Story 2015-04-03 6B3W New Chromebooks and Chromebit stick start at $100

New Chromebooks and Chromebit stick start at $100

in hardware on (#6B3W)
story imageGoogle and its partners are preparing a flood of new hardware to sway consumers away from cheap Windows laptops. Chromebooks from HiSense and Haier go on sale today for just $150 each. You also might consider the Asus Chromebit that will cost less than $100. The Chromebit looks very similar to the Chromecast, but runs a full Chrome-OS instance, on-a-stick, ready to plug into any monitor. "Think of a school lab, all the peripherals, but stuck to a desktop. Now you can replace that."

The secret behind these low-cost devices is the RK3288, a very inexpensive quad-core Cortex-A12 ARM architecture processor, which was launched in mid-2014 from Rockchip, a Chinese chip maker that's little known outside of industry circles. Because the chip can draw as little as 3 watts of power, the Chromebooks based on it are designed without fans, and can last all day on a single charge. You also get 2GB of storage, and a 16GB SSD in all 3 devices.

With fewer than 25 million Chromebook sales last year (opposed to more than 302 million PC sales), Google still has work to do. And thus today's announcement. Google and its partners are lowering prices further while chasing the one commodity laptop users value most: battery life.
Reply 16 comments

Stick is it (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-03 12:00 (#6BJ5)

Stick plus netflix = TV on demand. What could be better?

Re: Stick is it (Score: 2, Insightful)

by on 2015-04-03 15:46 (#6C00)

A good book? Learning a new programming language? Going for a walk in the park? Spending time with loved ones? Untangling fishing line? Doing volunteer work? Studying philosophy?

...says the worlds largest netflix adict. Trying to use this as motivation for myself. There are many wonderful things to explore that don't involve TV. I should do more of that.

Good (Score: 3, Insightful)

by on 2015-04-03 16:56 (#6C3R)

I just recently read on another article how a lot of people only have access to the Internet through their smart phone. These people are mostly down on the lower end of the socio-economic scale, obviously for cost reasons a smart phone is cheap and accessible... So I'm happy Google is doing this because I do not want to even imagine a future where the only way people experience the Internet is through a locked down limited iPhone where they can't program at all. Sure Google's Chrome OS is pretty limited but you can install Linux on it if you want to. I don't want a future where the people who want to learn are locked out from doing so.

Re: Good (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-03 22:31 (#6CJJ)

Some of us have lived in places with crappy wiring that makes DSL expensive or not an option. These of us have a phone plan with a few GB of data to get by on. I moved to get DSL. Pity the Aus government is killing the fibre network rollout.. and Netflix is killing the current bandwidth available.

Re: Good (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-03 23:55 (#6CND)

After reading your first sentence I have already started a reply in my head along the lines "Australia too..." Only to see that you were talking about Australia.I finally have good ADSL speeds only because I live next to phone exchange now. But getting reasonable Internet connection was a struggle at 4 previous place I lived in.

Re: Good (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-04 10:35 (#6D8S)

I now live 400m from a TPG exchange, and 1 street - literally stone's throw away - from the local NBN rollout. Braddon, if you care.

The situation really sucks. TPG is all ready to roll fibre to anywhere it can, in true capitalistic style, and the government has passed laws to ensure that NBN is the only fibre network. Just makes you want to cry.

Now netflix comes along and you have to wonder what it will be like in 2 years time if 30% have signed up. Telstra is already showing signs of stress. What will it take to bring Aus ISPs to their knees to demonstrate to the government that we need the NBN *now*

will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-03 19:41 (#6CBE)

I read the linked article but it didn't answer my question. I have a nice older IBM ThinkPad T40 with a great keyboard, touchpoint (pointing device) and screen. The processor is slow and whatever has messed up the WinXP installation makes it even slower--to the point that it is effectively unusable.

Will the Chromebit stick be able to "take over" and utilize the ThinkPad hardware?

