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HP Chromebook 11: Google gives the low end some much-needed luster

Melissa Riofrio | Oct. 14, 2013
The HP Chromebook 11 could have been just another low-cost container for Google's browser-based OS. But Google stepped in to make it special--and maybe even spare it the mockery of PC snobs who can't wrap their heads around the Chromebook concept.

I like the lightly textured clickpad better than the nubby touchpad on the HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook, which launched earlier this year. Its responsiveness varied from perfect (during one-finger cursor navigation) to frustratingly inconsistent (during two-finger scrolling).

The 11.6-inch IPS display has a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels and a wide, 176-degree viewing angle. At a little more than 10 inches wide and about 5.75 inches tall, the screen is more letterbox-shaped than rectangular, which keeps the Chromebook 11 compact but restricts what you can see in long documents and Web pages. As for video, I streamed the HD version of  Pacific Rim on the display, and noticed occasional hiccups and blurry video compression, but nothing unexpected from a low-end machine.

Google says the laptop's 30Wh battery will last six hours. Other reviews have indicated something closer to four or five hours. We're still running our tests and will update the story with our results.

A more colorful experience
 
Even the workhorse rubber feet on the bottom of the Chromebook 11 earn a dash of color.

Relative to other entry-level Chromebooks, the $280 Chromebook 11 has a much more distinctive design. It's extremely compact and light, weighing just 2.3 pounds and measuring a mere half-inch thick. It comes in shiny white with blue, red, yellow, or green color accents. The colors are bright, but are used sparingly around the periphery of the keyboard and on the bottom of chassis. Given this attention to detail, I was surprised that the bezel around the display wasn't colored, but rather a generic charcoal on all models.

Of course, caring about laptop colors is completely superficial, and has nothing to do with performance and usability. And yet it matters. Think of the cheap-chic product lines that bring high-end designer names to stores like Target and H&M. These are products that even struggling students can buy with excitement rather than resignation.

HP Chromebook 11
If you're not into obsessive cleaning, the piano-black Chromebook 11 might be the better bet, if not nearly as special-looking.

The Chromebook 11 also comes in a shiny "piano black." This version looks boring and safe next to its flamboyant cousin, but it doesn't run the risk of looking schmutzy all the time. Granted, I haven't spent enough time with the white Chromebook 11 for it to get truly dirty, but within just a few days of use, it was visibly collecting lint.

Even though the HP Chromebook 11 is completely different from the high-end Pixel, it gets the same rating because it achieves the same mission. It advances Google's Chrome OS platform not with what it does, but how it does it. It exudes style and even a bit of unapologetic Chromebook pride. HP says the Chromebook 11 will ship on October 16. I expect that the white ones will sell better, and a canny retailer will bundle a microfiber cleaning cloth with each one.

 

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