HP Chromebook 11 review: first look

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Meet the Chromebook family’s newest arrival – the HP Chromebook 11. With an 11.6in chassis, an IPS screen and a dual-core ARM processor, this £229 Chrome OS device is hoping to tempt buyers away from budget Windows 8 laptops.

Fantastic plastic

If Google was hoping to dispel the plasticky image of previous Chromebooks – no, we’re not talking about the Chromebook Pixel – then the HP Chromebook 11 might just be the device to do it. Our sample came finished in gloss white with baby blue accents (a black version is also on the cards), and while some of the team hated it, others were quietly complimentary about its slick new exterior.

It’s less creaky than previous efforts, too. It’s still clad all in high-gloss plastics, but the metal-reinforced chassis means this 1.04kg laptop feels impressively tight and well-constructed for a bargain-basement £229.

Open the lid, and the Chromebook 11 immediately fires into life – getting started is just as easy as ever. After ten seconds or so, the setup window pops up, prompts you to connect to the nearest Wi-Fi network and enter your Google account details. That done, you’re up and running.

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Make no mistake, the 11.6in IPS display is a huge leap forward. The native resolution of 1,366 x 768 isn’t something to shout from the rooftops, but the bright, saturated colours and wide viewing angles are a significant step up from previous cheap-and-cheerful Chromebooks. We measured a maximum brightness of 342cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1,142:1 – that’s better than many laptops we’ve reviewed at four times the price.

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Hardware and benchmarks

Performance isn’t half bad either. We did our best to trip up the dual-core 1.7GHz Exynos 5250 processor (the same chip found in the Nexus 10 and Samsung’s Chromebook) and failed miserably. Full HD videos from Redbull.tv and BBC iPlayer streamed without a hiccup, and although there was the odd stutter on really image-heavy sites such as 500px.com, performance generally felt pretty spritely. The benchmark results weren’t half bad either: the HP finished the SunSpider benchmark in 881ms, and racked up a score of 1,093 in the Peacekeeper HTML5 test.

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Features-wise, there’s a couple of USB 2 ports, a 3.5mm headset jack and – most notably of all – a micro USB port which both charges the Chromebook from the supplied 5V, 3a adapter and doubles as a video output. HP has also crammed in dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.

All in all, it’s a promising debut from the HP Chromebook 11. Essentials such as the Scrabble-tile keyboard and multitouch touchpad seem to hit the mark, the slightly rubberised keys are super-comfy to type on, and the new curvy physique matches good looks with decent build quality. It will be interesting to see whether it manages the quoted six hours of battery life under normal usage.

The burning question is whether Chrome OS can hold up its side of the bargain, and we’ll be giving it a thorough workout over the next week or so to find out. Keep an eye out for the full PC Pro verdict.

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