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HP Chromebook 11 review: Affordable style for life in the cloud

JR Raphael | Oct. 14, 2013
Google's latest Chromebook brings a fresh look to the Chrome OS universe -- and for $279, the laptop has some interesting things to offer.

In addition to the Drive space, the Chromebook 11 comes with 12 free sessions of GoGo Inflight Internet service and a 60-day subscription to Google Play Music All Access, Google's on-demand song streaming service.

The software
Chrome OS is a very different kind of computing experience than what you get with a Mac or Windows PC, as the platform is cloud-centric and revolves around Web-based services and applications instead of traditional local programs.

That means instead of using Microsoft Office, you use Office 365 or Google Docs (or the native document- and spreadsheet-editing now built into the OS). Instead of Photoshop, you use a cloud-based image editor like Pixlr. With the advent of a category of programs called packaged apps, there's a huge variety of applications that run in the browser but look and act like regular programs, too. It's an atypical model, and it comes with some interesting pros and cons.

Because of the platform's cloud-centric nature, all of your apps, settings and data are always synced and consistent across devices. You don't have to deal with bloated software, messy drivers or cumbersome software upgrades; everything just works, and all of your software — including the OS itself — is updated automatically and silently over time.

The setup also negates the need for virus protection, as the very architecture of Chrome OS makes such precautions unnecessary. The cloud-based model also allows Chromebooks to get faster over time instead of growing increasingly bogged down and poky as traditional computers tend to do.

At a Glance
HP Chromebook 11
Price: $279
Pros: Clean, modern design; great display; outstanding keyboard; excellent speakers; silent operation; uses micro-USB charging port
Cons: Not designed for power-user-level performance; lacks USB 3.0; lacks native microSD card support; limited local storage

And contrary to what you may have heard in the past, Chrome OS is quite capable without an active Internet connection; you can browse through the scores of offline-ready apps in Google's Chrome Web Store to see for yourself. There's really very little you can't do offline on a Chromebook these days.

All considered, Chrome OS certainly isn't for everyone — if you rely on specific local programs for your work or don't care for the idea of cloud storage, a Chromebook probably won't be the right fit for you — but if you already live mainly on the Web, the platform can be a refreshing change that provides the experience you want while eliminating many of the hassles traditional computing requires.

I've dabbled in Chrome OS myself since its launch and now use it on a near-daily basis. You can visit some of my previous coverage for a more in-depth look at the software and what it's like to use in the real world — like my two-week-long hands-on evaluation and my myth-busting list of misconceptions about the platform.


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