Acer CX14 Chromebox review: Chrome OS on the desktop with the power and panache of Core i5
Think Chrome OS and you’ll probably think of affordable laptops running Google’s browser-based operating system. This is fair enough; most Chrome devices are indeed inexpensive laptops. But there are also desktop machines that run Chrome OS and Acer just sent me one of their latest: the Intel Core i5-based Chromebox CX14.
The CX14 comes in two versions, one built around a Celeron dual-core processor with 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM costing Â£ 329 and the rather more capable i5 model costs around Â£ 500. I was sent the latter for this particular review.
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Acer CX14 Chromebox review: what do you get for your money?
Kind of like it happens. Inside the box, as well as the usefully compact CX14 itself, you’ll find that Acer has also provided a decent-quality wired mouse and keyboard, a desk stand, a VESA mount, and a Type-C adapter. to HDMI. All you need to bring to the party is a monitor and a pair of speakers. The generous package has a lot to do with the fact that Acer is offering the CX14 to businesses as well as home users, but hey, a free kit is a free kit.
Acer also didn’t skimp on internal hardware. The Chromebox CX14 runs on a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor (a 1.6 GHz 10210U quad-core to be precise) and comes with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256 GB SSD. The case has no less than five USB Type-A 3.2 ports (all 5Gbits / sec Gen 1 spec), a fully functional USB Type-C 10Gbits / sec Gen 2 port, two HDMI 2.0 ports, an RJ45 connector, a 3.5mm audio jack and a slot for MicroSD memory card. There’s also no need to worry about wireless communications, as the CX14 supports both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
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Acer CX14 Chromebox review: what does it look like?
Simplicity itself, just plug it in and sign in with your Google account. This kind of protection from idiots and the freedom to worry about updates or security is a major selling point of Chrome OS.
And, once you’re up and running, the CX14 is fast. No matter what I was doing, I couldn’t slow it down, even with a few dozen Chrome tabs open and Android apps and Linux apps like Gimp and Handbrake running in the background.
This, of course, shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the hardware could run Windows 10 with a decent clip and Chrome OS is nothing quite as demanding. Performance is further enhanced by an active rather than passive cooling system, without you noticing the fans as they run very quietly.
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The GeekBench 5 benchmark app registered scores of 880 single-core and 2,827 multi-core, which isn’t too bad compared to something costing Â£ 500 and it ran the GFXBench Manhattan 3 benchmark at 53fps (native resolution). ) or 59fps (1080p, off screen).
More subjectively, the CX14 is noticeably faster than my Celeron-powered HP laptop. The cost of moving from a Celeron-based system to an Intel Core machine is clearly money well spent.
The main function of a Chromebox, however, is to access Google’s online resources and it is done very well. And thanks to Google’s Stadia service, it’s a pretty decent gaming platform as well. Titles like Doom Eternal, Metro Exodus, and Hitman 3 are all now available in the Stadia Store.
Local storage or the lack of it is often cited as a limiting factor with Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, but the Acer CX14’s 256GB PCIe SSD effectively addresses this issue.
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Acer CX14 Chromebox review: what is it not good for?
At the risk of stating the obvious, run Windows applications. Of course, many of Microsoft’s services these days are accessible through a web browser or through an app, making it easy for you to run Office, Outlook, and Teams on a Chromebox that way.
Adobe, meanwhile, offers app-based versions of some of its main photo editing services in Android Lightroom and Photoshop Express apps. .
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Acer CX14 Chromebox review: should I buy it?
Unless you are attached to a very specific app that will only work on Windows or MacOS, I would say yes. The speed and security of Chrome OS on a powerful hardware platform is easy to appreciate, and if you’re not yet a fully paid fan of all things cloudy, a good Chromebox can quickly make you one.
The Acer CX14 Chromebox isn’t the cheapest way to access Chrome OS on the desktop with a Core i processor – the Asus Core i3-powered Chromebox 3 can be bought for under Â£ 300 while the Chromebox G2 Core HP i5 is yours for under Â£ 400 – but the power and versatility of the Acer CX14 Chromebox makes Google’s operating system shine so brilliantly.
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