Good but multitasking shy
HP launched the Chromebook x360 in India a few months ago with a starting price of Rs 44,990. You can read our review of it here. While I was quite pleased to see HP launch a Chromebook in the country after a long hiatus, I was even more concerned with admitting to the next product that was launched. Just days after launching the Chromebook x360, HP launched the Chromebook 14 in India at a much more accessible price of Rs 23,990 (updated price: Rs 22,990). And that’s exactly the laptop I’m writing this review on.
I was thrilled about the Chromebook 14 because I felt it played a significant role in the Indian entry-level laptop market. As you can see, unlike ordinary Windows 10 laptops in the same price range, the Chromebook 14 is not bound by heavy software or a slow hard drive. It may come with 4GB RAM but it is not understood by a heavy operating system. It also plays a slightly faster storage unit in the form of a 64GB eMMC drive. I thought it should be web-only computing, at least faster than running Chrome on a typical Windows 10 laptop. Was i ok Find out.
The Chromebook 14 comes with our review unit in the only configuration available right now: the Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core CPU, 4GB RAM, and 64GB eMMC flash storage. After a week or two with the review unit, I was mostly satisfied with the performance of the Chromebook 14 although I wanted more speed from time to time. With no more than a dozen tab counts on all virtual desktops, the review unit loaded each page in less than five seconds. Some heavy pages (including Gmail) take a few seconds to fully load, but that delay can be traced back to the low-cost Celeron chip inside. Playing videos all at once on YouTube was not a problem, but multitasking with playing videos in the background often results in audio stuttering.
Inside Intel Celeron
Accessing common websites like Google Docs, Sheets, Keep, Gmail, Netflix, YouTube and OneNote online was not a big problem unless multiple sites were loaded together. The review unit was best suited for static work in a single window, such as composing a long document in Google Docs. Quickly moving from one tab / window to another or clicking multiple links at once often results in a series of short stagnation or stuttering. It took about 11.46 seconds to get a cold boot on the lock screen and another 12.46 seconds to get to the first Chrome tab from there, so a total of 23.93 seconds.
This grade of feedback, in my experience, is still better than other Windows 10-powered budget laptops on the market, including the new Lenovo IdeaPad S145 (read our review about it). I bet Chromebook 14 will surpass every average budget Windows 10 laptop with the following (or similar) features: Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB RAM, 1TB hard drive running at 5,400 rpm. In other words, if you want to browse lightly in Chrome and watch some videos without spending more than Rs 23,000, then HP Chromebook 14 is your best bet. It’s a device where you can occasionally check your email, watch a few videos at once and make a video call to your loved one but that’s about it.
This is a unique category where Chromebook 14 excels without any doubt. During our daily testing, where the screen is set to 70 percent brightness, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth is enabled and a USB mouse is attached, the review unit loses about 7-10 percent per hour. During one such test, more than twenty tabs were open, one of which was playing Internet radio in the background via USB headphones. After about three hours, the charge drops to 100 to 74 percent. In about an hour and a half the full charge was gone. In short, the Chromebook 14 is great for anyone who wants to work around 8 or 9 hours straight from the wall socket.
Expect 8 to 10 hours of battery power
Display, audio and IoT
The Chromebook 14’s display is, as you can imagine, a 14-inch WLED-backlit LCD touchscreen unit with a disappointing resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The colors on the display are washed out and the viewing angles are severely limited. Overall, the text on the panel looks grainy regardless of the font size you go with. Capacitive Touch works well but there is no palm rejection in the offer if you decide to vaccinate. Fortunately, the panel does not suffer from too much glare because it does not use a glass surface. If anything, I want the Chromebook 14 to come with the option of a full HD display.
