CES 2014: Hands-on preview with the LG Chromebase desktop

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We've seen Chromebook laptops, and we've seen little Chromebox desktops, but LG is putting the web-centric OS into an all-in-one desktop, which is a first for Google's line of Internet-connected devices.

LG calls it the Chromebase, and I got to try the machine out at LG's booth here at CES. It's got everything that's lovable and infuriating about Chrome, but the new form factor is a compelling addition to the Chrome stable.

The AIO design is new to the Chrome line-up, but has become a popular design for desktops in the home and office as an uncluttered, more compact alternative to a full PC tower with a separate monitor.

According to LG's press release announcing the Chromebase, the new AIO is "expected to be widely adopted not only at home, but especially in schools, hotels, call centres and other business settings."

The Chromebase features a large 21.5in display with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. On the back, the system offers HDMI and USB output, with one USB 3.0 port and three USB 2.0 ports. Inside, the Chromebase boasts an Intel Celeron processor, with the usual minimal amounts of RAM and local storage.

In my hands-on time with the Chromebase, the simple web-focused OS functioned almost identically to the Chromebooks already on the market. The lightweight hardware may not offer performance that's anything like a standard PC, but it's not really meant to. Instead, it provides just enough performance; enough speed to get online and access web-based tools, enough memory to save a few files like photos and videos – with Google's cloud storage on hand for more space – and just enough of an operating system to flesh out the Chrome browser into a usable OS.

The key differentiators for the AIO are the larger display, the addition of a separate Chrome keyboard, and the opportunity for Chrome to be used in settings beyond personal use. The larger 21.5in display offers 1080p resolution instead of the paltry 1,366 x 768 resolutions seen on all of the mainstream Chromebooks thus far. The keyboard will feel far more comfortable to those who prefer to type on a separate keyboard, but still offers the unique Chrome layout, which emphasises search and features unique to the Chrome OS.

Lastly, the design makes the Chromebase a more appealing unit for business use and public settings – the larger display is more customer-friendly, while the design is more suited to stationary use.