As I was about to publish my review about a month ago, the HP 11 Chromebook sale was put to an halt upon report of overheating charger. It was decided to wait until how this will affect the future of the device before putting the article online. At the core of the issue, there were “nine reports of chargers overheating and melting during use”. The recall affected 145,000 units. The charger was from a 3rd party, and not from HP, subcontracted by Google.
On the 12/17/2013, Google and HP officially started the charger recall/exchange program. In case the user did not follow the news, the ChromeOS was patched to notify the owner about the recall. A picture of the “new” and the “old” charger was displayed to the user to identify. There is an option to opt out. The charger would be sent first with a packing slip to return the recalled device.
That being said, I did not notice any overheating with the charger. I actually used it to replace my Samsung Note 3 charger. I would charge my note 3 at night and the HP chromebook during the day while I am out of the house. Using an infrared thermometer gun, the reading are; 68.4°F for the Pixel and 68.3°F for MBA and 109.6°F for the HP 11 charger, room temperature was 68.2°F. I am awaiting the replacement charger from Google and would update this review if needed.
The timing of this was very unfortunate for HP/Google. Although the charger issue was addressed, the Chromebook HP 11 is still showing as “out of stock” on the main vendors websites. Hopefully they will get back on the shelves, because, although the Chromebook HP 11 is not perfect, it is still a cutie. Let’s take a closer look.
Technical Highlights (as tested)
Size: 11.69” x 7.68” x 0.69”
Display: 11.6″ IPS
Resolution: 1366 x 768
OS: Chrome OS
CPU: Samsung Exynos 5250 Dual Processor, ARM Mali-T604 GPU
Storage: 16GB eMMC3, about 9GB free. 100GB Google Drive Cloud Storage for two years.
RAM: 2 GB DDR3L DRR3, shared with video.
Ports: 2x USB 2.0, audio in/out port, Slimport video out / Micro USB charger, output 5.25v – 3.0A.
Webcam: VGA, 480p
Battery: 30Wh li-Polymer, 2 cells
WiFi: Dual Band 2.4 and 5Ghz a/b/g/n
100GB of Google Drive storage for two years. ($4.99/month or $59.88.year)
12 free sessions of Gogo in-flight internet, participants Airlines
I admit, I probably underused my laptops. I do not do gaming on them, as they are not specced for that, WiFi increases lag time, small resolution and screen size compared to my monitors, lower FPS due to the GPU and playing on a trackpad is not ideal for me. I used to play WoW and I cannot see myself in front of a laptop for a three hours gaming session during raid nights. I would rather not get on.
Since I cancelled my cable service few years ago, I mainly use my laptop for streaming and web browsing. I carry it around the house, keeping an eye on a college football or basketball game on ESPN3 while I cook or do dishes.
In that regard, what is important to me from a laptop are, screen size and resolution, weight, to a certain extend battery capacity and a good wireless connection.
The look is appealing, I find it better looking than the Samsung Serie 3. The white glossy plastic on top of a magnesium alloy was a concerned because of the fingerprints. But on white, they go unnoticed. The two tones is actually really fun. Buyer can choose between a black or white case and one of the four Google colors, blue, red, yellow, green. I thought the case would be a bit slippery, because of the glossy plastic material, fortunately, the padding on bottom gives it a good grip.
I like the straight lines, round curves at the corners, fanless and screwless of the HP Chromebook 11. Except for the Google color strip, I appreciate the emptiness of the top. Knowing how manufacturer are obsessive with their logo, it was unexpected not to see the HP logo on the top but at the bottom of the laptop.
"YOU WOULD BARELY FEEL IT INSIDE OF YOUR BACKPACK."
The HP Chromebook 11 is not that thin, 0.69in, but it is compact, 11.69in x 7.56in, smaller than the Samsung Serie 3 and weighs only 2.3lbs. You would barely feel it inside of your backpack.
Going around the chromebook, the lack of connectivity was a bit of a surprise. I was expected the see the same ports as on the Samsung series 3. Gone are the HDMI, USB 3.0, SD card and the SIM port. All the ports are now on the right hand side of the device. 2 USB 2.0, headphone/mic jack and the power port is doubled as a slimPort video out.
Micro USB charger
The novelty here is the micro USB charging port. Obviously my first thought was that, I could use *any* micro USB power adapter to charge the HP Chromebook 11. Well, that did not work out so good. I tried several micro USB I had laying around and each time I got the same warning about the lack of power to charge the chromebook. I looked at the output on the charger and it was listed at 5.25v, 3.0A. That explained the warning.
"THE MICRO USB CHARGER PORT IS A GOOD INNOVATION."
USB ports delivered different voltages and amps. Computer USB ports are 5.0v, 0.5A, phone chargers are 5.0v, +/-1A, tablet charger runs about 5.1V, 2.1A. What the message means is, unless I use a 3.0A, 5.25v charger, the device will not charge while I am using it. There is not enough juice to power the device AND charge the laptop at the same time.
Also, and assuming the laptop is off or in hibernation, using a lower than 3.0A charger will increase the charging time. It would take three time longer to charge the chromebook using a (phone) charger at 1.0A.
