I’m into the Google eco system in a big way. Although a long term Apple fan, I have always enjoyed the Google eco system, making the final jump from iOS to Android early this year with the sale of my 4S and the subsequent purchase of the Nexus 4. I’m so glad I jumped ship.
The Google eco-system, in my eyes, offers me more than Apple. I love the ease of collaboration in Google Docs, the online lifestyle and, of course, the excellent social networking platform that is Google Plus (you can find me here).
I use Chrome on the desktop and have a Nexus 4 with me wherever I go. I have been wanting a device that sits between the two, and definitely something that offers me the full and immersive Google experience. A tablet seemed the obvious choice.
I have been hanging my nose over a Nexus 7 for some time, finally getting a prolonged “play” with one a few days ago. While I love the form factor, I decided it didn’t offer me enough over and above the Nexus 4 (the display isn’t that much bigger than the N4 in reality). So, I decided to look at different options for enjoying the online lifestyle.
I’ve been intrigued by the Chromebook for a long time. The only factor keeping me away thus far being that of performance. Yes, they are cheap, that’s the whole point, but the hardware has always been that little too underpowered in my opinion. I’ve been looking at both the Samsung Series 3 (ARM based) and the Acer C7 (Intel based), arguing myself in and out of each. The Samsung offers silent operation (as it is ARM based, there’s no need for a fan) and very fast boot times (SSD FTW!). However, I’ve always maintained that the ARM processor just doesn’t offer up enough grunt. Yes, it’s a browser based OS and it doesn’t need a lot of processing power but I’v always felt it would struggle given certain use cases. So, the C7 then. It has an Intel processor. Ok, it needs a fan to keep it from cooking itself but it offers up that additional power to make the whole experience that little bit more special. The downside? A hard drive. That means a slower boot time and additional noise.
Enter the HP Pavilion Chromebook.
The spoiler….. cutting to the chase, I recommend this Chromebook. I’m pleasantly surprised with the performance, the display is nice and bright and the built in Altec Lansing speakers, especially given the price point of this Chromebook, are very good. So, to the detail….
HP have a detailed specification page for the 14-c001ea here.
In summary it has:
- Intel® Celeron® 847 with Intel HD Graphics (1.1 GHz, 2 MB cache, 2 cores)
- 4 GB DDR3 RAM
- 16GB SSD
- 14″ 1366 x 768 200 nits LED display
- 802.11b/g/n WiFi
- HD webcam (5.7MP)
- Gesture enabled touchpad
- 3 x USB ports
- HDMI out
- Headphone / Speaker out
- Card reader
The hardware is capable (obviously not blistering fast) and pages scroll through at a reasonable pace. The display is nice and bright (200 NITS) and offers clear and crisp text and graphics. The display does have a gloss finish which means plenty of reflections but I think gloss versus matt display overlays are a personal preference thing. I don’t dislike the gloss finish and, to be honest, the reflections don’t seem to get in the way.
The HP Chromebok has an integrated HD webcam, microphone and, given the price point, surprisingly good Altec Lansing speakers. While the speakers may lack the depth and bass of a larger or more expensive laptop, they are among the best I’ve heard on a mobile computing device. I was actually very pleasantly surprised.
The casing is gloss black (dust magnet) and the build quality is very good for such a budget device. It doesn’t feel flimsy at all. Weight comes in at 1.8Kg.
The keyboard is full sized, with function keys along the top as you’d expect (but they don’t behave as you might be used to on a traditional OS/laptop – see below). Navigations and editing keys (page up/down, home, end and delete) are arranged in a vertical column on the right hand side of the keyboard. They are in a less traditional layout but that’s just a minor adjustment to get used to.
The keyboard is easy to use and I seem to have adapted to it very easily, suggesting that the layout is both dimensionally and ergonomically a good fit (for me at least).
F3: Refresh page
F4: Switch between maximise and restore
F5: Task (window) switching
F6: Decrease brightness (takes the brightness all the way to zero – black screen)
F7: Increase brightness
F10: Increase volume
F11: Doesn’t appear to do anything (I was expecting full screen mode – which worked on the demo model I tried at the shop but apparently does nothing on my machine).
Update: After forcing a USB restore the HP is happily updating itself to the latest version of Chrome (which also brought with it full screen mode via F11)
F12: Invokes the source/terminal window
F13: Long press locks the chromebook (back to the log in screen
Shift + F4: Toggles full screen mode (what I expected F11 to do)
Fn + F13: toggles the wireless on and off
The Pavilion provides Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n, 3 USB ports, HDMI out, media (SD) card slot, RJ45 port, power socket and headphone jack. The obligatory desktop lock aperture is also provided.
I’ve connected a Logitech wireless mouse (nano transceiver) and it worked perfectly. The settings in Chrome recognise when a mouse is plugged in and offers up specific settings for the mouse in addition to the touchpad (speed, button swap etc).
The touchpad is ok in size (a little larger would have been welcome) and provides reasonably precise control of the pointer. The touchpad incorporates gesture based controls, allowing two finger scrolling (all directions), two finger tap to invoke the context menu (right mouse click) and the obligatory tap / double tap.
The battery is a 4 cell Li-Ion fully detachable unit (great for hot swapping to give an additional 4 hours of usage). Battery life seems to be in-line with the quoted 4 hours or so. I’ve used the Chromebook from full to empty and estimate the usage time to be around 4-4.5 hours.
The SSD, Intel processor and 4GB RAM combination allows for impressive boot and shut down times. I clocked the boot from cold at around 6-7 seconds (to the log in screen) and the shut down time at 3-4 seconds. Wake from standby is near instantaneous.
I’ve not used the webcam in anger yet but dialling in to a quick hangout with myself (yeah, I know!) the quality looks good. Similarly, I haven’t been able to test out the microphone but will add an update once I’ve had time to jump on a hangout.
As shipped, the version of Chrome on the HP Pavilion is:
Platform 2913.200.0 (Official Build) stable-channel butterfly
I’m hoping this triggers an update soon. I have switched to the Beta channel in the hope that it triggers an update but it would be nice to force or manually invoke an update to the latest version (my understanding is that the device updates every six weeks or so).
Update: After forcing a USB restore the HP is happily updating itself to the latest version of Chrome
I made a good purchase. This is a very capable machine, offering good performance, great speakers and an overall form factor that is both easy to use and pleasing on the eye. I haven’t tried the Samsung Series 3 or the Acer C7 for any length of time so I can’t offer up a comparison. However, I would highly recommend the HP Pavilion 14-c001ea.
Check the gallery for a few photo’s I took (not the greatest quality but that’s the Nexus 4 for you).