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HP Chromebook 11 review

Verdict

A remarkably accomplished piece of hardware for the price; it's our new Chromebook of choice

Review Date: 16 Oct 2013

Reviewed By: Barry Collins

Price when reviewed: £191 (£229 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £180
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

After the company’s first stab at a Chromebook earlier this year, the HP Chromebook 11 could only be an improvement. And what an improvement it is, with the company delivering the most compelling Chromebook we’ve seen, aside from the executive toy that is Google’s own Chromebook Pixel.

The white-and-blue trim of our review model split the PC Pro style council: some appreciated the clean design, others felt it harked back to the era of Spandau Ballet and Tiswas. Either way, there’s a less divisive black model on the way. What nobody disputes is the build quality; this is a much better device than you’ve any right to expect for £229 inc VAT.

The screen is astonishingly good for the price. True, dark colours are a little crushed, but there can be no complaints about a contrast ratio of 1,136:1, and a maximum brightness of 341cd/m2 is fine for a little light browsing in the back garden, if you can tolerate the reflections on the glossy screen. The level of detail delivered by the 1,366 x 768 resolution is absolutely spot on for a device of this size.

The keyboard is perfect, too. The keys are well sized, with ample travel and spacing, and none of the important function keys have been shrunk too much, with the exception of the half-width Enter key. The touchpad is equally accomplished: it’s responsive, of a good size, and doesn’t get in the way while you’re typing, with plenty of room for your wrists to rest on either side.

Build quality is exceptional. It’s what Apple would call “unapologetically plastic”, but it’s delivered with a finish and solidity that Apple would be proud to call its own. Our only concern over the build is the slight wobble you get from the screen if you’re an aggressive touch-typist.

While ostensibly a laptop, it has a couple of features borrowed from the tablet world. This is the first Chromebook we’ve seen to charge via a micro-USB port. This is good news if you’re travelling and need to take only one charger to top up your phone and Chromebook, but don’t expect it to top-up in a hurry: the supplied 5.25V charger took more than four hours to refill the battery from dead.

HP Chromebook 11

It isn’t the world’s biggest battery, either: the 30Wh unit lasted 4hrs 21mins in our looping video tests, and you’d do well to get through a working day without having to plug the Chromebook 11 back into the mains. That micro-USB charging port also doubles as the SlimPort display out, which means you can’t work with an external display and charge at the same time.

Unlike the HP Chromebook 14, which came with a full-fat Intel Celeron processor, the Chromebook 11 relies on a dual-core ARM-based Samsung Exynos 5250 processor and 2GB of RAM to keep it chugging along. We didn’t notice any serious performance issues: HD playback on BBC iPlayer was a little stuttery, but day-to-day surfing was brisk. A SunSpider benchmark score of 701ms is just over 10% slower than its bigger brother, but is far from shameful.

As you’d expect from an 11.6in device weighing just a shade more than a kilogram, there’s no hard disk inside, but the 16GB of onboard storage is supplemented by 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years. There’s even a 3G option to keep Chrome OS connected when you’re away from the Wi-Fi – which, despite Google’s protestations, is still a necessity.

Overall, we’re smitten with the Chromebook 11. As a casual surfing machine, or a device used predominantly to tap out emails or basic documents, it wants for little. If you’re in the market for a Chromebook, and don't have silly money to lavish on a Pixel, we wouldn’t look any further than this.

Author: Barry Collins

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User comments

No

-A low res 1366x768
-Keyboard flex
-4 hours, ish, of battery life
-HD playback stutters
-16GB storage

"resolution is absolutely spot on for a device of this size." - Nearly EVERY single windows review blasts the machine for having 1366x768!

"Overall, we’re smitten with the Chromebook 11" - Eh?

All in all it's a pretty poor machine and if it featured windows it REALLY would not receive such a review. Even the price is a bit too much really. That, of course, is only my opinion and they do differ so fair enough. It just seems that these things are being pushed for absolutely no reason at all.

By rhythm on 16 Oct 2013

Sick of it

I'm posting using Opera 12.16 and clicked submit ONCE yet it's been posted 3 times.

