HP Chromebook 14
HP's Chromebook 14 is attractive and comfortable to use, but it's also quite heavy and has a high asking price
- Comfortable to type on
- Good overall performance
- Full-sized SDXC slot and full-sized HDMI
- Screen reflections can be annoying
- Feels heavy
- White finish can end up looking dirty
If a large Chromebook is what you're after, then HP's 14-inch model should be considered. It's the biggest one we've seen, and the most luxurious to use for long periods of typing. It's a heavy unit, though, and it has a high price.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
We took a brief look at the HP Chromebook 14 late last year. It's one of the models that the vendor is actively pushing in the education sector. The reasons for this are because it runs the simple Chrome OS operating system, which basically relies on the Cloud and all a user has to do to see their own environment is log in, but also because it's big and comfortable to type on. Still, there's plenty there to entice users in other market segments, too.
Why Chrome OS?
Our usual disclaimer starts here: if you're after a regular notebook, this isn't for you. The Chromebook 14 runs Chrome OS rather than Windows or Mac OS, meaning you can't just install any programs that you might be used to on your current desktop or laptop. Chrome OS is essentially a Web-based environment in which you log into and use your Google account to access all of Google's services. Think of it as a computer that's dedicated to Gmail, YouTube, Docs, and Drive, among other Google-centric things (including Web apps from the Chrome OS store).
This makes it a simple laptop that's perfect if all you want is something that will allow you to check your Gmail, browse the Web, do some video chatting, and other online tasks. Once you get used to the fact that the majority of your data is stored in the Internet on Google's servers, and that the laptop is just there to facilitate your access to that data, you'll be making the most of it in no time. The only thing is that you will require a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet. You can work in offline mode as long as you synchronise your Gmail and Drive to the local drive, which is a small 16GB.
You're encouraged to make use of the Cloud as much as possible with this laptop, and to that end the Chromebook 14 (and all other Chromebooks) come with 100GB worth of Google Drive storage that's valid for two years. If you want more local storage for storing music, photos and other things, then you can just plug in a USB drive or insert an SD card (these go in all the way and can be a good semi-permanent storage solution if you just leave them in there).
Wireless connectivity is by way of a dual-band Wi-Fi module and Bluetooth. If you make use of Google Play Music, you can easily stream your library to a Bluetooth-equipped stereo or Bluetooth speakers.
A stand-out Chromebook
As far as its design is concerned, the Chromebook 14 got a few comments from people in our office about how it looks similar to a MacBook. It does have a certain similarity and it does look good. The palm rest is grey and contrasts nicely with the white keys and the bezel around the screen. Incidentally, different colours are available, but we tested the white version, which is prone to getting noticeably dirty. You would do well to carry it around in a protective case or laptop bag.
The lid is a smooth, matte white with the familiar Google Chrome logo on it (and a silver HP logo), while the base is also white, but has a bit of a texture on it. Speaker slits are located under the unit, and they are decent for casual listening though can be easy to muffle unless you are using the unit on a flat surface. There are also air vents on the bottom. We noticed only a little bit of heat when using the Chromebook to browse the Web and stream music. It will stay cool as long as the CPU doesn't work too hard.
It's one of the larger Chromebooks on the market, and at 1.83kg also one of the heaviest. While these traits may not make it the easiest of the Chromebook bunch to lug around (HP's Chromebook 11 is a lot more mobile, for example), the Chromebook 14 is very comfortable to use. It has an ample palm rest and a regulation keyboard that is good for long sessions of typing. The keys feel soft and are laid out in an island style with good contrast. They make a slight rattle sound when they are hit, but they are not loud enough to be a nuisance in a quiet environment such as a library.
The touchpad under the keyboard is large (100x68mm) and smooth, and it supports different multi-finger gestures such as two-finger scrolling and three-finger flicks. Like other Chromebook touchpads we've seen, though, you can't use a tap-and-hold to drag function. Basically, though, the input peripherals on this Chromebook are enjoyable to use.
Its screen is a bit of a mixture, though. It has a native resolution of 1366x768, which is standard, but the glossy finish can reflect a lot light, and this can be annoying. The brightness isn't overly high, and the screen tends to look a little dull at times. For basic browsing, email tasks, and typing documents, its fine. When you watch video on it, you should do so in a dimly lit environment or reflections, especially during dark scenes will be very noticeable.
On the inside, the Chromebook relies on an Intel Celeron CPU that's based on a fourth generation Haswell architecture, and there is also 4GB of RAM. It's powerful enough to provide a smooth overall user experience. The laptop feels zippy for Web browsing, viewing photos, and also when streaming video from the Web. We tried it with the NBA League Pass streaming service, for example, and it performed smoothly when using that service's mid-range quality setting. At the high setting there were some lost frames, but it was still watchable. Full HD YouTube playback was smooth, too.
With a full-sized HDMI output on the left side, the Chromebook 14 can be connected easily to another monitor or a big-screen TV. This can be for the purposes of displaying streaming video, or for just getting more screen real estate to help while multitasking. Other ports on the sides include USB 3.0 (two of them on the left side), USB 2.0 (this is on the right side), and a headset port. A slot for a cable lock is present, too. You also get a webcam and built-in microphone. What's missing is Ethernet, but we don't see many scenarios where the Chromebook 14 won't need to be a mobile device.
The battery in the unit has a 51 Watt-hour rating, and HP quotes it as being able to last just over nine hours. In our rundown test, in which we connect to Wi-Fi, maximise the screen brightness, and loop an MP4 file stored on the laptop until it conks out, the Chromebook 14 lasted just over six hours. How much battery life you get out of the Chromebook 14 will depend on what tasks you run and how the Chromebook is configured; a high brightness and lots of YouTube streaming will deplete it quicker than if you're just quietly using it to read an e-book or type up a review.
The 14in screen makes the HP Chromebook 14 slightly bigger than the 13.3in Toshiba Chromebook CB30 that we reviewed in February, and 340g heavier at 1.83kg, but both Chomebooks have a styling that's appealing. We like the Chromebook 14 because of the extra size and just how easy it is to type on, though we can understand if some of you shun it due to its weight. It's also quite expensive for what it is.
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