We used to be bonafide Chromebook skeptics. Yeah, Chrome OS is awesome enough, we believed -- a simple operating system focused on getting you online as quickly and easily as you can -- but it was not our cup of tea. Why live your electronic life entirely at a browser, relying solely on web apps to get things done?
It almost seems like the electronic equivalent of living out of a suitcase. It's true that you do it when you want to, but it is not ideal for prolonged use. If you believe in the exact same style, the HP Chromebook 14, at $199 (about £230, AU$500) may not be for you -- even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday laptop deals will make it incredibly inexpensive.
However if you are just looking for a device to check email and browse the web, it is speedy enough. Its 14-inch display is bright and crisp and its trackpad and keyboard are fantastic. The HP Chromebook 14 isn't ideal, but it is a strong all-purpose machine that can make you forget you are leaving something behind.
HP's Chromebook is not just a high-end PC, but it is a slick, streamlined bit of kit nonetheless. The tapered enclosure steps 0.7 inches (about 18mm) thick at its thickest point. At 3.74 lbs (1.7kg), it is also pretty light, although less as the 13.3-inch, 2.97-pound Toshiba Chromebook 2. That excess weight provides you a slightly bigger screen, however, along with the Chromebook 14 does not feel at all heavy in hand.
The case itself is completely plastic, and it will bend and bend a few as you fix the screen or select up it . On the bright side, the case does not have any exposed screws, which means you don't need to be worried about a loose screen dropping out randomly.
Oh. And it is blue. Really blue. Like, swimming-pool blue. The colour of blue, which HP calls Sky Blue, looks trendy, but it is not for everybody. A white keyboard and lid offsets all the blue, although it creates our Chromebook 14 review unit the PC equivalent of a Smurf. (Whether that's a good or bad thing is dependent upon your preference in 1980s cartoons).
Ports, keyboard and trackpad
You'll find no lack of inputs on the Chromebook 14. The left border features an HDMI-out port, a security lock slot, a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, and a MicroSD card slot. Together the right, you will discover the power connector and two USB 2.0 ports. Ideally, I'd have enjoyed if all 3 USB ports supported USB 3.0, however, there's lots of connectivity for the majority of users.
As a writer, I am picky when it comes to keyboards, and that I had been amazed from the typing experience about the Chromebook 14. The keyboard feels responsive with clicky keys and a good deal of key travel.
The keyboard stinks so slightly when I pound heavily onto it, but under ordinary use, it is not mushy in any respect. My criticism is there's no committed Caps Lock key; a Search key takes its own place and have to be triggered while holding the alt key. It is not a huge deal, but it makes it more challenging to impulsively tweet in all caps.
The trackpad is every bit as excellent. It is large and spacious, with lots of space to mouse around. The entire trackpad is a button, which means you don't need to fiddle about to locate the left- and - right-click buttons.
The button depresses using a satisfying click, but it is much stiffer the nearer to the keyboard you go. If you are used to the trackpad on, say, a MacBook Air, you will feel right at home about the Chromebook 14.
The Chromebook 14 is more than fast enough for day-to-day tasks, but we discovered that it stuttered sometimes under heavy use. Videos could fall frames, for example, or scrolling could stutter a little. With more casual web browsing use, such stuttering was infrequent, so you should not run into problems too often.
HP asserts the Chromebook 14's 3-cell, 37-watt-hour battery could last more than 8 hours on a single charge. We did not really get that long of run time, however. The Chromebook 14 handled 5 hours, 38 minutes on a single charge when playing with an HD video file in VLC on loop (50% screen brightness, 50% volume with headphones plugged ).
This lagged behind the Toshiba Chromebook 2 (which achieved slightly over half an hour on the exact same test). We could squeeze nearly seven hours of use whilst surfing the web, viewing YouTube videos, streaming audio, and otherwise going about my business. This fell a bit short of the Acer Chromebook 15, which handled near 8 hours under comparable use.
Screen and sound
The 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen is bright, crisp, and equally dispersed, with appealing colour contrast and saturation. Photos and text appear sharp and crisp on-screen, and its viewing angle is usually good. My one complaint is that Chrome OS lacks an interface scaling feature that allows you increase the dimensions of text and onscreen components throughout the system, but that's barely the screen's fault.
You would not expect booming audio in the laptop, and also the Chromebook 14 is no exception to this principle. The built-in stereo speakers are tinny and hollow-sounding, but they're serviceable. On the other hand, audio is loud and clear.If you are an audiophile, you will need a good pair of earbuds or headphones.
A Chromebook is not going to be as adaptable as a full-on Windows PC or a Mac. Regardless of how Google dresses up things, you are still relying heavily on web apps to get work done, and such constraints are not for everybody.
However, using a base price of about $200, the HP Chromebook 14 is a fantastic value for people who are looking for a simple web browsing system. It is more affordable than the Toshiba Chromebook 2 when offering a larger screen. The Acer Chromebook 15 functions up a considerably stiffer competition with newer components, more memory and a bigger screen, but the HP 14-inch is a little more streamlined and better looking to boot up if aesthetics are key.
To get a pretty modest investment, you're going to get a responsive, friendly notebook that's really enjoyable to use regardless of its shortcomings.