If you need a cheap desktop system just for surfing the Web, a Chromebox could be the way to go. Acer's new Chromebox CXI is a compact Chrome OS computer that starts at $180 (2GB memory; 4GB for $220) and will be available late September.
The $180 will get you the Chromebox housing the computer's CPU, a USB keyboard and mouse -- you'll have to hook up your own display. The CXI's small body (6.51 x 5.12 x 1.3 inches) is VESA mountable, so you can house it behind your monitor or on your wall.
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With an Intel Celeron processor with Haswell architecture, up to 4GB of RAM and Intel HD graphics, the Chromebox CXI should be powerful enough for your daily needs. You can plug in your external hard drive, speakers and favorite monitors via an array of connectivity options, including four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort outlets and a LAN port for wired network connections. The box also sports an SD card reader for cards up to 32GB, and supports Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n.
The Chromebox offers a bunch of handy tools for IT managers, including Powerwash, which lets you quickly and easily reset the computer for another person's use.
Acer's Chromebox CXI follows LG's Chromebase as a device that brings Google's Chrome OS to the desktop, but LG's is an all-in-one system that includes a monitor, while Acer's is just a box. Google's lightweight operating system powers Chromebook laptops, but is somewhat limited due to its dependence on an Internet connection for most of its browser-based apps. This should be less of a problem on desktop configurations, since you're likely to be online in an office or home environment.