HP Chromebook 14 review: Solid, reliable and dependable
At first glance, you could almost mistake HP’s new Chromebook 14 for its similarly named 2014 predecessor. Both have a neat, white exterior and flashes of sky blue along the side. Open them up, however, and the differences quickly become apparent. Where the last model only had a sky-blue finish around the lid, the new Chromebook 14 is now blue throughout, giving it an even more eye-catching, vibrant look.
It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but the Chromebook 14’s keyboard tray also has a pleasantly glossy finish to it, as well as a very lightly patterned design that resembles school graph paper. It’s quite charming in its own way.
Overall, the Chromebook 14 feels well constructed, despite the copious amounts of plastic. It’s a little lighter than its predecessor at 1.69kg, compared to the former’s 1.9kg, and it’s also marginally thinner, measuring 17.8mm rather than 20.6mm.
Keyboard and touchpad
Otherwise, the two models are very similar physically. The keyboard has the same springiness to it as before, and it once again proves surprisingly comfortable to type on. The only mild annoyance is that super-thin Enter key, which can sometimes be a bit tricky to press correctly when typing at speed.
The touchpad is a good size and is coloured a slightly different shade of blue to the rest of the laptop’s interior. It has a smooth coating that lets finger swipes glide across the surface, and it was able to recognise multitouch inputs without any issues. All in all, the build quality of the HP Chromebook 14 remains as good as its predecessor, which was already very good for its price.
Specification, performance and battery life
If the HP Chromebook 14 is barely any different to its predecessor externally, it’s all change inside. It still has one of Intel’s Celeron chips, but this is now a dual-core N2840 model that runs at 2.16GHz and can Turbo Boost to 2.58GHz. That’s quite a bump up from the old 1.4GHz Celeron 2955U processor.
The amount of RAM remains unchanged at 4GB, though, and you still only have 16GB of internal storage. Luckily, there is a microSD slot to give you more room, but (as with all Chromebooks) you’ll largely be reliant on using cloud-based storage for most of your files. You do, however, get two years’ worth of 100GB Google Drive storage included.
As Chrome OS is such a lightweight operating system, it doesn’t require a particularly high-powered specification to get the most out of it. A JetStream score of 52.9 was good, but a rather mediocre 10fps in the WebGL 3D Cubes benchmark was less than half that of the Acer Chromebook R11, which is disappointing considering the Chromebook 14 has a faster processor and double the amount of RAM.
Its SunSpider benchmark score of 586ms isn’t the greatest, either, but subjectively web browsing felt responsive and reasonably quick for the most part. Only after opening several tabs did pages start to chug, but once they did eventually load, even image-heavy pages scrolled up and down without any hiccups.
Arguably, battery life is more important than straight-out performance anyway, and at 9hrs 14mins (around the same level as the previous HP Chromebook 14) it’s excellent. That’s more than enough to get you through a full day’s use, especially since Chromebooks are generally used for lighter tasks than their full laptop counterparts.
That’s not to say Chromebooks can’t be used for anything more taxing than web browsing, however, and the HP has plenty of connectivity to help it out in this regard. There are plenty of USB ports for connecting external devices, with two USB 2 sockets and a single USB 3 port, while an HDMI output lets you connect it to an external display or TV.
The built-in speakers were better than average, too – good enough to watch films on Netflix without having to reach for your headphones every time. If you want to listen to music, though, you’re still better off using the headphone jack.
The quality of the screen was one of the most disappointing elements of the last Chromebook 14, but sadly the new model doesn’t fare much better. It has the same 14.1in, 1,366 x 768-resolution display as the last Chromebook 14, and it achieved almost identical scores in our calibration tests as well, suggesting HP might have resorted to using the same panel.
The black level was once again high at 0.82cd/m2, meaning shadows appear grey and washed out rather than dark and inky. It’s reasonably bright for a laptop, reaching 239cd/m2 at maximum settings, but combined with that high black level, its contrast ratio is a mere 291:1, which leaves much to be desired.
Admittedly, the new Chromebook 14’s colour accuracy is marginally better this time round, at 64.6% of the sRGB colour gamut, but it’s still not particularly rich or vibrant. All this is par for the course for an entry-level Chromebook, though, and the display’s matte finish does help to combat overhead reflections.
The HP Chromebook 14 builds upon a lot of things I liked about the old model. It’s still great value for what you’re getting in terms of build quality and general performance – particularly the battery life – and if you’re looking for a general, all-round performer for Chrome OS, then this will serve you well.
If you’re after something a little more portable, however, or a device that serves double-duties as a 2-in-1, then you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere. At this price, I’d recommend you consider the Acer Chromebook R11.
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