Cheap, well-built and with a great screen, if you want a laptop for mostly online work, this is a great choice
When you sit down and think about how you use your laptop, you’d probably be surprised at how little you use actual applications and how reliant you are on the internet and online services. The question is, do you really need a full-on Windows or Mac laptop, if all you really need to do is use a browser?
For the people that answer no to that question, Google believes it has the perfect product: the HP Chromebook 11. Rather than running a full Desktop OS, this £229 laptop uses Chrome OS, which runs all of its applications through the Chrome web browser, but adds in some slick offline modes for those times you can’t get online. It has to be said that at this price, it’s a very attractive option for a lot of people.
Low cost, often means corners have been cut and quality is lacking, but these pitfalls have been avoided here and we have to say that first impressions are incredibly positive. We’ve seen cheap laptops before, but none to quite have the same build quality as this. Yes, it’s plastic, but the metal-reinforced case means that it feels tough and there’s none of the creakiness that other low-cost Chromebooks have had. It also looks great, with the white gloss plastic neatly bevelled and curved, making the Chromebook 11 look a lot more expensive than it really is.
Build quality is one thing, but there’s always the danger that corners are cut inside to save money and to keep the cost down. Fortunately, with the Chromebook 11 that isn’t the case, as the right choices have been made for the right reason.
So, it’s goodbye to the high-speed Intel Core i5 processor that was used in the high-end Chromebook Pixel, and hello to a dual-core Samsung Exynos 5 Dual ARM-based SoC instead. This move would be madness on a Windows-based laptop, but ChromeOS is designed for efficient CPUs.
We can’t run our usual benchmarks on the OS, but we ran the browser-based SunSpider test. This ran in 716ms, which puts the Chromebook 11 at fast Android-tablet speeds. We also ran the WebXPRT test, which returned a score of 324, which again is comparable to fast Android tablets. In other words, this laptop is more than fast enough for the web applications it’s designed for. There’s no worry about handling video, as the Exynos SoC will happily handle HD video. We managed to play both Netflix and Google Play Film content with no problem.
Perhaps more importantly, in actual use, the laptop is extremely responsive. All of ChromeOS’s animations are handled smoothly and apps start extremely quickly. Flick open the lid and the laptop powers on immediately. In this regard, we’re at Macbook-levels of power-on times.
CHROMEBOOK 11 SCREEN
HP has fitted a high-quality 11in IPS screen with a resolution of 1,366×768. Given that Chrome OS takes up very little of the screen space with clutter and that there’s a full-screen mode, this is plenty of resolution. On this screen size, everything looks incredibly sharp and easy to read.
A glossy coating means that reflections can be a bit of a problem at some brightness levels, but sat on a train next to a window we found that setting the screen to full brightness effectively countered this problem.
Viewing angles are fantastic and you can clearly see the screen no matter what angle you have it at. The screen doesn’t fold back 180-degrees, but you get enough of an angle on it that you can see if comfortably while the Chromebook 11 is sat on your lap. Colours look great, too, with plenty of vibrancy and detail in all of our test shots.
CHROMEBOOK 11 KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD
As there’s no touchscreen, the keyboard and touchpad are the only ways to interact with the laptop. Starting with the keyboard, we have to say that we’re impressed. It’s edge-to-edge inside the laptop, which means that each of the keys is a decent size.
While not quite on the level of the Macbook Air’s keyboard, we found that it was responsive and key travel was good. Feedback is pretty good, although we found that the keys are a little soft, so you need to make sure you hit them well. After a few minutes of getting used to it, we were soon touch typing at full speed.
Layout takes a little getting used to, as there are some new keys and some that are either missing or in a different place. For example, there’s a Search button where Capslock is traditionally located, while there’s no Delete key (instead you can press Alt-Backspace).
Google has added some ChromeOS shortcut keys to the top of the keyboard where the Function keys would normally be. These include buttons to go backwards and forwards in the browser, reload a page, go fullscreen and switch between different apps. There are also dedicated buttons for screen brightness, volume (including mute) and a power button.
A touchpad sits just underneath the keyboard. It’s a decent size considering the constraints of a laptop with an 11in screen. It’s intelligent, too, deactivating while you type, so that you don’t accidentally brush against it and move the mouse cursor; if only all Windows laptops would be so smart.
It supports some gestures, too. With a two-finger swipe you can go backwards or forwards in the browser, a two-fingered click is right-click, and you can also use it to scroll. We turned on the ‘Australian’ scrolling operation, which works exactly like on a Mac and a touchscreen tablet: you slide two fingers up on the touchpad to move down the screen, and down on the touchpad to move up through a document. It doesn’t support pinch to zoom, though, which is a bit of a shame.
|Processor||Samsung Exynos 5 Dual|
|Processor clock speed||1.7GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Viewable size||11.6 in|
|Graphics Processor||Samsung Exynos 5|
|Total storage capacity||16GB|
|Optical drive type||none|
Ports and Expansion
|Wired network ports||none|
|Wireless networking support||802.11n (dual-band)|
|PC Card slots||0|
|Supported memory cards||none|
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
|Operating system restore option||restore partition|
|Warranty||one year RTB|