Hopes that Chrome OS computers would be cheap evaporated on the first day Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) announced the first Chrome OS netbooks. In fact, Chrome OS PCs can be downright expensive, such as the Xi3 modular PC. However, the Xi3 ChromiumPC is a stunning box that Google shockingly does not leverage as its featured flagship Chrome OS hardware.

The ChromiumPC is based on a previously announced modular PC that largely went unnoticed but could make big waves as a Chrome OS version. While it can run any x86 operating system, it may do especially well with a cloud-focused OS, as it is a scalable system and provides the flexibility to swap operating systems by swapping one of the three boards inside the device.

We can't help remembering Apple's ill-fated Cube PC. The design is similarly captivating, but its usability is much higher, as it is an extendable and scalable system, while the Cube was not. The Xi3 model integrates the processor module with an 8- to 25-watt AMD Athlon single- or dual-core processor, as well as RAM, the primary I/O module that houses most external communication ports (USB, HDMI), and a secondary I/O  module with Ethernet, video, and power connections.

The ChromiumPC will be available on July 4 and will come in standard gray or in eight optional colors ($15 extra) or a chrome finish ($30 extra). The current version is available with Suse Linux from $849 or Windows 7 from $998 (we would expect the ChromiumPC to cost about as much as the Suse Linux version.). A fully decked-out system with Windows 7 Ultimate and a 128 GB SSD is priced at just under $1,500. Additional modules (to change the OS with a module swap) are priced at $250 each (two for $475 or three for $650). There are even matching mounting devices -- for example, to mount the ChromiumPC to a wall for $39. So, yes, it's expensive, but it is unique and clearly set apart from any other PC you can buy today. If the good old (and sadly dead) boutique PC builder Voodoo PC had built a Chrome OS PC, this is what it could have looked like.

This is most certainly not the budget PC you may have been hoping for; it's an entry-level PC that is priced in enthusiast PC territory. However, we have to admit that this is a PC you could easily display anywhere and showcase in your home. Forget those Chrome OS notebooks; we want this box!

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