HP Chromebook 11 – Baby Steps

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I will admit when I first saw the new HP Chromebook, I was pleasantly surprised. My first impression was this is a step in the right direction.

The design is a bit retro with glossy elements and appropriately placed rubber strips. Available in black or white, and if you select white you can pick one of four accent colors – Google red, green, blue, and yellow. Although the polish was a conscious decision, it would be interesting to see this design in a matt finish. The corners are rounded and the frame magnesium reinforced to give it a solid feel while remaining light in hand (2.3 pounds, or 1.04kg, to be exact). The construction is solid but you may get a creak or squeak while handling.

The placement of ports is functional with the left edge housing all the ports and connections which includes the following.

  • Combination headphone / mic jack
  • (2) USB 2.0 ports
  • Micro-USB connection (support for SlimPort video out)

The micro-USB connector is used for charging the device and the practicality of this is significant. It uses the same cable included in all Android devices for this purpose. The only drawback to this solution is charging the battery is slow – about 4 hours slow.

As is becoming the standard in Google Chromebooks, storage is limited to 16GB and there is no SD card slot.

This Chromebook is the first budget device to use an IPS panel capable of displaying a 60% Color Gamut supporting a 178 degree viewing angle and achieving 300 nits of brightness. The 1366×768 resolution for an 11.6-inch display is not as bad as it sounds as some will remember this was the standard for the Macbook not so long ago. I would have considered a matte finished to reduce glare, but the presentation will not disappoint.

The Chiclet keyboard is very acceptable with well-placed keys which provided good tactile feedback. The track pad did not fare so well. In some cases it lagged which meant I had to work a little harder than anticipated for the system to register my input. At least two-finger scrolling worked well.

This Chromebook did failed on one key portability test; battery life. The 4 to 6 hours of operation from the battery falls short of the new standard of 8 hours. There is a fall back as there are many spare battery devices on the market designed for smartphones which can be used with this device as a result of its micro-USB connector.

From Google’s perspective, this product may to the ying to the Chromebook Pixel yang – acceptable quality at an affordable price.

I don’t know how HP and Google decided on the retail price target of $279. I can’t help but feel due to the nature of Chrome OS most folks view this as a tablet replacement with a keyboard and not a laptop which probably explains the outcry over the price of the Pixel.

At this price it is difficult to make the right decisions on what to include but for the most part the Chromebook 11 got it right.

I believe consumers are willing to pay more, how about the same price as a tablet with a folio keyboard, for a device that includes the items the Chromebook 11 left out. If I were to introduce a Chromebook 11 Pro I would bulk up the SoC to something like a Tegra 4, improve the trackpad, beef up the battery, matt the glossy finish (Moto X style), and add backlit keys. HP certainly has expertise in this area as evidenced by the Slate X2.

I bet all this can be done for a retail price of $399.

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