updated 04:26 am EST, Sun February 9, 2014
Google, HP team on latest attempt at the Chromebook
Back in October 2008, before the world had seen the iPad, the late Steve Jobs was asked what Apple was planning to do in response to the what turned out to be a passing fad with netbooks. At the time, Jobs said that "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk," as he made it very clear that Apple was not planning to enter into the economy notebook segment. The HP Chromebook 11 is priced well below $500 at $279, but promises to be the first economy-class notebook that could change your perception of Chromebooks, armed as it is with decent build quality, a refined design, and a high-quality 11-inch display.
The HP Chromebook 11, like Google's popular Nexus smartphones, has been co-developed by Google and it shows. Just as Google has done with its Nexus smartphones, it has worked hard with its partner to create a Chromebook that is well-designed, well-made, uses some better than expected components, yet at a price that makes it attractive to a wide audience. It uses a plastic body that is reinforced by a magnesium chassis for added stiffness, with screws, speakers and vents all hidden from view. In some ways, it is quite Apple-like in its fundamental design approach. HP and Google have even made the effort to light up the Chrome logo on the lid of the device, helping to convey an overall impression that it more expensive than it is. However, even though it is sturdier than most plastic notebooks, it still creaks a little when picked up betraying its economy-class price.
The HP Chromebook 11 is powered by a Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (5250) clocked at 1.7Ghz matched with 2GB of RAM. It is the same type of ARM Cortex A-15 processor that you will find in the older Samsung Chromebook, as well as various low-end smartphones and tablets. As such, it does not require a fan to keep it cool, while it should be able to keep users both productive and entertained -- the only question mark at this stage is whether the relatively pokey dual-core processor can manage to do both at the same time. It incorporates 16GB of eMMC storage, although it does not include a microSD card slot as the goal is to keep your files stored on Google Drive as the device also comes with 100GB of Google Drive storage, free for two years.
You can, however, utilize one of the two USB ports for further expansion. Another useful inclusion is a microUSB port for charging the device, meaning that you can use just about any compatible mobile phone charger to keep the device's 30Wh battery juiced. Fully charged, the HP Chromebook 11 is good for up to 6 hours of connected use. This microUSB port is also SlimPort-enabled, allowing you to connect the notebook to an external monitor. Other specs of note include support for dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, digitally-tuned speakers concealed beneath the keyboard, and an integrated VGA webcam. Impressively, the whole package weighs just 2.3-pounds.
While the design of the HP Chromebook 11 is much better than you would expect for the price, the display is what really helps to set the HP Chromebook 11 apart from the economy-class pack. It shares the same dimensions as Apple's MacBook Air at 11.6-inches and the same resolution at 1366x768. However, although the 11-inch MacBook Air starts at $999 against the $279 price of the HP Chromebook 11, it is only the HP Chromebook that incorporates IPS technology in its display. As a result, it looks substantially better than the 11-inch MacBook Air display, even though the sRGB color gamut of the HP Chromebook 11 is limited to 60 percent. It's viewing angles of 176-degrees are also much better than the MacBook Air as well.
We will be giving the HP Chromebook a full review in the coming days as we take it on the road and use it around the house. It is showing early promise and could be the first Chromebook that warrants a little more attention than you might normally direct at this segment.
By Sanjiv Sathiah