The HP Chromebook 14 is a decent, if not slightly expensive, Chrome OS laptop
When you sit back and take stock of how you most often use your computer or laptop, many will realise that internet browsing, e-mail and work take up the majority of their time. For the people with basic requirements a cheaper laptop makes a lot of sense. However, many cheap Windows-based have mediocre performance even for these most basic of tasks. With its series of Chromebooks made by manufacturing partners, Google has long been after this market of low-requirement consumers.
Chromebooks are laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS, a slimmed down operating system built around online connectivity, cloud storage and running apps and extensions through the Chrome browser. Fortunately, you don’t have to always be online to use all of a Chromebook’s functions. Google has considerably improved its offline support for apps, such as Google Drive, so you’re able to carry on working with the latest synced version of your documents that then re-sync as soon as you’re back online.
The HP Chromebook 14 is one of many Chromebooks available on the market. However, at £269 for the 3G-enabled model or £249 without, it’s a little more expensive than some of its rivals. Where that extra money goes is towards some pretty respectable build quality. Our review model came in an eye-catching turquoise colour that exudes the laid-back, fun and no-frills appeal that Google has looked to cultivate with Chromebooks.
The turquoise colouring covers the entire exterior of the chassis that is made from a semi-soft touch plastic, both for the lid and base, and the bezel around the screen has also not been left untouched. Arguably, a black bezel helps with perceived contrast levels in a display but it’s difficult to say what sort of impact this has had here. The cheerful colouring will at least help raise your spirits if you’re frantically working away. There’s a turquoise accent around the base’s trim as well, while the main body around the keyboard is metallic silver.
The keyboard was reasonably good with a decent amount of travel to the keys. There are some interesting choices, like the traditional Caps Lock key that has been replaced with a Search button, but this can at least be changed back in the settings menu if you wish. The Enter key is also annoyingly slim, which meant that we missed it on occasion. The touchpad is nice and large and we found it extremely responsive. The integrated mouse button was also pleasant to use.
As Chrome OS is so streamlined, performance when navigating around the OS is nice and responsive as there’s little bloatware or background applications encumbering performance.
The HP Chromebook 14 uses a dual-core Intel Celeron 2995U that runs at 1.4GHz. This has been a popular choice for Chromebooks as it’s more than capable of handling Chrome OS’ basic tasks. In a Windows-based laptop it might struggle but Chrome OS has much lower requirements.
This still isn’t the ideal storage situation if you don’t have internet access, but the Chromebook 14 does have ample USB drives to plug in an external flash drive: there are two USB3 ports and a single USB2. If you want to connect an external display there’s a HDMI port and a headset jack as well. Finally, storage can be expanded with an SD card as well, which might be a good idea as large capacity SD cards are very reasonably priced.
One of the impressive aspects of Chrome OS is how quickly updates are rolled out, so it’s an ever-changing operating system. It’s certainly improved in leaps and bounds since its inception and offers some useful features like telling you how much time is needed until the battery reaches full charge when the system is plugged in.
The model we reviewed included 3G support for mobile internet and came with a data SIM pre-installed. This certainly improves the usability of the Chromebook 14 as Chrome OS is still quite dependent on having internet access for syncing files stored in the cloud. You get 24 months of internet access provided by Fogg, with 250MB of bandwidth a month and the ability to buy more. This starts at £5.99 for an additional 500MB valid for 30 days as an add-on but there are also subscription packages.
The Chromebook 14 uses a 14in 1,366×768 resolution panel that appears a little grainy but overall we were generally happy with its quality for the price, even if our test images appeared slightly washed out. The display’s maximum brightness was a little lacking for our tastes and you’ll struggle to see the screen if you plan on using the Chromebook 14 outdoors.
Black levels were measured at 0.84cd/m2, which is worse than we would have hoped for and contrast also wasn’t great at 284:1. Coverage of the sRGB colour gamut was 58.4 per cent, although as you likely won’t be able to do any colour intensive work, such as image editing, this might not be too important.
The battery lasted an excellent 9 hours and 3 minutes when playing a video, which makes it one of the longer-lasting Chromebooks we have tested. We were generally impressed by the HP Chromebook 14. If you mostly want a cheap laptop for internet and email, this is a great choice, although there are some cheaper Chromebooks available.
|Dual-core 1.4GHz Intel Celeron 2955U
|Memory slots (free)
|Intel HD Graphics
|Optical drive type
|Ports and expansion
|2x USB3, 1x USB
|802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G modem
|Memory card reader
|SDHC, SD, MMC
|Operating system restore option
|Parts and labour warranty
|One-year collect and return
|Price inc VAT