The Chromebook 14, like its more expensive pavilions and Specter cousins, confidently plays a Bang & Olufsen logo next to a single top-firing speaker strip on its keyboard island. But the noise from the drivers inside does not do justice to the long-lasting Danish name. Popular titles, such as The Weekend’s Starboy, sound absolutely flat across all frequencies. Especially the lower ones sound at the highest volume. Videos with only vocals can also be distorted, which is why speaker strips are best used for message alerts.
B&O badge is lost on this device with flat audio
The Chromebook 14 does not come with a very wide port, but has the right components for a USB mouse and headphones. On the left side of its body, we see a USB-3.1 port and a USB-C 3.1 port with a Kensington lock slot. On the right, we see another USB-A 3.1 port, a second USB-C 3.1 port, a microSD card slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack for the headset. Because it is equipped with HP’s Slip and Charge technology, you can charge a small device like a smartphone using USB-A ports, even when the laptop is off. Needless to say, the laptop avoids the fingerprint scanner.
Two USBs on the left …
… and two more on the right
Keyboard and touchpad
The Chromebook 14’s keys are flat and completely unpublished but provide considerable comfort and responsiveness when composing long emails and documents. They have decent travel but could also be done with a little more distance. The most annoying thing is when you type hard on the keys you hear empty clicks from the bottom blank surface. Yes, the whole keyboard island suffers from quite a bit of panel flex even under normal typing pressure. Unlike the more expensive Chromebook x360, the Chromebook 14 doesn’t get a dedicated lock key on the top row of the keyboard. Instead, it gets a power button, which you have to press and hold to run the Chromebook. In short, the Chromebook 14’s keyboard is good for typing every day on its expensive laptop.
Decent keyboard + touchpad setup
The Chromebook 14’s touchpad is just as good as the laptop’s keyboard. It’s functional and comfortable enough but there’s nothing to write about at home. Pointer movement accuracy is somewhere between a Windows 10-recognized accuracy unit (seen in the preferences of the Asus VivoBook X403) and a non-precision unit (seen in the preferences of the Lenovo IdeaPad S145). What doesn’t help to improve the response is the thick plastic surface of the touchpad. That being said, it’s still a decent touchpad for everyday use. What’s more, it’s fairly easy to press two click keys at the bottom of the touchpad surface.
Construction and design
The exterior cover of the Chromebook 14 is made of hard plastic, which gives the device a sturdy and hardware look but also gives a noticeably hollow feel. This feeling of emptiness becomes apparent when you press hard on the panel. The top cover has a rough matte finish, which greatly helps the user’s grip on it. Opening the lid on one side reveals a good amount of panel flex, which is common in laptops in this price range. The Chromebook 14 seems to be able to take occasional drops, but we recommend that you use it carefully.
Hard-wearing matte look on the gray top cover
Rather a 14-inch touchscreen panel with a tight lid open reveals a semi-gloss finish. The bezels around the display are fairly thick on all four sides, giving the device a slightly dated look. The display hinge is fully folded at 180 degrees, an advantage that is rarely found in laptops in this price range. At 1.54 kg, the device is quite easy to carry and does not take up much space in the backpack of a normal laptop. All things considered, the Chromebook 14 is well-designed and well-priced.
The last row
The HP Chromebook 14 is indeed a game-changer in the entry-level laptop market because it gives the average user the freedom to simply browse and edit the web with a fair amount of responsiveness compared to other Windows 10-powered models. Its price range. What’s more, it offers about ten hours of battery life over Wi-Fi. There are, however, some apparent flaws: it’s not very fast and it’s embarrassing to multitask, something that becomes clear in minutes when the number of tabs exceeds eight or ten.
So who should buy the new HP Chromebook 14? Well, the ideal buyer is someone who only needs a responsive budget laptop for web-based activities, such as checking emails, composing documents online, watching YouTube videos occasionally, and so on. They have a stable broadband connection in their home and they don’t care If they miss access to Microsoft Word, Visual Studio, Edge, Paint and many more. They’re satisfied that their budget laptops just don’t take a whole decade to open a new browser tab.