My new Acer Chromebox CXI2 with Chrome OS

Hurricane Irma caused a lot of electrical power mischief along her thunderous way throughout South Florida. Before the storm peaked, my home-office suffered a 9 second power shut-down. Everything got disconnected, and when power came back, it looked that things were OK. Well, sort of...

My desktop computer, a Mac mini with an Intel Core i7 CPU was off, as it should have been after a power disconnect. I tried to power it back, to no avail. My loved Mac mini was dead. I tried to perform all the procedures recommended in the support forums, but it looked like the problem was actually with the computer's power supply.

I checked my repair options, and most of them seemed expensive. Meanwhile, I was using an old white MacBook (Core 2 Duo), which was still working albeit with an older Mac OS X version. Looking at my options, I just didn't want to spend a lot of money on one of the new, slim and good looking MacBook Pro's.

My current computing platform was heavily relaying on Google products and services that were perfectly running on my Mac mini, as well as on my iPad Pro and Nexus 6 mobile phone (Android 7.0). I started thinking: what if I try to work with a Chrome OS machine on my desktop? I knew that most Chromebooks sported low or affordable prices, and were performing quite well. I did some research and ended looking at the specs of a Chromebox unit that looked like ideal for my work habits.

The Acer Chromebox CXI2 with 8GB of RAM and a 16GB solid state drive for storage seemed attractive and was listed at Amazon for $ 385.00 (view here). I wanted more than 4GB of RAM (which is the amount of RAM most Chromebooks come configured with) because I normally keep a large number of tabs open in my Chrome browser at any given moment. A 16GB solid state drive (SSD) seemed not a lot for storage, but I read that the unit was fitted with 4 x USB 3.0 ports and I opted to work with an external attached drive. Using my set of small screwdrivers, I managed to open the Mac mini and rescue both the SSD drive and the HD drive I had previously installed, both units were in perfect shape. I went to purchase 2 external USB 3.0 enclosures from Amazon (I used this case for my SSD and this one for the HD), and easily installed the two internal drives on these enclosures.

Important to note, is that the Acer Chromebox CXI2 sported a 5th Generation Intel Core i3 processor 2.0GHz (3MB Cache/5005U), which assured that I would have a very capable Chrome OS unit for some time to come.

My new Acer Chromebox CXI2-i38GKM Desktop with Keyboard and Mouse arrived in 2-days courtesy of Amazon Prime, reasonably well packed. One thing for sure you can clearly see is that the Acer packing materials are of no Apple design & packing standards, nor bear any resemblance. But it was more than adequate.

As soon as I plugged the unit to power and to an external HP monitor (using a DVI to HDMI cable), I got the Chrome OS login screen. It took merely a few seconds to boot. After providing my Google ID username and password, I was pleased to see that all my Google services were immediately available: Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Hangouts, Google Keep, Google Photos, Google Calendar, and many others. All the apps open as Chrome tabs o new windows. Also, it opened the link for Activity for Apptimo (version 2) with no issues at all. I felt at home.

Initially I used the supplied keyboard and mouse which came included in the box to setup the Chromebox. Then I paired it with my Logitech K760 wireless keyboard (Bluetooth), it worked but I still have some issues with some of the characters.

Initially I was a little concerned with getting used with the Chrome OS file structure using the Files app. After playing a little bit, I figured that the usage was simple and quite straightforward.

I connected the SSD drive (installed on the external USB 3.0 enclosure) to one of the USB 3.0 ports on the Acer Chromebox. As soon as I connected the drive, I got an alert popping on the right side of the bottom toolbar, indicating that a device was connected. The pop-up also allowed to open the Files app to see the contents of the drive. The SSD drive was the boot volume on my damaged Mac mini, and probably was formatted with the Journaled version of the Mac OS X file system and I could not see any of the files in the drive.

When I connected the 1TB x HD drive (also installed on a USB 3.0 external enclosure) I got luckier. The Files app from Chrome OS was able to see all the files on that drive. Lucy me, as it was my main backup drive. The Files app can open all the standard file types including: .jpg, .png, .pdf, .mp4, etc. No luck if you try to open files created with the Apple Life app suite, such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and iMovie. As I still have my older MacBook, I can still open some of these files, and convert them into more standardized file types. I still have to figure out what to do with all these files.

I want to concentrate my experience as a user of things that can be opened using the Chrome browser. So far, the results are quite good. The Acer Chromebox CXI2 open tabs very fast, and the performance is surprisingly positive. Things appear to work quite fast. I have more than 20 tabs open, and there are no issues nor a performance reduction. Things are flowing, which I like it a lot. The change from Mac OS X to Chrome OS is not without issues, but if your main work is done using the Chrome browser and you sit well with Google apps and services, then this Chromebox is a very attractive performer.

I will keep you informed with my overall experience using a Chrome OS device, including how it performs in a working environment. Also I will check if Activity for Apptimo is a good citizen running in this environment.

Martina Bloom

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