HP Pavilion Chromebook review
14in screen is 35 percent larger than the next biggest Chromebook available
Product HP Pavilion Chromebook
Specifications 14in LED-backlit 1366x768 display, Intel Celeron 847 1.1GHz CPU, Intel HD graphics, 2GB RAM, 16GB SSD or 32GB HDD drive, removable 37WHr battery, SD card reader, full size HDMI out port, Ethernet port, 3x USB 2.0 port, built-in webcam, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, headphone/microphone jack, Chrome operating system, 347x238x20.7mm, 1.8kg.
RUNNING GOOGLE'S CHROME operating system (OS), Chromebooks are designed as "always connected" devices supporting applications that reside on the web, rather than traditional PC applications like Microsoft Office and Photoshop that are installed on the machine itself.
Generally cheaper than a tablet of the same size, Chromebooks are a great choice for those that are in the market for a laptop and either don't have much money or are looking for simplicity in a traditional laptop.
Landing in the UK late last month and costing just £249, HP's 14in Pavilion Chromebook is the fourth in the Chromebook category and is the first of its kind to offer a 14in screen, which is 35 percent larger than the next largest Chromebook available.
Design and build
Since it's so inexpensive we didn't expect the Pavilion Chromebook to have exceptionally high build quality or unique design qualities compared to other, higher end models on the market. However, though it clearly is lot cheaper in both feel and appearance, overall it fares very well.
The Pavilion's chassis is made of a high gloss plastic with speckled finish that glimmers as it catches the light. While the material means the device is much lighter, it does make it look inferior in quality when compared to other laptops available. Nonetheless, while it isn't unique, the speckled finish is distinctive and helps tart up the plastic chassis a bit.
At just over 20mm thick the Pavilion does look rather clunky, but its 1.8kg weigh makes it feel relatively light.
As for build quality, the Pavilion Chromebook feels sturdy giving us the impression it would withstand a drop from waist level, at least when closed. Dropping it from a little higher while open however could be a different story. The hinges that hold the screen to the base don't offer the most secure pivot we've seen. Holding each end of the display and twisting it in opposite directions, there was a good amount of flexibility there.
Taking into consideration the Pavilion's price, though, one can't whine too much as all in all the laptop feel sturdy and relatively lightweight for a machine with a 14in screen, and customers looking for a laptop in this price range can't expect higher build quality.
Boasting a 14in LED-backlit 1366x768 display, the HP Pavilion Chromebook's screen is the biggest available on any Chromebook at the moment. Other Chromebooks available include Samsung's Series 3 Chromebook, which has an 11.6in screen, the Acer Aspire C710 Chromebook, also with an 11.6in display, and the Google Chromebook Pixel, which boasts a 12.8in screen.
With a 1366x768 resolution, the Pavilion Chromebook has a relatively low resolution for the 14in screen size. That said, it doesn't look too bad in general use. It's a shame that it doesn't offer HD quality graphics, especially considering that the Pavilion Chromebook has HDMI out connectivity for porting the display to an external screen, which we found a little strange. The relatively low resolution doesn't appear to present a problem for web browsing. It's more apparent when watching HD quality movies, but it won't hinder your viewing experience too much.
Nevertheless, viewing angles on the Pavilion Chromebook are good. We found that all of the display was visible from an approximate 60 degree angle from either front side of the screen.
We were frustrated that you cannot change the display settings in Chrome OS. This also applies for checking how much storage is left, as well as choosing the screen dimming timeout interval.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Pavilion Chromebook's keyboard is a pretty average design. The standard dull black finish keys have lowercase lettering in white. Though the keyboard design is nothing special, the keys have decent travel with a good spring, meaning fingers can flow nicely from one key to the other. We found that the keyboard is good for typing on documents or spreadsheets, making the Chromebook worth consideration as a business device.
The Pavilion Chromebook's touchpad is built into the chassis and rather than being made from a different material so it is distinguishable from the rest of the case, it has an embossed texture over the touch area, which we found wasn't as responsive as on other systems. Running our fingers across the touchpad, we found that the mouse cursor failed to pick up every command but did manage to capture most instructions we gave it. The touchpad click buttons are also quite stiff and require a rather harder push to register clicks than we are used to finding on other laptops.
Performance and software
The Pavilion Chromebook is powered by an Intel Celeron 847 processor running at 1.1GHz, has 2GB of RAM installed and as expected in such a laptop has an Intel HD integrated graphics processor.
