Samsung Series 3 Chromebox Review

Recently, Samsung finally unveiled their Series 3 Chromebox, the first official ChromeOS-powered desktop on the computer market. At a lower price, with more ports, but without the mobility, does the new Samsung Chromebox compare to the well-reviewed Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook? Read on to find out.

Our Review:

With its minimalist build and sleek, understated design, the Samsung Series 3 Chromebox immediately reminds us quite a bit of Apple’s Mac Mini. The Mac-like design of the Series 3 Chromebox shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, really, as Samsung’s designers seem to draw much of their inspiration from the best bits of Apple’s product design, while addressing and fixing the common design complaints (unlike Apple themselves).

Despite not being a “mobile” computer per se, the Chromebox actually weighs even less than the Chromebook (2.6 pounds compared to the Samsung Series 5 550′s lightweight 3.3 lbs). Of course, that weight doesn’t include a monitor or a keyboard, but there’s nothing stopping you from popping the Chromebox in a laptop bag or even a hard drive sleeve and taking it over to a friend’s house.

The name of the machine is well-deserved. The computer really is a small box that runs the Chrome operating system — great for those who prefer an “out of the way” computer. Aside from the attractive black top and bottom, yes, Samsung literally made a “Chrome-box.” Fair enough. Let’s move on from the outer appearance and talk about performance — that’s what really matters anyway, right?

Samsung’s new cloud desktop didn’t disappoint us when it came to performance. The processor in the Samsung Chromebox is faster than any of the processors included with the existing Samsung or Acer Chromebooks. Unlike in the mobile counterparts, the CPU in the Series 3 is a dual-core Intel Celeron just shy of 2.0 GHz, clocking in at a very respectable 1.9GHz. In layman’s terms, that’s more than enough power for any task you would ever use the Chromebox for — productivity apps, streaming movies and shows, games, and so on.

The Samsung Chromebox has an unpretentious design that works whether you want to draw attention to it or away from it.

Just like in the Chromebooks, the Chromebox drive is a solid-state (SSD) with a capacity of 16GB. As always, it’s important to remember that Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are heavily focused on making use of cloud storage and cloud processing.

Thus, while the state-of-the-art solid-state hard drive included in the Chromebox ensures super fast performance of the ChromeOS operating system, the numerical capacity of the drive is rather trivial considering you won’t be storing much on it at all. Suffice it to say that the fast SSD is a perfect match for any ChromeOS setup and ensures that your experience of using the Chromebox is speedy and responsive.

With 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM (1333MHz), the Series 3 Chromebox has twice as much RAM of all of the first-generation Chromebook models. It has just as much memory as the newest model Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook (review). As such, it can handle a lot more multi-tasking than the Chromebooks of last year.

The dual-core Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and Intel HD graphics provide more than enough power to play streaming HD movies and videos in 1080 stutter-free. With two DisplayPorts and a DVI port (see more about the ports below), you can hook up the Series 3 to multiple monitors.

When it comes to boot-up time, the Chromebox has actually beaten the first-generation Chromebooks by a very slight margin — by 1 second, actually. When you’re comparing the speed of ChromeOS systems, however, a second becomes surprisingly meaningful! The Series 3 Chromebox boasts an unprecedented cold boot time of 7 seconds. That means it takes only 7 seconds from the time you hit the “ON” button to when you are online and ready to surf the web, run apps, check e-mail, and so on.

The Chromebox also maintains the “instant resume” that Chromebooks are known for. In this case, rather than opening the lid, you can press the single power button or hit a key to wake it from sleeping. The resume really is instant, or at least less than a second.

I found it especially surprising (and convenient) that the Chromebox comes with an impressive 6 USB ports (as well as numerous other ports: 2 DisplayPort video outs, 1 DVI video out, a gigabit ethernet port, audio in/out, and a kensington lock slot). The machine also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 receivers, so you can use all the latest wireless accessories.

Samsung Series 3 Chromebox ports on back of the device (2 additional USB ports on front)

Even with all this connectivity (as well as a quiet but effective cooling fan built into the back), the smart design means it won’t look overcrowded from any angle (though the front, sides, and perhaps the top are most likely what you’ll see).

There is also a 2 watt internal speaker built into the base of the Chromebox. Being only 2 watts, there isn’t any real “wow” factor to be heard when discussing the built-in Samsung speaker, but this is almost always the case with internal speakers. All the same, it’s nice to have one built in for those times when you’re not attached to external speakers or for people who don’t want to clutter up their work area with speakers. Still, anyone using the Series 3 Chromebox as an entertainment center will almost certainly want to use it with some good external speakers or a decent pair of headphones (see our review section for Chromebook accessories).

All the benefits of ChromeOS on the Chromebook apply to the new Chromebox as well: multiple layers of security, no worrying about viruses, automatic syncing, full integration with cloud storage, access to thousands of free Chrome apps, and the list goes on. These features have already been discussed in depth throughout the site, so I won’t go into them too much more in this review.

With the low price Samsung is offering these at currently ($329.99 at the time of this review), even if you don’t have any other accessories already lying around, you could have a very nice, fast Chrome workstation for less than $500 total.

All in all, while we have to take away a couple points for the lack of 3G and the lack of ultra-mobility that Chrome goes perfectly with, if you’re interested in jumping into cloud computing and don’t need the ultra-portability/3G capability that the Chromebooks offer, the Series 3 Chromebox is a perfect, inexpensive start that performs just as well if not better than the Series 5 Chromebook.

Pros:

  • New Intel Celeron dual-core processor, SSD, and 4GB RAM provide extremely fast performance.
  • Solid-state hard drive prevents drive damage from accidental impacts/drops.
  • Tons of ports (6 USB ports alone) with 3 HD video out ports (2 DisplayPort & 1 DVI)
  • 3G model comes with free 100MB/month of Verizon 3G service for 2 years.
  • 7-second boot time.
  • Instant wake/resume.
  • Stutter-free performance for streaming movies & videos.
  • Extremely compact and portable desktop (2.6 pounds).
  • Very inexpensive (see current lowest price below)

Cons:

  • Not mobile like the Chromebook.
  • Built-in speaker is average.
  • Requires separate monitor, mouse, and keyboard.
  • Since it’s not a laptop, no 3G support (uses WiFi or ethernet like a normal desktop)

Current Lowest Price: Buy Samsung Series 3 Chromebox Now with Free Shipping

Overall Rating: (4.5)

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About Jake T.

Blogger. Chromebook Reviewer. Chrome-magnum. Then I say something.