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 2, Informative)

by on 2015-04-03 20:41 (#6CDT)

Nope. Not unless your laptop has HDMI inputs, and the rest of hardware (keyboard, mouse, etc), can be plugged-in to a USB hub... The Chromebit is designed to plug-in to HDTV & computer monitors, taking over for a tower PC.

Besides, a Chromebook is only $50 more than the Chromebit... so if you want the laptop form-factor, you should spend the extra $50 and get the former, ready to go out-of-the-box.

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-04 19:52 (#6DXV)

It would be really fun to take do a weird mod with it, like gut out an old all in one pc, and replace the guts with the chromebit.

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-05 08:15 (#6EM6)

It's been done quite a bit. Google 'Raspberry Pi Commodore 64 internal" and you'll come up with a huge list of guys who have gutted old C64s and replaced the computing parts with a Raspberry Pi on which they run emulator software, usually. There's also a guy on Etsy who created his own custom keyboard controller, and now sells refurbished C64s, Sinclairs, and other retro computers you can now use as a fully-functioning USB external keyboard. I'm sorely tempted by these - love the idea of a C64 on my desk connected to a real computer elsewhere.

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-05 03:00 (#6EAF)

Thanks for the answer, too bad this won't work. Economically, I agree that an extra $50 is not a problem. But I think there will be a *huge* difference in keyboard quality between my ThinkPad T40 and any low priced Chromebook.

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 1)

by on 2015-04-05 08:22 (#6EMP)

You've got to imagine a troop of 10 year old kids going down to the computer lab. Your school can now have a lab that consists of nothing but HDMI monitors. Each kid gets a stick from the teacher, and they do whatever they do using web services available through ChromeOS (which is basically just a bit more complex than a Chrome browser and a tiny bit of desktop).

From the point of the school, the maintenance and systems admin burden of running a computer lab this way is hugely more efficient and inexpensive than a lab full of, say, Win10 desktops that need basically full-time administration. This hardware might put a dent in the futures of projects like Edubuntu, which reconfigs desktop hardware into thin clients. That's unfortunate. But it will have a powerful impact on schools that will stop buying Windows desktops, and that in turn will affect how many kids coming out of schools thinking that "computer = windows."

As for keyboard quality you are absolutely right - these guys aren't focused on hardware quality. My HP Chromebook has a chiclet keyboard, and I'm not a fan of it (it's no worse than any other modern HP laptop though). If you want a good keyboard, buy a Chromebox and stick whatever USB you like into it - even a Model M! For me, despite the ubiquity of laptops, this is the advantage of a 'desktop computer' no matter which OS it happens to be running: the peripherals I want/need/love, from trackballs to fancy ergo keyboards etc.

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-05 12:40 (#6ETS)

I can see the advantages for schools, easy admin, so this seems like it is going to happen in a big way. Not so sure that I like the idea of kids getting used to the idea that "computer = browser + net connection". There are still many things that thin clients don't do, and being able to get closer to the hardware (at least for interested students) is the way to learn about being more than just a "computing service user".

The analogy I'm thinking of is electric power before the grid. Small factories (and possibly schools?) had their own power source, either direct hydro (etc) or a generator that someone had to maintain. The kids that were interested in the machinery probably learned a lot more about electric power than we do these days. Plugging things into the wall is so easy that very few appreciate the infrastructure behind it...and the result is the sometimes-fragile grid that nearly all of us depend on. A likely side effect of taking the grid for granted, is that very few really talented and smart people are attracted to jobs in that industry, so at best it muddles along.

Re: will the stick work with an old laptop? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-04-15 10:38 (#73EN)

This is a software problem you're having, just replace the software.
From googling, you have a Pentium M so the CPU has a hardware bug with PAE meaning some linux distros won't work but you can at least run linux mint LMDE2 Mate edition 32 bit.
Or hell, such kind of hardware can run Windows 7 and it's actually faster than a fucked up Windows XP (cruft + virus + antivirus is killing, so much that even though Windows 7 a.k.a. Vista 1.1 is very heavy on disk accesses, it'll be like stuff is instantly done)