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Google Chromebit
Google Chromebit Google

This Is What Computers Look Like Now and That's Just Awesome

Updated: Mar 31, 2015 4:10 PM ET

Take a look at the device above. It's a colorful USB drive, right? Maybe a very pretty streaming stick?

Nope. That's a computer.

That's right: The device before you is ASUS' Chromebit, a new sub-$100 dongle you can plug into any display and turn it into a full-blown computer running Google's Chrome OS. The Chromebit packs 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and HDMI and USB ports. The HDMI port is for connecting to external displays, while the USB helps with attaching a keyboard and mouse — and the Chromebit has Bluetooth, too, making that even easier. (Intel is working on a similar but costlier device running Windows 8.1)

The ASUS Chromebit certainly won't run laps around a Mac Pro speed-wise when it launches this summer. But that's not the point. The idea here is more profound.

Using the Chromebit and a decent Internet connection (Chrome OS relies heavily on web access), you could turn any aging computer into a lean, mean processing machine on the cheap. That's going to have huge implications in places where cost is a major roadblock to better tech, like public schools or the developing world. Instead of upgrading every computer in every school, a cost-strapped district could just buy a whole bunch of Chromebits, plug them in to classrooms' old computers (or monitors) and essentially turn them into lean terminals for running web apps like Google Docs.

How well the Chromebit performs has yet to be seen. But right off the bat, this is one of the most exciting new products to hit the market in some time.

Top 10 Tech Product Designs of 2014

Nest Acquired by Google in Jan. 2014, Nest Labs wants to turn your home into a smart device. The home automation system includes Internet-connected smoke detectors and thermostats, which have screens and chic, round designs — a huge design boost for devices that haven't really changed in recent decades.Aya Brackett—Nest
DJI Inspire 1 The latest DJI quadcopter retains the simple style that's made their drones so popular, but adds 4K video capability — and the ability to transmit the HD video wirelessly to an on-the-ground devices. A new ground-facing camera also allows Inspire 1 to fly steadily to keep the video footage clean.
Osmo Tangram
Jawbone's Up3 wristband
Nerf Rebelle Rapid Red Blaster
Oculus Rift Crescent Bay The latest Oculus Rift prototype, Crescent Bay, marks one step further before the commercial release of the virtual reality handset. Crescent Bay features upgrades like 360-degree head tracking, a lighter weight, and high-quality audio. Lucky participants in the demos recalled the mind-boggling immersion in the scenes they were watching. The consumer version, Oculus Rift, is expected to launch as early as April 2015.
Nest Acquired by Google in Jan. 2014, Nest Labs wants to turn your home into a smart device. The home automation system
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Aya Brackett—Nest
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