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HP Chromebook 11 review: Affordable style for life in the cloud

JR Raphael | Oct. 14, 2013
Google's latest Chromebook brings a fresh look to the Chrome OS universe -- and for $279, the laptop has some interesting things to offer.

The screen pales in comparison to the best-in-class 2560 x 1700 touch-enabled display of the Chromebook Pixel, of course — but we're talking about a $279 laptop compared to a $1,300 laptop. A luxury like the Pixel's 239-pixel-per-inch centerpiece comes at a price, but in and of itself, the Chromebook 11's display looks quite good.

HP's Chromebook uses the standard full-sized chiclet-style Chrome OS keyboard, which replaces the top row of function keys with Chrome OS-specific keys and the Caps Lock key with a universal search button. (If you really miss having Caps Lock, you can remap the button back to that function in the system settings.)

I've found the keyboard to be very pleasant to type on; keys are well-spaced and responsive, and have just the right amount of give. The keyboard feels noticeably improved from the Samsung Chromebook, with higher quality keys and better resistance. It's not at the same level of the Pixel — nor is it backlit like the Pixel's keyboard — but again, it's all relative.

The surface area around the keyboard is smooth and free from any sharp edges, so it's perfectly comfortable for wrists. A matte plastic trackpad sits immediately beneath the keys; it's highly accurate and supports a variety of one-, two- and three-finger gestures for moving the cursor, scrolling and so forth. Like on other Chromebooks, the trackpad itself is one giant button: You press it with one finger for a left-click and two fingers for a right-click.

The border around the laptop's screen holds an understated plain-text Chrome logo on the bottom and a VGA camera on the top. The camera's nothing special, but it's good enough for casual video chatting (or even the occasional selfie, if that's your thing).

So what's missing from this picture? Speakers — and there's a reason: You can't see 'em. Following the lead of the Pixel, the Chromebook 11's speakers live beneath the keyboard, so sound actually seems to come from everywhere rather than from any single grille.

The Chromebook's audio quality is impressive: Music played from the device is loud and clear, so much that you could easily use the device to listen to tunes in your house or outdoors without the need for an external speaker. Things aren't quite as full-sounding as what you'd hear with a dedicated speaker (or what you'd get on the Pixel), but for casual rockin' out and chillaxin', it should more than satisfy your aural desires.

Performance, storage and networking
Under its hood, the Chromebook 11 is strikingly similar to last year's Samsung Chromebook: The computer runs on an ARM-based dual-core Samsung Exynos 5250 processor along with 2GB of RAM.

 

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