Students who need to write, email, check Facebook, and surf the web won’t necessarily need a big flashy laptop, and that’s where the Chromebook comes in, providing the internet for a fraction of the cost of other computers.
HP’s Chromebook 11 takes the familiar Chromebook formula and splashes it with a new coat of paint, but is it a great value, or could you find a better laptop without the colourful exterior?
A new Chromebook for HP, the 11-2002tu will appear familiar if you’ve ever investigated or researched a Chromebook before, with a formula close to what HP used on a previous model it built for Google.
In that model, we saw a Samsung Exynos processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, and Chrome OS.
And in this model, HP’s Chromebook 11, it’s much the same, starting with a Samsung dual-core Exynos processor clocked at 1.7GHz, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, and Google’s Chrome operating system.
Wireless connectivity is identical, too, with 802.11a/b/g/n with Bluetooth 4.0, while wired connectivity supports two USB 2.0 ports, a single 3.5mm headset jack, and a microUSB port specifically there to charge the computer from.
You’ll find an 11.6 inch screen here to use the Chromebook with, a matte display running the high definition resolution of 1366×768, showcasing 135 pixels per inch.
All of this sits inside of a plastic case with a keyboard and a mouse (you’ll need them, since it’s a laptop computer), as well as a VGA webcam with microphone, with speakers along the bottom of the machine.
Computers don’t tend to come in a lot of colours, at least not a variety, with most machines offering the uber exciting assortment of black, silver, and white, but not the HP Chromebook 11, which offers up turquoise for your viewing pleasure, or even white if you like to go with something even more minimalist (2001tu).
Our review model was that lovely turquoise, bringing a dose of blue and green simultaneously to students, offices, and anywhere else going for something different.
Something different is what the HP Chromebook is, and also what it isn’t, because while it looks different from your regular computer, it is more or less exactly like another Chromebook save for one thing, and that one different thing is not the price.
We’ll start with the look, because while teal or turquoise might not be a look you’re going for in a computer, we like it. The colour choice is interesting here, and while the chassis is made from plastic, the combination of turquoise on the lid and exterior of the bottom with the silver along the inside and on any branding actually works. It’s not sexy like red and silver, but it still works very well.
The feel isn’t bad either, with a weight of 1.22 kilograms that is hardly noticed, and a texture of slick plastic.
While it’s obvious that this isn’t a high-end machine with premium materials, it still feels solid enough, and there’s a degree of texture applied to the bottom, helping your hands to not lose grip which is handy.
Over to the performance, and while the specs are more or less identical to what HP provided in the official Google Chromebook, the performance feels a little under what HP made for that system.
As we typed our review and took the Chromebook 11 for a spin, we found performance issues across the board, as the system struggled to keep up with our typing, and mouse and keypad scrolling seemed to run at a pace behind our actual key movements.
For those unaware, Chrome OS is based around the Google Chrome browser, and as such, basically opens a tab in the browser every time a new app is opened and running. Because of this style of functionality, we can quickly determine how many apps can be run alongside each other, and in the case of this computer, it appears that number is a maximum of four or five, at least before it starts to crawl.
Slowing down, however, occurs sooner, closer to the three tab mark, as with three tabs — apps, essentially — open, the system starts to slog, which just doesn’t bode well for long term use.
If you’re using it for bare basics, though, you should be fine. We’re talking web surfing, social networking, a few emails, and some music or YouTube playback, but try not to do all of this at once, otherwise the HP Chromebook will feel more like an old computer than a new one, and quickly, at that.
Using the system is also a mixed bag, and it’s one that could do with a slightly better keyboard and mouse.
Out of these, the keyboard is the stronger of the two, going with Google’s Chromebook design, which has relatively large and spacious keys, especially for the 11 inch size, with clear text on each, and a firm plastic square to work with. There’s just enough travel, though the keys can sometimes be too springy, especially if you’re used to other better keyboards.
But the mouse is one place where HP should have spent more time, and that’s because the wide trackpad is too shallow, with the left- and right-click actions feeling like they require too much force to get working.
You can, of course, tap to click if you so choose, but those of you accustomed to the heavy click of a mouse button will yearn for a better trackpad button.
The battery doesn’t fare too badly, though, picking up our score a bit with around five hours of battery life if you leave it on WiFi and use the computer. We spent our time surfing the web (for work), writing files, and generally exploring what the computer could do.
Charging is also easy thanks to the inclusion of a microUSB port, which on this machine takes a higher than normal amount of power — 3 amps compared to the usual 1 for phones or 2 for tablets — but that means you can at least charge using a standard port. An international standard, at that.
It might take a bit longer with something other than the one supplied by HP, but at least you won’t be lost looking for a special or proprietary connection, so that’s positive.
One thing we wish HP would have thought about better was the display, which reminds us of the sort of low-end displays that could be found in every computer before In-Plane Switching (IPS) displays started to appear, showing people that yes, small screens could in fact be good.
The screen on HP’s Chromebook 11 is not an IPS display, however. It performs like a Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, with terrible vertical viewing angles, weak blacks, and obvious colour washout if you’re not facing dead on at what the screen will see as the correct angle.
Unfortunately, the hinge on the Chromebook 11 is less than accommodating, going back only so far, and meaning you’re stuck with a limited range of movement and a display that only works well in that limited range of motions.
It’s a touch frustrating, because it feels like HP has actually gone backwards, especially when the HP-made Google Chromebook 11 had such a better screen in a computer with more or less the same specs for the exact same price.
Seriously: technology is supposed to go forwards, not backwards.
At least glare isn’t a problem, thanks to HP’s inclusion of a matte screen, which was an issue on the HP-built Chromebook 11. That said, we’d have preferred a display with better angle and less colour wash-out.
There’s more out than just standard Twisted Nematic or In-Plane Switching, HP.
Few expansion options is also an issue, with the regular SD card slot gone from the design, as well as the microSD, meaning there’s no way to easily upgrade the storage inside the machine. Two USB 2.0 ports provide off-side storage, great for a thumbdrive or external hard drive, but there’s no way of expanding that 16GB on the inside quickly or easily.
HP’s take on the Chromebook is a familiar one, especially if you’ve seen the shiny not-quite-MacBook that was the Google Chromebook, because HP has built both.
As a result of that last fact, the systems are nearly identical, with the same CPU, memory, storage inside, wireless technologies, and charging mechanism, with the only difference being a screen. But this screen is far less impressive than the one HP shipped with the original Google Chromebook, and so if we had to choose, we’d say the Google Chromebook beats this one without questions, and they even run for the same price.
If this was $50 or $100 less, HP would be onto something here, providing a more value packed machine with similar technology, and a way to bring newbies into the Google Chromebook system.
But as it stands, this feels more like a way for HP to save a few bucks and try to make some money off the excellent name and reputation of its Chromebook brothers.