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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
VESA mount included
Chrome OS limitations
Noisy at boot up
Acer’s ChromeBox CX13 is a speedy little PC with an intelligent, compact design.
Acer’s ChromeBox CX13 is one of the smaller desktop computers available, but it still packs a punch in spite of its shrunken size. It comes in several configurations, with prices ranging from $280 all the way up to $900. For this review, I tested the Acer ChromeBox CX13-i38GKM2, a mid-tier model that sells for around $500.
The CX13 is designed to disappear into its surroundings, promoting space savings and emphasis on the more tactile peripherals. The matte black ChromeBox CX13 is less than six inches tall and only about an inch and a half thick. It’s rounded off at the top and bottom, and includes rubber feet on one side if you want to lay it flat on a desk. The ChromeBox has venting along two of the edges, and the unit stays relatively cool.
You get a stand in the package, on which you can rest the unit in a vertical position. Alternatively, if you want to mount the CX13 under a desk or behind your monitor, the ChromeBox CX13 is VESA compatible, and it even includes a mounting kit.
On each side of the CX13 sit the ports—two super-speed USB ports, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot on one side; and, on the other side sit an Ethernet, HDMI, USB-C, three USB ports, and the connection for the power supply. Because the ports sit on both sides, when you place the CX13 in the stand or lay it flat on your desk, it kind of feels like wires are coming from everywhere. However, if you mount the CX13, this isn’t as much of an issue.
The Acer ChromeBox CX13-i38GKM2 uses an integrated graphics card, the Intel UHD Graphics 620, which has a base frequency of 300 Hz. For video out, it has an HDMI port, as well as Displayport over USB-C. So, you’ll be able to connect a second monitor if you want.
The integrated video card is powerful enough for you to play casual games and stream content in 4K, but you can’t play anything too demanding. The CX13 scored fairly well in graphics benchmark testing. On 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme, the ChromeBox scored a 3,143 (OpenGL ES 3.1) and 3,258 (Vulkan). On GFXBench, it scored 24 FPS on Aztec Ruins.
The ChromeBox CX13 is VESA compatible, and it even includes a mounting kit.
The ChromeBox CX13-i38GKM2 feels lightning fast because it has more than enough processing power for a Chrome OS machine. It’s like driving a sports car through a neighborhood. It won’t miss a beat as you open applications, search the web, or watch videos. With an 8th generation Intel Core i3 chip, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and 64GB of Intel Optane storage, the ChromeBox handles lightweight productivity tasks well. According to Acer tech support, you can upgrade the RAM to up to 16GB for improved performance, but the 8GB should be sufficient for most users.
In benchmark testing, this particular model doesn’t score as well as the higher tier configurations with i5 or i7 chips, but the i3 chip still received respectable marks. On PCMark for Android Work 2.0, the ChromeBox CX13 scored a 10,947. It scored highest in photo editing (22,085 score), writing (14,473 score), and web browsing (9,684 score). However, it scored lower in data manipulation (9,030) and video editing (5,624). On Geekbench 5, the CX13 also scored reasonably well, with a single-core score of 872 and a multi-core score of 1,635.
The CX13 is compatible with the Linux Beta feature...you can install Linux command-line tools, code editors, and IDEs to write code and create apps using your ChromeBox.
In addition to a stand and VESA mount, the CX13 comes with a wired mouse and keyboard. The included peripherals are of decent quality, and they’re not just cheap extras, like those prizes you get at the bottom of a cereal box.
The mouse is responsive, has a good hand-feel, and texturing along the sides to promote a better grip. The compact keyboard is specifically designed for the ChromeBox, including a search key, and lacking a caps lock or function keys. Once you get used to the different Chrome shortcuts, the keyboard feels right. The keys feel springy, but still easy to press, and the keyboard is on just a slight incline for optimal typing comfort.
Unlike the Mac Mini, CX13 doesn’t have built-in speakers. You can use a monitor with built-in speakers, connect a speaker or headphones using the audio output jack, connect USB speakers, or connect Bluetooth speakers. If you want to take advantage of Google Assistant, you’ll want to connect a monitor or headset with decent audio output and a good microphone so the assistant can hear your voice commands.
In addition to Bluetooth compatibility, the CX13 includes 802.11AC Wi-Fi. It also has an Ethernet port for hardwiring your internet connection. The Wi-Fi is reliable, and the ChromeBox instantly flies from page to page as soon as you click.
So many computers and laptops include some form of an assistant, be it Cortana, Siri, or in this case, Google Assistant, which is one of the more capable options currently available. It can control smart devices, check your calendar, search the web, open a doc, play your favorite tunes, and so much more.
The ChromeBox CX13 runs on Chrome OS, which is low maintenance, fast, and web-focused. But, Chrome OS has its limitations, and it’s not ideal for those who need a computer for any kind of development. On the bright side, the CX13 is compatible with the Linux Beta feature. If you enable this feature, you can install Linux command-line tools, code editors, and IDEs to write code and create apps using your ChromeBox.
The Acer ChromeBox CX13-i38GKM2 sells for $500 retail. The price isn’t exorbitant, but when you consider how many laptops you could get for the same price, that $500 sticker price feels a little high.
If you opt for the lowest tier configuration, you’ll pay a little more than half of that price, so a lower-tier model may be a good option for those looking for a budget PC. But, if you go with a lower-level CX13, keep in mind that you also get a weaker processor, less storage, and less memory.
The Mac Mini (view on Amazon) is definitely a step above the ChromeBox CX13 in terms of its power, but the CX13 isn’t too far behind. The lowest level Mac Mini (2018) sells for around $800, and it has 8GB of RAM, 128 GB of SSD storage, and the Intel UHD Graphics 630 instead of the 620 like the ChromeBox. The Mac Mini has a better (quad-core) processor than the CX13-i38GKM2, and the highest level Mac Mini has a six-core processor (compared to a quad-core in the highest-tier CX13).
A lightning-fast mini PC that will faithfully serve those who use their computer primarily for web-based functions.
The Acer ChromeBox CX13 is an intelligently designed minimalistic PC that will faithfully serve Chrome OS fans, and the Linux Beta feature adds even more functionality.