Low-cost Chromebooks tend to require compromise. On one end of the spectrum, you've got the HP Chromebook 11, which boasts beautiful design and build quality but has significant performance limitations. On the other end, there's the Acer C720 Chromebook, which packs plenty of horsepower but has a lackluster display and exterior.
So where's the middle ground? Enter the HP Chromebook 14 (4G). The laptop, available now for $349 via Walmart, aims to provide a mix of performance and style while sticking within entry-level parameters.
HP Chromebook 14
I've been spending some time getting to know the HP Chromebook 14 (4G) this week. Here's a detailed look at what it's like to use and how it compares to the rest of the Chromebook family.
(Note that the system being reviewed here is the 4G model of the Chromebook 14. HP has also announced a Wi-Fi-only model of the Chromebook 14 that'll launch for $299 later this fall, but that model has half the RAM of this one; its performance will likely vary accordingly.)
Size and display
By now, you probably know all about Google's Chrome OS platform and its cloud-centric approach (if you don't, see my previous coverage for a quick primer). Since the software is identical from one Chromebook to the next, I'm going to skip over that discussion and focus this review on hardware.
First things first: The Chromebook 14 is one big boy. At 13.56 x 9.44 x 0.81 in. and 4.1 lb., the laptop looks and feels like a giant next to other Chromebooks. The HP Chromebook 11, in comparison, is 11.69 x 7.56 x 0.69 in. and 2.3 lb. The difference is extremely noticeable; whereas the Chromebook 11 is sleek and light, the Chromebook 14 is bulky and relatively heavy. I'm most aware of the heft when holding the computer in my lap or carrying it around, both of which are less pleasant to do with this device than with the more compact alternatives.
Bulk has its benefits, though: As with any laptop, what you lose in svelteness you gain in screen size. At 14 inches, the Chromebook 14's display feels like riding in a limo compared to the Chromebook 11's sedan: The extra three inches in diagonal amount to more than an inch and a half of added space lengthwise and about an inch in height. That expanded desktop can make a meaningful difference, especially if you like to view multiple apps or browser windows at the same time.
As for the quality of the display, it's a mixed bag: The Chromebook 14's glossy IPS LCD 1366 x 768 screen is a big leap forward from the matte TN panel on Acer's C720 Chromebook. Strangely enough, though, it's no match for the IPS LCD display on the Chromebook 11, even though they share the same technology. The Chromebook 14's contrast, color brilliance, color accuracy and sharpness are all a significant step down from what the Chromebook 11 delivers; the disparity is striking when you view the laptops side by side.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.