Anyone remember the Chromebit? As in the singular, one-time, tried-once Chromebit? It’s OK if you don’t. Quite a few years ago, though, ASUS worked with Google and devised a small HDMI dongle with just enough guts inside to run Chrome OS and marketed it as a Chromebit. The thing was the size of a Roku Stick or Amazon Fire Stick and behaved in a similar way as those devices: plug in the USB power source, plug the HDMI end into your TV or monitor, and start using it.
The difference in the Chromebit versus those other sticks is quite obvious, however, when you look at what happened after it was plugged in. The Chromebit didn’t try to be anything more than a very small, very discrete Chromebox. There was literally no difference in the interface or UI when compared to a Chromebox, so it clearly required some wireless accessories in order to really use. But once you had a keyboard and mouse connected, you were off and running.
While the Chromebit was never really intended to be a living room replacemnet for something like Android TV or Fire TV devices, it served a purpose few hardware pieces do these days. It turned simple screens into full-blown Chrome OS devices for regular work, browsing, games, or information kiosks. To be honest, the range of useful things a Chromebit could do was pretty endless and I loved the concept of them.
Back then, the Chromebit was too under-powered to be taken seriously by many users and it was quite a bit too slow for my own use as well. It was great for signage or presentations, but the Rockchip RK3288 inside was simply not up to real, productive work. And, honestly, that was a shame. Having a device that could be powered by a small battery or just the USB port on your TV or monitor gave the Chromebit a great feeling of flexibility that other devices really can’t match. I simply wanted one a bit more powerful.
Fast forward a few years and Chromebooks are far more pervasive than they were when the Chromebit debuted and Chromeboxes have re-found popularity as well. Add to this the fact that we have devices like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet – powered by the MediaTek 8183 – that are fully capable of getting real work done and you start to see the writing on the wall that another swing at a Chromebit could be very successful. I’d imagine the board from the Duet could easily be put into something like the ASUS Chromebit shell and, along with some wireless accessories, make a nice desktop workspace out of just about any display.
Let’s also not forget we have more powerful ARM chips in the works like what we’re seeing in ‘Asurada’ (MediaTek 8192), ‘Trogdor’, ‘Bubs’ and ‘Lazor’ (all the Snapdragon 7180 or 7c), so the processors options are available to put in a diminutive form factor: it just needs to be done. Chromebits have so many potential use cases from playing games on Stadia to productive work to digital signage that I’m honestly a bit shocked that no one else ever jumped on board to make another one. The form factor doesn’t really need to evolve or change: we just need some of the more modern internals to be put inside. I’d wager that at this point in the Chrome OS story, a reasonably-priced, more-powerful Chromebit would sell very well across many of the verticals Chrome OS is positioned in. We just need someone to make one.