Introduction and design
Chromebooks have come a long way since their budget-priced beginnings. In the last few years, we’ve seen devices push boundaries for this class of laptop with Full HD displays, faster processors and better build quality. Now, HP is going one step farther to introduce its take on the Chromebook 13, an arguably luxury device.
From top to bottom, this is a high-brow, 13-inch clamshell designed to be the thinnest in its class. What’s more, HP is pushing it as the first Chromebook with a high-resolution, QHD+ screen and an Intel Core M processor.
However, with a starting price of $499 or £638 (about AU$670) for a Pentium-powered model, the HP Chromebook 13 is a bit too luxurious for its own good.
The HP Chromebook 13 pulls off being the thinnest device of its kind yet in style, with a brushed aluminum panels covering the screen lid and keyboard deck. Measuring in at a scant 0.5 inches thick, it’s even slicker than the 0.7-inch Samsung Chromebook 3 and 0.6-inch Chromebook Pixel 2.
Beyond measurements, HP has designed a stylish, cloud-powered notebook that pulls from its own and Google’s best designs. The austere, silver and gray aesthetic ties back to the Chromebook Pixel.
Meanwhile, at the laptop’s rear, you’ll find a mirrored hinge similar to the HP EliteBook Folio. Though, this time around, the mechanism is limited to only tilting back 135-degrees rather pulling off an 180-degree split.
Of course, that’s not to say this 13-inch Chromebook doesn’t establish an identity of its own. The slight off-angle front edge and sharp corners affords it a futuristic slant. HP also pays close attention to little details, like making the Chrome logo monochromatic and the HP logo chrome (teehee) to keep in line with the unit’s silvered exterior.
Another neat element is that the lefthand edge droops down – HP calls this its ‘chin design’ – to accommodate a full-sized USB 3.0 port. We wished HP would have done the same thing on the right side, so it would come with a full-sized SD card reader rather than a slot large enough for only a microSD card.
As if looks weren’t enough to captivate us, the HP Chromebook 13 also comes with one of the crispest typing experiences we’ve had on a laptop. Key travel isn’t especially deep, but stiff switches and the thinness of the notebook combine into a satisfying thump when you bottom out the keys – so yes, we love thumping the keyboard.
Likewise, the trackpad feels delightfully tight without making clicking too hard. However, we wish HP would have moved the touchpad over a few millimeters over to the left, so it would line up with the center of the keyboard rather than being planted in the middle.
The HP Chromebook 13 comes with the sharpest screen ever put on a Chromebook, with a stunning resolution of 3,200 x 1,800 pixels. The QHD+ panel easily tops everyone else, including the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work and Chromebook Pixel – both of which come with 2,560 x 1,700 touchscreen displays.
While the 3,200 x 1,800 screen looks fantastic, this signature feature is the only available screen option for the Chromebook 13. We wish there were also a Full HD screen panel. It might not have the same pizzazz as 3,200 x 1,800 pixels, but it would help lower the entry price and prolong battery life as well.
That said, the QHD+ display has some undeniable benefits as it brings out the full beauty of full-resolution images and video while smoothing out text. Vibrant colors and deep contrast are also well represented, and HP has created a display finish that’s just glossy enough to accentuate picture quality without reflecting a ton of glare.
Unfortunately, there’s no option for a touchscreen, which is becoming all too crucial as Android apps are integrated into Chrome OS.
Specifications, performance and features
For the longest time, we’ve felt like Intel Core M processors would be a shoo-in for Chromebooks as they offer more performance and better energy efficiency than Pentium processors. The good news is Intel’s power-sipping have made their debut with this 13-inch laptop, the bad news is it’ll end up costing you quite a bit.
An Intel Core m3-equipped Chromebook 13 comes priced at $599 or £730 (about AU$800), while our mid-range Intel Core m5 and 8GB of RAM configuration comes at an even steeper $819 or AU$1,288 (about £620). Even the Pentium-powered base model comes at with a considerable $499 or £638 (about AU$670) price tag.
