An intriguing proposition: HP’s Chromebook 11 reviewed

Once you get your head around that, you realise that the Chromebook is essentially just a well designed web browser in a laptop with access to most of the services you would normally use in a regular computer.

You do have some space to move files over, if needed, though with only a little over 9GB on offer from the 16GB (the operating system takes up some of that space, sadly), you’ll want to make sure the files here are necessary.

In the keyboard department, there’s a solid typing experience on offer here, with virtually no movement from the plastic underneath. That makes the keyboard excellent, with solid clicks as the keys go down, and a decent amount of room as the island-style keys fall down when hit.

Similar to the laptop design, we’re also reminded of something Apple-esque in this department, as the keyboard evokes the feeling of an Apple keyboard. Aside for the obvious white keys with a different font used from traditional computers, the keyboard is sturdy and feels good not just when used on a solid surface, but also on your lap.

It’s one of the most surprising parts of the equation, and marks have to be given to HP here.

People who take aim at the netbook design of most Chromebooks will feel at ease here, as neither of the shift keys have been shortened, which is usually what happens to the right shift key on smaller laptops. In fact, the keys are all decently sized.

This is a great keyboard, which given the intended use over with students, makes a lot of sense.

HP’s positioning of the power button is the only confusing part, though, placing it right above the backspace button. This positioning is odd, not because something had to go above the backspace, but because it’s the power button, which is also a key.

It’s not as big a deal as you might think, because you have to hold the power button down in order to get it to log you out (your onscreen window will also try to expand as you do it), so you’re not likely to accidentally shut down when you just meant to hold the backspace button down, but it’s still an odd placement.

The mouse is also usable, though it could be a little more responsive, with a large wide trackpad ever so slightly out of centre from the spacebar. Multitouch gestures don’t seem to be the concern of this trackpad, mind you, and we found only two-finger scrolling, and three-finger swiping to work, the latter of which lets you jump between tabs in the Chrome browser, which also technically jumps apps on a Chromebook.

Performance isn’t bad, though we’d recommend not running more than ten to fourteen app tabs at once, as the system can begin to exhibit the odd slow down here and there.

The screen is nice too when viewed head on, with great colours and clarity, an obvious improvement on the usual displays we see on budget laptops, shifting from the cheap Twisted Nematic (TN) panel to one relying on the In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology that we see used in most tablets.

It’s so bright and clear that in many ways you’ll be reminded of a touchscreen, but don’t touch it because that feature isn’t included on this computer.

But the display isn’t perfect, and while viewing angles wash out a little, our real dilemma comes from the reflectivity, which is just so high on this laptop.

Heaven forbid you use the Chromebook outside or near a window, because the amount of glare you’ll find is just plain irritating. It’s a shame, too, because outside of this, the screen is very clear, providing an otherwise top front-on experience that looks so much better than other screens we see in similar bodies.

We’re also surprised just at how much is missing from this computer, many of which would be not just in competing laptops, but typically budget-grade machines.

Nothing on this side of the computer for plugging things in.

One of these omissions is a card slot. Maybe you use a camera with a microSD, or the more commonly used SD cards typically associated with digital cameras. Well in either situation, there is no way to just load the card in the HP Chromebook as it is missing a card slot.

We’ve seen card slots in netbooks and budget notebooks, and every other Chromebook we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing up until this point has featured one, but not the HP Chromebook 11. It’s a strange thing to lack, especially since you can edit photos on a Chromebook using Google’s Snapseed, so we’re a little surprised by this.

People who like to plug USB devices in will only see USB 2.0 here, which isn’t too big a deal, but may annoy some. In truth, with only 16GB of storage (with just under 10GB available to you), you’re not likely to be doing a lot of file transfers back to the internal storage, so the speed here isn’t a big deal.

But the lack of storage without a card slot to expand it is, on the other hand, a big deal, and one that really means you’re limited to the small amount of storage provided by HP and Google.

This makes this specific Chromebook really built around the cloud, and your reliance of downloading information from the web, which is one of the ideas Chromebook computers were based on.

A microUSB port, two USB 2.0 ports, a headset jack... and that's it. Not much room for other things.

Another issue we take aim with is the battery life which sits at around four hours only, provided you’re connected over WiFi. We conducted our tests writing the review on the laptop, surfing the web, and listening to music, and this gave us roughly four hours.

Previous Chromebooks with similar specs have pulled in six hours, which puts this one a little under par.

The microUSB charger doesn’t help things much, mind you, as you’ll really want to carry the one HP and Google supplies which runs at three amps compared to the regular one for phones and two for tablets.

The good news is that this charger can supply power to a phone or tablet, but the bad news is that all your other microUSB chargers will take longer to charge the Chromebook in comparison to the supplied one.

The microUSB charging is a great idea, but if you don't use the supplied charger for 5.25V across 3.0A, the Chromebook takes forever to charge.

Conclusion

HP’s first effort at the Chromebook is a decent one, but it comes with a few niggles that bother even us, most notably its lack of expansion on offer.

Google’s Chrome OS has been built around the idea of web-based computing, though, so at least there’s a method to this madness, but we’d still like to have seen some form of expansion slot here. MicroSD, SD… something. With only built-in storage, you are limited, and Samsung’s similarly spec’d XE303C12 offered an SD card slot, which is more than you’re treated to here.

Despite this, HP’s Chromebook is built very well and is lovely to look at, too. If everything you want to do can be done with a browser, and you’re looking to surf the web, write documents, and do your social networking, and you want it all with a keyboard in a body that won’t weigh down your back, we’d suggest to check the HP Chromebook out.

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Reader Rating0 Votes
Very good looking small laptop; MicroUSB charging; Light and easy to carry; Great system performance; Excellent and firm keyboard;
No USB 3.0; Insanely reflective screen; Body is a fingerprint magnet; No microSD or SD card slot; MicroUSB charge requires more power to charge from than your traditional phone charger, and if you use a lower power charger, it takes a while for it to charge;
3.9

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  1. While I understand the concern for not having a SD slot, has everyone in the electronics field forgot about USB thumbdrives? But aside from that, the concept of cloud computing is really taking over compared to traditional connections and storage. I’ve even seen camera’s with the ability to wirelessly transfer images. Personally, I use my S4 for all my picture taking, and as a long time google and android user, all my photos automatically back up to my google+ account. I think that once you’re in the realm of google, android, the cloud and all that comes with it, it is a much smoother and more accessible method than traditional storage methods.

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Overall
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Ease of Use
Design
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