If you want a hockey puck of a computer to easily deploy on a desk or behind a monitor, you’ll find plenty on sale, from the Mac Mini to Intel’s bare-bones NUC. But Asus is adding a “why didn’t anyone think of that?” feature to its new Chromebox 5 this year: a built-in 15W wireless charger for your phone and / or earbud case.
Okay, technically, someone did think of that before: you could buy an aftermarket wireless charging “lid” for some Intel NUCs, and Intel even added the feature itself to a few NUCs. But it’s rare, and this is the first time I’ve seen it on a Chromebox. Last generation, Asus simply advertised that its Chromebox 4 could deliver power to a phone with a USB cable, which, well, duh.
The Chromebox 5 runs the lightweight ChromeOS, which makes it a good pick for computer stations where lots of different users want to log in and have their Google and web apps ready and not have to worry about updates. It seems quite decently equipped, packing up to a 12th Gen Intel i7 processor, a PCIe Gen 4x4 SSD, two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, 2.5Gbps Ethernet and Wi-Fi 6E, four USB-A ports (two front, two back), a front 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD reader, and one rear Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C.
Speaking of ChromeOS, Asus is also introducing a new gaming Chromebook, the Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip (CX3401). Gaming Chromebooks are kind of a weird category considering Google axed its Stadia cloud gaming service, and this one’s particularly awkward given how it’s decked out in Stadia’s orange and magenta colors... but Asus is still advertising that this one can play GeForce Now and Amazon Luna games on its 14-inch, 144Hz, 1920 x 1200 screen. This one also has a backflipping 360-degree hinge, a four-zone RGB backlit keyboard, HDMI 2.1 for 4K 60Hz output to a TV, a stylus with built-in garage, Wi-Fi 6E, and up to Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe 3.0 storage depending on the configuration.
Me, I think gaming Chromebooks will be more interesting when they properly run Steam, and that’s the intent. Steam for Chromebooks entered beta just this November.