Compared to other premium options, like the $429 or £513 (about AU$570) Dell Chromebook 13 and $599 (about £460, AU$790) Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, HP offers an arguably good deal for the super high-resolution screen.
Here is the HP Chromebook 13 configuration sent to techradar for review:
- CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57 (dual-core, 4 MB cache, up to 2.8 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
- RAM: 8GB DDR3 RAM (1,866MHz)
- Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) UWVA WLED eDP BrightView
- Storage: 32GB eMMC
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.0, headset jack
- Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 802.11ac (2×2) WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2
- Camera: HD webcam
- Weight: 2.86 pounds
- Size: 12.59 x 8.64 x 0.50 inches (W x D x H)
It’s fair to say an Intel Core m5 processor is overkill for a Chromebook, but we can’t argue that it doesn’t produce results. This 13-inch machine didn’t buckle under the load of having keep several dozen web browsing tabs open with another half dozen Google documents, Google Music streaming, Slack’s web client and playing a handful of streaming videos.
Here’s how the HP Chromebook 13 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- Octane: 27,976
- Mozilla Kraken: 1,025ms
- Battery Life (techradar movie test): 8 hours and 1 minutes
The HP Chromebook 13 is only a quarter step behind the Intel Core i5-powered Acer Chromebook 14 for Work. It’s also performs twice as fast as the Pentium-equipped Dell Chromebook 13.
Of course, unless you visit the most media rich websites all the time, all this performance won’t really matter. The real benchmark for all Chromebooks is how long they can last you through the day, and this premium machine does pretty well for itself.
In our video playback benchmark test – which involves playing Guardians of the Galaxy on a continuous loop at 50% screen brightness and volume until the battery is exhausted – the HP Chromebook 13 ran for 8 hours and a minute.
By comparison, the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work lasted 9 hours and 36 minutes, while the Dell Chromebook 13 turned in after 14 hours and 30 minutes.
It’s clear the QHD+ screen is chipping away from the all day battery life we’ve come to expect from Chromebooks. Nine to 10 hours of usage is still exceptional compared to most Windows 10 laptops and more than enough to get you through the work day, but expect to plug this cloud-connected notebook into the wall more often than others.
We’ve seen Chromebooks steadily rise from their humble beginnings to inherit Full HD displays and more capable processors. HP Chromebook 13 takes the series to even greater heights with the Intel Core M processors and the highest-resolution display ever put on a Chrome OS machine while being the thinnest yet.
The HP Chromebook 13 is an absolute thing of beauty. Every element of its design works together to create a sharp, monochromatic aesthetic. Beyond the attractive exterior, this Chromebook is a jewel of engineering considering how thin it is.
The 3,200 x 1,800 resolution display is a treat for looking through full resolution photos. Meanwhile, the Intel Core M processor can easily get you through a strenuous day at work with nine hours of battery life.
While we’re fans of the sharp display on the Chromebook 13, it ends up ruining battery life. All those pixels also end up bringing up the price to an unreasonable level for most interested buyers. For these reasons, we would have much rather preferred if HP offered the Chromebook 13 with a 1080p touchscreen display.
Ultimately, the decision to buy the HP Chromebook comes down price and whether you’re ready to spend at least 500 bucks for it. This is, without a doubt, the Chromebook you want – not the one you need.
If you’re in need of a professional-looking Chromebook for work, you won’t find HP’s QHD+ screen and ultra-slim form factor on the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work or Dell Chromebook 13. That said, these two features aren’t essential for working in Google Docs and web browsing throughout the day.
If you’ve been pining after the Chromebook Pixel, but weren’t jazzed about the squarish 3:2 screen, this is the Chromebook for you. It comes in a more traditional laptop form factor and an even high-res screen for half the price. However, the lack of a touchscreen, and the fact that it costs twice that of most Chromebooks, are two factors you’ll have to carefully weigh when purchasing this luxury machine.
>> Source: TechRadar