Tired of squintingat your tablet but love Google's Chrome OS and touch? Then say hello to my big friend, the Acer Chromebase DC221HQ. This 21.5-inch all-in-one (AIO) computer with touchscreen runs Chrome OS, not Windows or iOS. Consider this yet another manifestation of Chrome OS on maybe the last hardware configuration possible—until the launch of a Chrome OS watch, of course.
Like all other Chrome OS devices, the Chromebase has a minimal operating system launched by a solid-state drive (SSD) so it pops on-screen ready to go in no time at all. OK, less than 10 seconds from pushing the “on” button to signing in with your Google name and password.
When the system first comes up, you only tell it the language to use, the keyboard language to use (English for both in our test), and which network you prefer. In our case, we first used Ethernet, then wireless. Both worked flawlessly, as they have in every other Chrome OS device we've tested.
Next step is to provide your Google username and password, meaning your Gmail address. Bingo, you're now connected to all your Google and Chrome OS software hiding up in the Google Cloud. We’re talking email, calendar, Docs, Drive, apps, Maps, Google+, various Google Play stores, everything. One login and all are at your fingertips.
It's Chrome OS
Good or bad, it's Chrome OS. For schools, dedicated webcam stations, and companies big into Google's ecosystem, the Chromebase looks great, works exactly like Chrome OS always works, and doesn't cost much.
The touchscreen provides deep, rich colors, and the touch sensitivity worked fine for fingers small and large. It may only display the standard corporate 1920 x 1080 resolution, but images are sharp, clear, and showed no lag whatsoever when viewing YouTube videos.
The monitor-based speakers sounded better than most we've tested recently because the speakers face the front. Monitors have gotten so stylish lately with tiny bezels that there's often no room for speakers except in the back. But the Chromebase has the room, and the speakers sound bigger than what you would expect, being driven by 3 watts of amplification.
Storage is both miniscule and huge. With little reason to store files locally, the tiny 16GB SSD, which also holds the OS, provides all the space you need. But just in case, Google throws in an extra 100GB of Google Drive online storage for two years. So if your idea of fun is recording video chats on Hangouts with the built-in webcam and microphone and storing them online, you can chat yourself hoarse trying to fill 100GB.
Teachers, maybe more than school districts, love these systems. Putting a classroom PC in the corner requires monitoring, spyware, and patching. Putting a Chromebase (or Chromebook or Chromebox with keyboard and monitor) in the corner makes it easy for students to get to browser-based lesson websites with zero hassle or upkeep for the teacher.
Great screen, small but usable keyboard (that looks much like the small Macintosh keyboards), snappy operation, and low price make this an education, and specialized workstation, winner. If you bought into the Google Chrome OS universe, this new Acer Chromebase DC221HQ AIO touchscreen system will make you happy.