Resplendent in vintage MacBook-style white plastic, HP's Chromebook 11 is aiming for the affordable end of the notebook market, the natural stomping ground of Google's clever but limited cloud-based OS.
Does that mean that this bright, bold, wallet-friendly laptop is a better option than the absurdly expensive Google Chromebook Pixel? Let's find out…
"Small, light and affordable"
HP has designed this laptop ‘with Google’, which is a good sign: love it or hate it, Google’s posh, bewildering Pixel has perhaps the best keyboard, trackpad and screen of any laptop we’ve used. And while the HP Chromebook 11’s keyboard isn’t such a joy to type on as the Pixel’s, it’s still better than most, and considerably better than the clacky boards of most RM1500-RM1800 Windows laptops.
If you’re looking for something small, light and affordable to bash out words on, this knocks socks off typing on an iPad or a Surface. And given that Google and co. pitch these things as homework machines, they’ve concentrated on getting the important bits right.
The touchpad, on the other hand, is made from a matte plastic that’s too grippy when you compare it to the slidey glass panels that Apple uses. It’s accurate and responsive, but it’s not brilliant for scrolling.
"Web browsing, YouTube videos and Chrome apps are delay-free"
Because the operating system is so light, you expect a Chromebook to do everything it does almost instantly, and the Chromebook 11 is certainly no slouch in the limited range of tasks of which it’s capable. It turns on in a flash (pun intended, solid-state memory fans), and web browsing, YouTube videos and Chrome apps are delay-free.
Obviously the flipside is that it won’t do powerful desktop processing tasks, but if your work is mainly word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and email, this’ll do the lot very quickly. Again, it doesn’t have quite the microsecond smoothness of the Pixel, but it’s lighter and less than a quarter of the price.
In the couple of hours we’ve spent using it, the Exynos 5250 APU has only got slightly warm. We’d be interested to see how well it copes with Ubuntu (which can be added to Chromebooks fairly easily), which would add more powerful software to its repertoire. Although it would probably void the warranty, too.
Perhaps the biggest point in the Chromebook 11's favour is that it charges via microUSB – a really superb piece of design that will make people’s lives easier and kill a few less arctic foxes. Everything should charge via microUSB.
"Great viewing angles"
The 11.6in IPS display in the Chromebook 11 is the same resolution as that in the MacBook Air 11, it has great viewing angles and at 300 nits it’s nice and bright. Google claims the battery will endure 6 hours of ‘active use’, and it has dual-band Wi-Fi (up to ‘n’, no ‘ac’) and Bluetooth 4.0. It also comes with 100GB of Google Drive space free for two years, 12 free sessions of GoGo inflight internet, and a 60-day free trial of Google Play Music All Access.
Just as it did with LG and the Nexus 4, Google has lent its immense technical prowess and resources to a manufacturer and persuaded it to make a device that dramatically underprices the competition. With a nice colour scheme, some clever design touches and the same charger as your phone (probably), this could well be the Chromebook that brings Chromebooks into the mainstream.