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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 minimalist approach continues around the Chromebook's sides: The right and front are smooth and barren, while the left houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB 2.0 (not 3.0) ports and a micro-USB charging port. The last item there is particularly significant, as that's the same type of port used on nearly all Android phones and tablets; as you can imagine, having that standard in place on a laptop could save you a lot of hassle when it comes to keeping your gadgets juiced up at home or on the road.

I tested the included Chromebook micro-USB charger with a few different phones and tablets, and it worked A-OK for charging those. The reverse works, too, with a caveat: If you plug a regular phone charger into the Chromebook 11 while the computer's off, it'll charge it slowly. If you plug it in while the Chromebook's running, though, you'll get a warning that a low-power charger may not be able to keep up with the computer's consumption. Given the low output capacity of a typical phone charger, that's not surprising.

Like some recent Android devices, the Chromebook 11's micro-USB charger doubles as an HDMI out-port; you'll need a SlimPort adapter, available at Amazon and most electronics retailers for around $15, in order to make that type of connection.

HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11's micro-USB charging port is the same type of port used on nearly all Android phones and tablets.

Conspicuously missing from the setup is any sort of memory card slot; if you want to use an SD card with this computer, you'll need to get a USB-based card reader — many of which are available for under 10 bucks — to get the job done.

The HP Chromebook 11 is quite light — just 2.3 lb. — making it easy to carry around and comfortable to have sitting on your lap. It's svelte, too, measuring 11.7 x 7.6 in. and 0.69 in. thick. Even with its slim form and plastic casing, the Chromebook 11 feels solid and sturdy, thanks presumably to the metal reinforcements built into its body.

Display and keyboard
The display on the Chromebook 11 is a massive leap forward from the screens on past entry-level Chrome OS devices. The resolution itself is a modest-sounding 1366 x 768 — the same as on last year's $249 Samsung Chromebook — but the Chromebook 11 packs a new IPS LCD panel instead of the lower-quality TN panels used in the past.

As a result, the 11.6-in. glossy screen is bright and crisp, with rich colors and deep blacks. Factor in its 176-degree viewing angle, and you're really looking at an immeasurable improvement over previous entry-level models.

 

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