You might have heard the good news.
Google released the Chromebit. Last month Asus, their original equipment manufacturer (OEM), released what is basically a computer on a stick.
Think: a Chromebox, but a little bigger than a flash drive that you can carry in your pocket and plug into any display, effectively turning it into a computer.
I participated in Google's early Trusted Tester Program for the Chromebit and tried it out as a digital signage player for the Skykit digital signage service and as an end-user computing device.
I was very impressed.
What Does the Chromebit Mean for Digital Signage?
In the digital signage world, a player that’s truly enterprise-grade (security, manageability, scalability) can cost $800 each or more.
The enterprise-class Chromebit is a game changer at $85.
The Chromebit is a very capable device that performs as well as the larger Asus Chromebox. You can’t tell a difference in performance while playing any type of digital signage content (from videos to images). And it’s half the price compared to the Chromebox.
The Chromebit makes for the perfect digital signage player where wireless networking is a requirement. The low-cost, small form factor, and enterprise manageability make the Chromebit the clear leader in terms of price/performance/management/size.
The Chromebit includes both bluetooth and USB support which enables the connection of a keyboard/mouse combo.
The Chromebit has 16gb of storage and 2gb of RAM (same as the Chromebox). It’s powered by a 1.8GHz Rockchip RK3288-C CPU with a separate ARM® Mali™-T624 GPU.
I tested the Chromebit side-by-side with the Asus M004U Chromebox with an Intel Celeron 2955U CPU and embedded Intel HD Graphics 4000/4400. The Chromebox is also configured with 16gb of storage and 2gb of RAM.
While not a true scientific performance analysis, the two devices running a digital signage application with the same content - still images, 1080p full motion video and stereo sound performed identically in terms of playback.
The Chromebit warmed up more than the Chromebox, most likely due to a smaller heatsink in the Chromebit form factor. Any performance differences were imperceptible watching both devices side-by-side.
Networking and USB Connectivity
The Chromebit includes 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi. Connectivity is rock-solid and there were no perceptible performance differences between the Chromebit and the M004U Chromebox unit. Networking performance was also very good when running the Chromebit as a computing device, browsing the internet and/or working with Google Apps.
The Chromebit was also tested with a USB Ethernet connection, turning off the WiFi through chrome management. Functionally, this worked just fine but the extended device may be more cumbersome to physically manage in this configuration.
A keyboard/mouse combo connected with a small RFI USB adapter worked very well, as did the Bluetooth connection (Bluetooth V4.0 included).
Enterprise-Enabled Chrome Management
The Chromebit is an impressive computing device. But it truly stands apart from other stick-based PCs when it comes to enterprise management. The Chromebit is a Chrome OS device, meaning it can be fully managed, remotely, in enterprise environments via Google’s Chrome Management Console and enterprise enrollment.
Power and Display Connectivity
The Chromebit plugs directly into a display’s HDMI port, or alternatively connects via included HDMI extension cable for tight connection locations.
The Chromebit includes a small separate 18w power supply that requires an AC power connection. A USB-powered device would be ideal, but the Chromebit requires a little more power than that to operate.
All the features available in the Chromebit are matched by many other devices. It’s the price and form factor that make the difference. This is an $85 stick computer that can be enterprise-enabled and managed as a computing device, or it can be used as an enterprise-class digital player for a your digital signage solution.
That’s pretty hard to beat! For a more in-depth look at what to look for when evaluating hardware and software, you should check out the complete guide to digital signage.
Written by: Jim Crowley
Sr. Director, Product Management