By rhythm on 16 Oct 2013

Four times, but who's counting ;-)

Agreed though, Windows machines are slated for that resolution.

By everton2004 on 16 Oct 2013

@rhythm

It's NOT a Windows machine, why keep saying it would be slated if it were? It's a £200 machine for using a web browser.

It's easily a good enough screen for what is essentially a web browser. The 16GB storage is fine for what is essentially a web browser. The lack of HD playback (given the screen size) is fine for what is essentially a web browser.

You get my point...

By The_Scrote on 17 Oct 2013

Bog Windows Laptop is no better

Try finding a bog standard windows laptop better than 1366x768!
I can buy one of these and a Nexus 7 for the price of a low-end laptop.

By milliganp on 17 Oct 2013

Recommended?

I'm stunned.

As @The_Scrote clearly points out; it's just a web browser. Don't I already have one of these on my desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet and phone?

@Barry, Have you bought one of these out of your net pay packet?

By stephen_d_morris on 17 Oct 2013

Reasonable comparison?

Just did a search on the Insight website. The cheapest laptop device with a full HD display is £740 and 191 out of 220 non-ultrabooks are 1366x768. So complaining abour screen res is pointless.
This device is the same price as a low end 10" tablet with similar functionality plus a keyboard. It's another way of getting the job done.

By milliganp on 17 Oct 2013

@rhythm

My wife's similarly priced HP laptop with Windows takes 5 minutes to boot. This takes a couple of seconds. This is also highly resistant to viruses by virtue of its simplicity. It is the perfect machine for the less computer literate.

Also don't forget that screen quality is not just about resolution. I wouldn't tolerate this on a 15" laptop, but on an 11" it is fine . All the reviews I have read were very complimentary about the quality of the screen relative to other laptops at the same price.

Clearly the sacrifices here are the processor, battery and storage, which are adequate for its intended use but no more.

By tirons1 on 17 Oct 2013

For all those who hate the Chromebook

If you want any of the following:
1. A screen of dazzling brightness with retina-beating pixel density;
2. A cpu and graphics capability future-proofed to play all games at maximum frame p.s. for the next 10 years;
3. A capacious hard drive;
4. An SD card slot;
5. The Apple OS and app store, or full-fat Windows, or even Android;
6. The opportunity to add new components, software, drivers etc.

- then don't buy a Chromebook.

It seems as if some criticise the Chromebook for what it isn't rather than what it is.

I've owned the Samsung Chromebook for nearly a year now. I don't use it much at home, but when away from home, it's so much lighter and easier to use than a laptop. The keyboard is excellent and the Google Chrome apps, particularly the Google Office suite, work very well. You are working within the browser, of course, but you soon forget that. If you need to write, then a tablet - even one with a Bluetooth keyboard - just doesn't cut the mustard. And of course, for using the internet it's quick, responsive and easy to use and, again, easier to use than a tablet.

Personally, I think the Chromebook is a very compelling way of using a computer - no worries about incompatible drivers, slow boot-up times, dodgy software, viruses, Trojans, malware, inexplicable slowdowns, thrashing drives or breakdowns - and it just works reliably.

With the Chromebook, you have a vision of how computing might work in future, where the working of the operating system and how it interacts with applications are entirely hidden from the computing consumer. In a way, this is a bit like modern cars which diagnose their own faults so specialist fitters can replace sealed components. There will always be those who yearn for the days when we tinkered with car engines, just as there are those who would still like to get their hands dirty with programming code, registry editing and the like.

By lfstone on 17 Oct 2013

Feedback

@Rhythm - I can't recall us criticising an 11in laptop for only having a 1,366 x 768 display. We'll certainly criticise larger Windows laptops for a limited resolution, but not at that size.

@The_Scrote For many people, a web browser is all they need. You may already have one - we're not forcing you to buy a Chromebook. But for people with lightweight browsing needs, who want a device with a great screen, decent keyboard and excellent build quality, this hits the spot.

