An intriguing proposition: HP’s Chromebook 11 reviewed

Google and HP have joined forces to create an officially designated Chromebook. Is this a great way to take your world online for under $500?

Features

Google is teaming up with quite a few companies lately to build what it sees as the best examples of its devices. For the phones, we’ve seen LG take the stage with the Nexus 5, Asus used for the Nexus 7 tablet, and now HP is getting its chance in the HP Google Chromebook 11.

Designed for people who need to take the web with them on the go, the Chromebook 11 isn’t decked out in the specification department, including enough to make the machine perform, but not enough to make it run a ton of games.

As such, you’ll find a Samsung Exynos processor here clocked at 1.7GHz, running alongside 2GB RAM and 16GB solid-state storage.

Like other laptops, the screens sets the size of the machine, and in this computer, it’s an 11.6 inch display running on In-Plane Switching technology, with the High Definition resolution of 1366×768 used here.

On the connection front, you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, and a microUSB port for video out via SlimPort and charging the laptop, while wireless connections are handled through dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.

A headset jack is included, as is a webcam, and just like pretty much every other Chromebook, Google has added 100GB Google Drive Cloud storage free for two years.

The battery is rated for up to six hours of use, with the whole computer weighing in at 1.04 kilograms.

Performance

Considered by many to be the new netbook, Chromebooks aim to deliver everything you need and nothing you don’t by letting you access the world through a web browser, and by making that web browser the operating system.

For those caught unaware, a Chromebook doesn’t rely on a traditional operating system in any sense of the word. You don’t install apps on this system like you would on a Mac, a Windows PC, or even a Linux box.

Rather, Chrome OS is based on Google’s Chrome browser, and the whole operating system literally sits around this web browser. This might not make sense initially, but when you realise how much of the web you’re using, it could begin to.

When you go home, or even at work, you might be using web-based mail, such as Google’s GMail. All of our social networking is done in a web browser, and you can listen to music over the web using online applications. Google has even made it possible to write and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online, and all of this is backed up online in the cloud.

All of these rely on a web browser, and when you combine these with the knowledge that there are fewer security attacks on an operating system that is a web browser, you get the feeling that Google might be onto something here.

Offline browser is, of course, possible (otherwise, how would you use it on a plane?), and when you eventually get access to a network again, things will re-sync and update accordingly.

It’s not for everyone, but if everything you use a computer for can be accomplished with a web browser, the Chrome OS concept could be well suited to you. It helps that the files you edit on Google Drive can later on be edited with any other computer, Mac or Windows PC, with phones and tablets included here too.

HP’s formula for the Chromebook isn’t too dissimilar from one we’ve seen before, and in this computer, you’re basically getting the same as what Samsung engineered in its version, complete with the same set of specs, but placed inside of a different frame.

To HP’s credit, there’s a durable metal chassis with plastic coating the outside, and this combination of materials helps to make the Chromebook 11 feel less like a toy and more like an expensive laptop.

It even reminds us of a laptop that Apple retired, with the old shiny white Macbook very reminiscent here, except in a smaller body with a far more glossy outside, and a colourful strip on the top of the lid that lights up when it’s in use.

Open the computer up and it literally springs to life, the Chromebook switching on very quickly, and letting you jump into the world of Chrome.

You’ll be asked to log in (or create an account), with that act granting you access to a clear desktop with a few icons at the bottom. You start with the basics — Chrome, GMail, YouTube — but you can expand this by clicking on the small square grid which will bring up the rest of your apps, and you’re able to drag these into the shortcut bar. To install more apps, you merely head to the Store and install them.

It needs to be said that these aren’t real apps in any sense of the word.

They’re essentially plugins or shortcuts to web services, bringing you quickly to another website, and these will install on any other Google Chrome browser you’re signed into on another computer (though not on phones or tablets).

And you’ll see that these apps are closer to websites when you click on a shortcut for one and it loads in a tab in the Chrome browser, because that’s how this whole Chrome thing works.

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