The HP Chromebook 11 could have been just another low-cost container for Google's browser-based OS. But Google stepped in to make it special--and maybe even spare it the mockery of PC snobs who can't wrap their heads around the Chromebook concept.
Realistically, you can't expect much from any sub-$300 machine, and most Chromebooks reside in this underwhelming hardware space. Nonetheless, Google's 2012 partnership with Samsung on the Chromebook 3 proved that a manufacturer could do a good job with low-level components, and then Google itself pulled out all the stops a few months later with the launch of the gorgeous Chromebook Pixel. If nothing else, the Pixel, replete with a beautiful touchscreen and elegant industrial design, sparked a heated (and slightly bizarre) debate about whether the Chrome ecosystem deserved a machine so high-end.
And now we have HP's Chromebook 11, a laptop that attempts to add some industrial design finesse to the low end of the Chromebook space.
Not new, but better designed
The Chromebook 11 offers none of the premium specs and design of the Pixel, and in terms of raw performance it's not even better than Samsung's Chromebook 3. Nevertheless, it shows that Google is committed to setting standards for Chrome hardware, and that it can deliver a high-quality experience at both premium and everyday prices.
Purely as a machine, the Chromebook 11 breaks no new ground. It uses an Exynos 5250 ARM processor, and has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard SSD storage. In our lab tests, its browser-based benchmark performance was competitive with the Samsung Chromebook 3, running neck-and-neck in Sunspider (with a score of 662.4ms), and just a wee bit behind in Peacekeeper (with a score of 1121).
Google also throws in 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage for two years (make sure you have a plan for when the deadline hits). Even better, you get 12 free sessions of GoGo Inflight Internet for those cross-country airplane trips.
The notebook's spare profile lacks speaker and ventilation grilles. All you'll find are two USB 2.0 ports (which left me wistful for USB 3.0), a headphone jack, and a micro USB port for the AC adapter. The system also comes with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The microUSB, USB 2.0, and headphone/speaker jacks are the only interruptions to the Chromebook 11's smooth, white sides.
Somewhat tinny audio emanates from the keyboard area, which commendably lacks any shrunken or squished keys to interfere with your typing like the Acer C710 Chromebook might. The travel on the keys is a little short for my taste, and I dislike the hard-plastic buttons. Still, no other low-end Chromebook I've tried has been any better in this regard (and oftentimes Chromebook keyboards are noticeably worse).
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