-based media, online document creation, and online communications. Businesses might also like to look into it as a way to offer Web-only machines that are quick and easy to set up and maintain for temporary users.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Google’s Chrome OS makes an appearance in LG’s Chromebase, which is an all-in-one desktop computer that’s designed to run the simple, mostly cloud-enhanced operating system. It’s a good looking unit with a screen size of 22 inches, and since it runs Chrome OS, you don’t really need to know what’s under the hood.
We’re going to tell you what’s under the hood whether you like it or not: you get an Intel Celeron 2955U CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 16GB solid state drive. As is the case with Chromebook laptops, the main goal of this desktop PC is to provide a basic working environment for common tasks that range from Web browsing, email, document creation, and online communication (it has a webcam and built-in microphone for Hangouts, too). There is no need to install any software or maintain the system (Google pushes updates regularly to keep it secure); simply log in with your Google account and you should be ready to rock and roll.
If you want performance scores, here are a few browser-based tests that we ran: Sunspider recorded a time of 423 milliseconds, Peacekeeper got a mark of 3018, while Octane recorded 11726. All of these results are faster than what we’ve seen from any Chromebook so far (the only other form of Chrome OS computer we’ve seen to date). You can use the Chromebase comfortably for streaming YouTube clips, and it even goes well when processing 1080p content. Boot-up is only a matter of waiting a couple of seconds, and power consumption is about 32W (2.5W when in standby/sleep). The power supply is an external laptop-like adapter.
An IPS (in-plane switching) screen offers rich colour reproduction, clear text rendering, and it’s easy on the eyes overall. Its resolution is 1920x1080, and the luminance, sharpness and colour can be controlled via the on-screen display (OSD) if needed. The entries in the OSD are: brightness, contrast, sharpness, overscan, colour temp, saturation, hue, and gamma. They are accessible via the capacitive controls on the bezel.
We would prefer tactile buttons, though, as you’re never quite sure if you’ve pressed the capacitive button, especially when pressing the power or the ambiguously named ‘Chrome’ button (it doesn’t bring up the browser but instead changes to HDMI screen output). A ‘Reader’ button allows you to quickly change the tint to make it more yellow for tasks that involve prolonged reading.
Overall, the hardware is quite good. As mentioned, the screen is easy on the eyes, the bezel around it has a subdued grey colour that’s equally pleasant to look at, and the stand (which comes in two pieces and is the only part you need to assemble) allows the screen to tilt a little. It’s not a glossy screen, so reflections from room lights won’t be an issue. The rear has the majority of the connections (Ethernet, HDMI, power, and three USB 2.0 ports), but in a fit of brilliance, LG has also included a headphone port and a USB 3.0 port on the right side for relatively simple access.
A set of comfortable input peripherals is provided, with the mouse having two buttons and a scroll wheel, and the keyboard having exceedingly soft keys that are practically silent when hit. The keys are in a standard layout, there is a number pad, and the F-keys are replaced by Chrome-specific functions for controlling the operating system’s windows, browser navigation, screen brightness, and volume. We just wish the board was a little bigger overall, but then again, we’re used to larger mechanical keyboards.
The Chrome OS interface isn’t any different from what we’ve seen on Chromebooks in the past, so if you want to find out a bit more about what Chrome OS offers and how to use it, the first Chromebook we reviewed (Samsung’s XE303C12) is a good starting point. Primarily, you should know that with the Chromebase, you will be spending all of your time working in a Chrome Web browser, seldom getting out of it to browse files, view photos, videos, or listen to music that you’ve downloaded or are accessing of a USB stick.
For the most part, the work that you do with the Chromebase will be stored online in Google’s Drive, from Docs to Sheets, but there is an ability to synchronise files locally so that you can continue to work on them should you ever be offline during a time of need. You can get the Chromebase online by connecting it to a router using an Ethernet cable, or you can forgo wires and make use of its dual-band wireless networking.
The overall setup time, not taking into account how long it takes you to unbox and assemble the two-piece stand, is only as long as a few minutes. You can log into it using your own Google account, and other users in your family or share house can log into it using their own Google account and all accounts will be kept separate, including any data stored locally in the Downloads folder.
The Taskbar that you might be used to from Windows is called the Shelf in Chrome OS, and you can pin apps from the app drawer to the Shelf for quicker access -- things like YouTube, Google Play Music, and the Play store can all get their own icons. You can’t put any shortcuts on the actual desktop though, so you’ll want to pick a nice picture to set as your background.
Notifications are present in the bottom-right corner, and in addition to giving you tips about system-centric things such as how to remove USB sticks, you can also see weather notifications, main notifications, and things from Google Plus, such as the birthdays of people you know. These notifications can be disabled by going into the settings, or you can also set them to not disturb you instead of outright disabling them.
While it’s a neat system for home usage, it’s also a good choice for businesses who want to perhaps give temporary workers access to a Web-only machine. The Chromebase can even be set up so that users are supervised. A supervised user is one that is set up by a manager, who then gives the supervised user a specific username and password to use for the machine. Those supervised users don’t use their own Google accounts to log in, but instead the credentials given to them by the manager.
To create a supervised user, the manager has to create an account on the machine using their own Google account, and then click on the add user icon on the login screen. The manager will need to click on their account and then instead of signing in, and click on the ‘Create a supervised user’ link. From there, a username and password for the new user can be created. There are no restrictions on the password such as character limit or usage.
When a supervised user logs in, they will get a little message at the bottom of the screen saying that their manager will be able to see their usage and history. The manager can view all visited sites remotely through their Dashboard. It’s a Dashboard with an easy layout that lists all visited Web sites at the bottom, and settings and permissions at the top. The list of Web sites (and Google searches) viewed by the user doesn’t update in real time, so the manager will have to reload to see an up-to-date listing.
The manager can impose restrictions through the Dashboard, either by creating a whitelist of sites that users can access and nothing else, or by blocking specific sites. When a supervised user attempts to access a blocked site, a message in the browser inform the user that they are blocked and that they can request permission if they feel they should be able to access that particular site. Requests appear in the manager’s Dashboard and the manager will see them once they refresh the page (if it’s already open). The manager can’t just click a button to allow a request to be actioned, but must instead go into the permissions page again.
There’s nothing stopping users from logging in to the Chromebase as a guest, though, nor from logging in with their own Google account, though the latter will show up on the system’s login screen unless a Powerwash is undertaken. Also, the Supervised users feature is still in beta and missing features such as allowing supervised users to make use of apps.
What’s the verdict?
The Chromebase represents a new way of computing that’s more online-based than a traditional Windows or Linux machine, and it’s best suited to those of you who want a simple system that will only be used for Web browsing, email, streaming Web-based media, online document creation, and online communications. All you have to do to get started is log in using your Google account details. Businesses might also like to look into it as a way to offer Web-only machines that are quick and easy to set up and maintain for temporary users.
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