I ran a few 30 mins tests with various micro USB chargers to get an idea of what to expect.
First the battery was brought down to 25%, with the charger plugged, two tests were ran. One with Netflix streaming for 30 mins, “WiFi-ON-NFLX”, then second with the lid closed, “OFF” for another 30 mins.
Only the stock HP 11 Chromebook would charge while the device was in use. So while I embrace the micro USB charger port, there are caveats that users need to plan for.
Keyboard and trackpad
I miss the little notch in the lower front of the notebook. Good luck with opening the top using only one hand with this model.
The keyboard has the same layout as last year Samsung Chromebook but I found it to be a bit “better”. The keys feel more springy and responsive. I would say it is very close to how it feels on my MBA 13”. Speaking of layout, it is not what you would find on a typical notebook. Some keys have been remapped to optimize the user browsing experience. I am referring to the backward, forward and refresh page key. It did not take me long to adopt the refresh key, believe it or not, when I switched back to my MacBook Air, I found myself reaching for it! It is also really nice that the sound controls are in the same spot, if you are a MacBook user.
As good as the keyboard is, the trackpad could be better. It is not as smooth as the Series 3. I had to lower the mouse speed setting to 50% and while I was in the settings, I activated the “Australian Scrolling”. Which is basically two fingers scrolling like on a smartphone or tablet. Two fingers up or down for scrolling the web page and left or right for the back or forward browsing history.
Another improvement from the Samsung Series 3 is the speakers location. the HP Chromebook 11 took a page from the Pixel playbook, as they are located under the keyboard. Side by side with my MBA 13”, at maximum level, the HP Chromebook sound system overpowered the MBA, with no distortion.
The display is only second to the high end Pixel. The 300(ish) nit, 1,366×768, IPS clear screen is gorgeous. Put side by side, at maximum brightness, the IPS screen is sharper than my 2012 MBA. It is true that the screen is glossy and the reflection can be annoying but I would take that over the 200 nit from the Samsung series 3 display.
"THE DISPLAY IS ONLY SECOND TO THE HIGH END PIXEL."
Normally I would not care about viewing angle because unlike a television, the screen is not shared between multiple viewers. I am fine with adjusting the screen for myself. However, this has to be the best viewing angles I have seen so far thanks to the IPS panel.
My battery test made an attempt to simulate the four following common powerless case scenarios:
1- WiFi on, online streaming, anywhere you can get WiFi.
2- WiFi off, local streaming, airplane, car, public transportations.
3- WiFi on, such as, light browsing, eReader
4- WiFi off, classroom, local e-reading, offline gaming.
The HP is equipped with the Exynos 5250 Dual Processor and 2GB RAM, some of it is shared with the video. Using the same SoC than the Samsung Serie 3 which was released last year was a bit of a disappointment. The HP Chromebook 11 feels a bit sluggish compared to the Samsung Series 3 and it shows in the Sunspider and the Peacekeeper benchmark.
"YOU DON'T WANT TO OPEN TO MANY TABS AT THE SAME TIME."
Equipped with a 1.7ghz dual core and 2GB of RAM, you may not want to open too many tabs at the same time.
As a test, I opened 25 tabs and started switching from one website to the other. It would take about anywhere from 4 to 12 seconds for the page to go from blank to finally displaying the content.
With that many tabs opened, I can pretty forget about streaming any kind of video. Actually, youtube was bearable, although with dropped frames, while Netflix was just unwatchable. Audio streaming, last.fm, was not affected by any slowness.
I tried both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, both wireless N and I did not feel any difference between the two. This clearly shows that the HP CB11 lacks of raw computing power and RAM. That being said, if the user scales down the number of opened tabs, the overall experience is acceptable.
It really depends on how much the user is familiar with the Chrome browser ecosystem. If Chrome is not your everyday default browser then you may just move along. As a seasoned chrome user, you would appreciate an appliance dedicated to the Google ecosystem.
The Google Web Store is getting richer and richer with apps. It may not as popular as the Apple store but it should cover the basic needs. Whatever it may be, productivity tools, image editors, social, utility, news, and of courses games. There is even an “Offline Apps” section for the those who doubt about Chromebook usefulness without an internet connection.
I am very much into the cloud computing in general. From the Chrome browser,I really like the centralization and the replication processes. Once I installed an app from Google web store, the app is automatically available to me on pretty much any devices I can log in with my gmail account. I can initiate an app installation from my PC to my Samsung Note 3. With the Chromebook hardware, are added, fast boot time, maintenance free, virus worry free, free OS updates and upgrades and backup worry free.
All in all, I like what HP did with this 11 inch version of the chromebook. I can work around the few shortcomings of this notebook. Keep the number of running tabs in check to alleviate performance and plan for the low battery life. One option would be to get one of those 2.1A, 10K+ mAh power pack battery and take advantage of the micro USB charging port. The selling point for me about this device are, the fun, good looking, lightweight and compact design, but the real deal is the IPS screen. The chromebook that I would really fall for would be laptop based on Haswell, IPS screen with 4GB of RAM, 11in or 13in for about $350ish. How does that sounds to you?