At the price you are getting a decent amount of processing power and it is comparable with other laptops available on the market in terms of power to price ratio. For example, it offers the same processing power and RAM as Acer's Aspire C710 Google Chromebook, which retails for £200 but has a smaller 11in screen. Toshiba's Windows 8 powered Satellite C855 notebook, which has a larger 15.6in screen, also offers the same Intel 847 processing power but with double the RAM for just over £300. Nevertheless, we think that with the Pavilion Chromebook you are getting a good level of computing performance for a relatively low price.
The Pavilion Chromebook's Chrome operating system is rather new, so most people won't be familiar with it. As a result, it is difficult to compare its performance to those of Windows and Mac OS X laptops and benchmark its capabilities. To test a computer's performance, we'd usually run a Windows Performance Index test, to tell us how Microsoft rates the machine compared to other Windows laptops. Google doesn't have such a facility on the Chromebook OS. Conversely, it might be argued that Chrome OS requires less system power and lower specification components in order to perform equally as well as rival devices.
Google claims that all Chromebooks "boot up in seconds and stays fast, [and] requires almost zero setup or maintenance". In our experience using the Pavilion Chromebook this proved to be the case. All operations were fluid, there was zero lag in performing daily tasks and it provided a seamless Google Docs productivity suite experience as soon as it powered up. The Pavilion Chromebook took around three to four seconds to boot.
The HP Pavilion Chromebook comes with the option of either a 16GB solid state disk (SSD) or a 32GB hard disk drive (HDD) onboard. Our review model had a 16GB SSD drive, which though it could store less data, is built using flash memory so it's much faster at reading and writing data than a larger mechanical HDD. HDDs are larger, heavier and more fragile compared to SSDs that generally store less for a higher price, so the choice really depends on whether you're willing to trade storage space for speed.
Clearly, 16GB or 32GB options are fewer storage offerings compared to Windows and Mac OS X laptop equivalents for the price. However, Chromebooks tend to come bundled with less storage as Google throws in a hefty 1TB of cloud storage, free of charge for the first three years after purchase. Google claims that this would normally cost about $1,800, but it is making the point that it thinks cloud computing is the future of storage.
However, cloud storage has high access latency times that make it impractical for storing large amounts of data that are frequently used or needed for fast, high volume access, so we can imagine that some users won't see an advantage in replacing hard drive space with cloud storage in the Chromebook.
Another point worth making is that we also found it rather frustrating that the Chrome OS offered no clear way of viewing how much disk space remains on the SSD.
The Pavilion Chromebook features three USB ports, which we should note use USB 2.0 technology, so transferring files is slower than on competitive products with USB 3.0 ports. Joining two of these ports on the right hand side is a HDMI-out port so that you can output the Pavilion's display to an external monitor or smart TV, for example, as well as an Ethernet port for LAN connection and a 2-in-1 card reader supporting the SD and MMC card standards. On the left hand side, there's another USB port and a headphone jack, as well as a vent that allows air in to cool the Chromebook.
On the inside, the Pavilion Chromebook has dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0. It's also worth noting that the Pavilion Chromebook has an HD webcam, despite not featuring a HD quality display, set just above the screen for video calls, or perhaps more appropriately, Google Hangouts.
HP claims that the Pavilion Chromebook's four cell 59Wh battery will keep going for at least seven hours of active use. In our tests, we found that the battery drained from fully charged to completely dead in approximately 6 hours and 30 minutes of intermittent use including browsing web pages, writing with Google Docs and viewing Youtube videos. This was from powering it up at 15:18 and watching it drain to shutoff at 21:49.
In ShortAlthough it does feel rather cheap to use due to its low quality build, HP's Pavilion Chromebook offers great processing power for the price, managing everything you'd need to do online - whether it's watch videos on Youtube or download, view and edit images - effortlessly, and all for just £250.
However, due to the Chrome OS it is running, many of the apps and programs we all know and rely on are missing, making its usefulness limited. The concept of the Google's Chromebook is a very exciting thing, and it gives us insight into the direction personal computing is heading - an always-on slimline device with most of its storage located on the cloud. But this limited nature could frustrate some potential customers, we think.
Nonetheless, at £250 the Pavilion Chromebook is perhaps better recognised as more of an alternative to an Android tablet for those looking for the same abilities for the price but who prefer a familiar laptop. µ
Good power to price ratio, large screen, good battery life, affordable price
Low display resolution, let down by the limited OS, build quality is not the best.
Cheap looking chassis.