Barry Collins
Editor

By Barry_Collins on 17 Oct 2013

If it was a windows machine...

The fonts on 11" 1,366 x 768 would end up being far too small to read. I had Acer netbook with 12" screen with same resolution and changing Windows 8 DPI settings didn't help as everything would look...well, strange. After a few months of using it, I sold it on eBay.

Linux, Mac and Chrome OS seems to scale better on any resolution whilst keeping the test easy and clear to read, something that Windows do not manage well.

However, Chromebook's biggest problem is a lack of support from Skype or ooVoo.

By barnettgs on 17 Oct 2013

A solution in search of a problem

At the risk of repetition, the problem with Chrome(books) is that they bring very litte innovation to the party.

Chrome,despite Google's previous bleatings about the "post PC world" is developing into (taa daaa!) a proper "PC" Operating System; with local Files and everything.

Whilst I've no objection to that per se, it does rather undermine the original raison d'etre of he devices. The value proposition is similar to that of Netbooks, but without Windows Application compatibility.
If you just want a device to run a browser, what's wrong with Android? A cheapo Tablet offers nearly as much, for half the price.

If you want to compete with Windows on the desktop, which is what this seems to be doing, then it's woefully underpowered and devoid of software.

Sorry, but I still don't really se the point....

By wittgenfrog on 17 Oct 2013

Better than Samsung Chromebooks?!?

I'm a bit surprised that this would be considered better than a Samsung Series 3 or Series 5 Chromebook and I would be grateful to hear your specific reasoning in this respect?

By rlucey on 17 Oct 2013

@tirons1

"My wife's similarly priced HP laptop with Windows takes 5 minutes to boot."

You might want to get someone to have a look at that. Does she have Chrome, iTunes, java, Acrobat and a whole lot more installed? Probably.

P.s. NEVER run as full admin on a machine but, saying that, everyone does. Maybe PC Pro could create an article about that? You simply create two accounts, for example: Security and family. Security has full admin with password. Family is a standard account with no admin facilities. Raise UAC to the max level etc.

Done. A safer machine. Or you can buy a chromebook and throw away money instead of learning?

By rhythm on 17 Oct 2013

P.s.

When a Windows machine hits, which you can now see with the current Windows tablets, posters complain that they're shipping with ONLY 32gb of space? With a bit of thought you can EASILY get 15gb of free space but no... you read the same negative posts again and again.

These Android machines seem to be getting a FREE pass with all the excuses known to man. At the end of the day we all KNOW that if they could get away with it they would cost more, the same as a Windows laptop or more expensive than they are now.

At the end of the day, being honest, there is nothing really WRONG with the HP Chromebook 11 but compared to a cheap windows machine it, in my opinion, does not stand on its feet. Sorry. All the excuses, it's a browser' simply do not add up. Don't YOU want the option to DO MORE?! Why limit yourself? Why? if you MUST be different then install Ubuntu on a standard Windows machine?

By rhythm on 17 Oct 2013

Real life case

I posted this on the "First Look" at this machine and feel it's relevant again here. Sorry if you already read it ...

I just bought one of these Chromebooks (the Samsung Series 5) for my seriously computer-challenged friends who had been using a Windows machine until it gave up the motherboard ghost.

When I asked if they had ever installed any programs on it, they replied “Yes, Hotmail … oh, and Ryanair!” In fact, they had never used their previous laptop for anything other than accessing web sites. That covered ALL their needs.

WIndows just really worried them with all its updates and virus issues etc etc.


They are as happy as Larry with their new Chromebook. It came with full on-screen instructions on how to use it, it switches on instantly and it’s seriously quick browsing.


I had to swallow hard to recommend anything Google, but looking at it from their point of view, I could see this was EXACTLY what they needed – and probably millions of others, too. It’s a fast tablet with a keyboard, it’s a computer without the hassle.


I was impressed, despite myself, and I would heartily recommend it, as Paul Ockenden said on the other article, to that general audience who really, really do need nothing more.

