Google’s Chromebook may not get much respect in some tech circles, but HP offers a vote of confidence with a Chrome-based laptop of its own, the HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook. Blending the design aesthetics of a budget Pavilion laptop with the free web-centric Chrome OS, the 14in Pavilion Chromebook is the closest thing we’ve seen to a standard laptop coming out under the Google flag.
Were it not for the candy-coloured Google Chrome logo on the lid of the laptop, the HP Pavilion Chromebook would look like a 14in version of the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z, HP’s inexpensive, AMD-powered Ultrabook alternative. The chassis uses the same plastic construction, with a glossy “sparkling black” finish. The entire laptop is also fairly lightweight, tipping the scales at just 1.8kg.
The chiclet keyboard feels like an HP keyboard, with comfortable spacing but a slightly insubstantial feel when typing. Unlike other HP laptops, the Pavilion Chromebook features a layout that has been tweaked specifically for use with Google’s Chrome OS. Instead of a Windows key, there’s a search key that opens up a fresh Google search screen.
The F1-F12 buttons have also picked up a few Chrome-specific functions – going across from left to right, these are: Escape, Back, Forward, Reload, Full Screen, Next Window, Brightness Down/Up, Volume Mute/Down/Up, Power. Also, there’s a row of keys along the right-hand edge of the keyboard adding a few familiar functions not offered on the smaller Chromebooks, like a Delete key, along with Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End keys.
The touchpad is also a bit closer to the Windows-norm than the buttonless clickpads seen on the Samsung The Pavilion Chromebook is the largest Chromebook yet, with a 14in display that dwarfs the 11in displays seen on the Acer C7 and the Samsung Series 3. The Google Chromebook Pixel (LTE) comes closer in size (12.85in) but with its Retina-like resolution, touch capability, and unique 3:2 aspect ratio, the Pixel’s display isn’t really comparable to any of the inexpensive Chromebooks. Instead, the Pavilion Chromebook, with its 14in screen and 1,366 x 768 resolution display, is again most similar to the HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z, which was actually a bit bigger at 15.6in.
What sets Chromebooks apart from any other laptop is Chrome OS, Google’s web-centric operating system. It’s a different approach to the operating system, focusing almost exclusively on the web browser and shifting many of the familiar tools of a PC into the browser by way of browser extensions, cloud services, and apps. Most of your basic functions are still there, with a basic file manager, Google Drive (Google’s Office effort), Google Media Player for video and music playback, and Gmail, all with an offline option for those times you’re away from a Wi-Fi connection.
Google’s growing stable of apps and browser extensions do the work of locally installed software, but with a cloud-based twist – most (but not all) apps rely on online data, or shift storage or processing demands elsewhere. Whether it’s photo editing (Pixlr), accounting (Wave Accounting), CRM and sales tracking (base), and a wide array of games and entertainment options, Google’s thousands of apps and extensions should fill most of the needs fulfilled by traditionally installed software in other circumstances. It may require shifting your perceptions and necessitates embracing the always online mentality, but there’s not a lot you can do with a laptop that you can’t also do (to some degree) using Chrome OS.
The Pavilion 14 Chromebook is equipped with three USB 2.0 ports, a headset jack, a wired LAN connection, HDMI output, and a full-size, full-depth SD card slot – in contrast, the SD slot on the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook irritatingly left half the card sticking out when in use. Internally, the 14in Chromebook boasts 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, along with an HP TrueVision webcam and integrated microphone.
As with the Samsung Series 3, the Pavilion 14 Chromebook offers little in the way of local storage – a mere 16GB – but the lack of on-board storage is meant to encourage storing data in the cloud. To ease this transition, Google gives new Chromebook owners a free 100GB of added capacity in Google Drive for storing all of their documents, media, and files.
HP also covers the Pavilion 14 Chromebook with a one year warranty, as well as one year of hardware support and a year of software support (with product registration, otherwise it’s 30 days). Customer reviews on sites like Amazon, however, suggest that HP’s normally excellent tech support may not be trained to deal with Chrome OS, so troubleshooting may be more problematic.
The HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook is outfitted with a 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847 processor, paired with 2GB of RAM, which can be upgraded to 4GB. This is the same processor found in the Acer C7 Chromebook, and the performance is similar, though not identical. According to BrowserMark test results, the Pavilion 14 Chromebook is slightly faster than the Samsung Series 3, but falls a bit behind the Acer C7. The newer Acer C7, which also uses an Intel Celeron 847 but with 4GB of RAM, continues to reign as the fastest of the inexpensive Chromebooks.
HP has also equipped the Pavilion 14 Chromebook with a removable 37Wh, 4-Cell lithium-ion battery. This opens up the possibility of purchasing a second battery, which is almost a necessity – the battery only lasted 3 hours and 36 minutes in our streaming video rundown test. While this is about half an hour longer than the life of the first Acer C7, it falls short of the newer C7 which managed just over four hours, and the Samsung Series 3 which lasted for 5 hours and 25 minutes.