HP Chromebook 11 review
The HP Chromebook 11 isn't the fastest Chromebook around, but it is our favourite
There are several strong contenders for crown of best Chromebook on the market. Google's Chromebook Pixel is a fantastic piece of hardware; the Asus Chromebook C200 has great battery life; and the Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in has a large, high-resolution screen. All three have their weaknesses, however, be it price, ergonomics or performance. Ask us which Chromebook we'd actually buy for ourselves and we'd have to pick the HP Chromebook 11. See also: the 7 best Chromebooks of 2014.
In some ways, it's an unlikely champion. Take performance: like most Chromebooks, the HP feels perfectly snappy when running Google's office apps or browsing the web, and even ran Full HD video from YouTube and Google Play Movies without a glitch.
Inside, however, there's a lowly 1.7GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Dual 5250 processor, which proved slower in our benchmarks than the Asus Chromebook C200, with its 2.4GHz Bay Trail Celeron processor, and even the Samsung Chromebook 2 13.3in with its 2GHz Exynos 5 Octa 5800. If you leave a lot of tabs open while you're surfing, or run more demanding games, it quickly begins to struggle. If you see yourself as a power user, then a £190 Chromebook may not be for you.
It's a similar story with battery life. Away from the mains, the Chromebook 11 was able to play back 5hrs 10mins of looping 720p HD video before giving up; the Asus Chromebook C200 lasted for 9hrs 17mins.
Connectivity has something of a bare-minimum feel to it. The Chromebook 11 has only two USB 2 ports, with no USB 3, and the only video output is a micro-USB port that doubles as the power socket and a SlimPort output. We like the idea of a laptop that charges via micro-USB – even if the compact charger takes four hours to do it – but doing it this way means you can't charge the Chromebook 11 and output to a monitor at the same time.
HP Chromebook 11 review: build quality
So what makes the HP so good? A large part of it is down to design: it looks beautiful, and feels it too. At only 1kg it's incredibly sleek and light, yet the nicely curved polycarbonate chassis feels impressively tough. There isn't too much flex in the lid, the hinge is smooth and feels robust, and the thick, rubbery pads at the bottom – colour matched to the keyboard – do a great job of stopping the Chromebook 11 from bouncing round on the desk as you type, or slipping off your lap. There are laptops at twice the price that don't look or feel this good.
The Chromebook 11 also punches well above its weight when it comes to ergonomics. The keyboard stretches most of the way across the Chromebook's width, presenting large, flat keys in a well-spaced layout: only the cursor and function keys are shrunk to half-height. The typing action is lightweight without being floppy, and the touchpad is unusually wide for an 11.6in laptop; its lightly textured surface is responsive and accurate, making websites easy to navigate and gestures simple to pull off. All told, the Chromebook 11 is one of the sweetest small-screen laptops around, regardless of OS.
HP Chromebook 11 review: the display
The Chromebook 11's biggest attraction, however, has to be its screen. The resolution is only a bog-standard 1,366 x 768, but in this compact 11.6in form factor that translates to a respectably sharp image. What's more, it's an IPS panel, something we wouldn't normally expect at this price. We measured its maximum brightness at 316cd/m[sup]2[/sup], far in advance of any other Chromebook save for the Google Chromebook Pixel. Photos and videos pack a real punch, with vibrant colour reproduction and wide viewing angles. It's proof that resolution isn't the be-all and end-all: given the choice between a drab Full HD screen and this little beauty, we'd take the hit on pixel density every time.
HP Chromebook 11 review: verdict
At its launch, the Chromebook 11 was already a bargain at £229; now you can easily find it for £190, making it irresistible. To be sure, there are compromises, notably on speed and longevity – we'd love to see a model with a Bay Trail or Haswell processor and a longer-lasting battery. But even as it stands, the HP Chromebook 11's display, keyboard, trackpad and comfortable, lightweight design make it a joy to use. Whether you share it with the family or use it in your business, this is a brilliant Chromebook at an almost unbelievable price.
|Price ex VAT||£191|
|Price inc VAT||£229|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||6|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||195 x 117 x 18mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||0|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||no|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Speaker location||Beneath keyboard|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||4hr 21min|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
|OS family||Chrome OS|