As "PC Pros", we do need to see things from the point-of-view of those who do NOT want to spend their leisure time learning how "to DO MORE" . These are the very people who look to us for help and advice and we *don't* help them by sneering at what may be, in fact, an ideal real-life solution.

By mikelaye on 17 Oct 2013

I am just sitting here reading API documentation on a Chromebook. I can get around much faster with a keyboard and trackpad than I can on a tablet. I can't do my actual work on this thing, but I can do a lot of other stuff, and it just springs to life when I need it.

It's just a pain having these things compared to PCs, when most people spend their time, even their working hours, browsing the net. I don't think many people could function without a net connection and yet we get endless complaints about Chromebooks not working offline. I could go on, but then I don't think I would persuade the naysayers who made up their mind a while back and are sticking to it.

By c6ten on 18 Oct 2013

what about the new HP chrome book 14 with haswel? its the one I want. is it coming to the UK?

By bikeman01 on 19 Oct 2013

My wife has a £1000 MacBook Pro, she swooned for that glowing apple and I broke under the promises of tea and cake. For the last three years the only time she's not used Chrome is to use Open Office. That’s it. In three years. THREE YEARS! Two days ago my three year old launched it across the kitchen in a complicated ball of limbs, cables and chair legs.

As far as I can tell this machine was made with her in mind. She can type on it, watch Netflix and when it inevitably meets a similar fate to its predecessor I can replace it without gently weeping onto my bank card. I'm getting her a Chromebook. I get all the points made up to now but I'm jumping on Mikelaye’s bus. It wasn't made for us…it was made for her.

By CaptMac on 21 Oct 2013

made for...

With cloud services offering OS/Apps/Data/Software/etc. all stored on their serveres, all you would need is a chrome book, even for work.
OK you need internet access but even some planes have free wifi now so you can work from most places now.

By Zippy204 on 21 Oct 2013

Chromebooks are great but misunderstood

People who slate the current Chromebooks don't seem to understand them. They're not meant as a primary computer. They're there to fill a niche. Thin, light, ultra portable simple machine to take out and about with you. I don't want to cart my £900 14" ultrabook around with me to get lost or broken. My Android is not really usable enough. The Chromebook is a perfect middle ground. Immature platform and could do with more CPU power and ram but fantastic offering to fill a niche at a good price.

By PicardC on 3 Nov 2013

Usable on lap?

Question for the PC Pro guys who have used this...

Is it big enough / comfortable on your lap?

I'm typing this on a 14" lappy and its fine - the laptop rests about half way on each thigh.

Would an 11" result in an 'awkward' positioning of the legs and associated human 'bits and pieces'?

Serious question.

By PicardC on 4 Nov 2013

An hour comparing Chromebooks in PC World

I spent an hour this afternoon in PC World comparing Chromebooks. Rather handily, they had a Chromebook stand and had the Samsung, HP11 and Acer side by side.

Samsung - nice, perfectly usable but washed out TN screen. £200

HP11 - v.similar to Samsung but with a more colourful IPS screen. Blacks still lacked contrast and detail though. £230.

Acer - this felt like a cheap laptop. If I was going to buy something like this, I'd get the Acer 11.6" Windows laptop for £300.

They all worked fine speedwise with several tabs open including iPlayer and Docs, and I didn't detect any noticeable slowdown.

All down to personal preference / price / looks it seems....

By PicardC on 6 Nov 2013

ok for a school kid?

I am looking at this as a possible laptop for my son who will be going into first year,in conjunction with Google docs.would it be good enough for that - answers from owners please!

I just looked at the programs currently running on my daughter's windows 7 laptop and she is running spotify,facebook and email,all via a web browser. The only apps we have installed ever on it are iTunes and libre office. The new generation work online,so maybe chrome books have a future!

By foobar on 10 Nov 2013

surface RT is a better proposition

I've been seriously considering a chromebook but they are jst too expensive for the limitations: low powered, no skype, need a new printer or a pc to print (why?) etc. With the recent price revision I'm thinking now that a surface RT fits the bill of portability without the limitations of a chromebook.

By bikeman01 on 9 Dec 2013

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