If you’re looking for a laptop under 50K, should you go for a Chromebook? Answering this question, I began my review of the HP Chromebook x360.

Currently, a bigger slice of the PC market is shared between Windows and Mac. In contrast, Chromebooks seem like an underdog with relatively lesser reach in India. There’s even a good chance that some of you might not know much about them. These ultrabooks come powered by Chrome OS, an operating system from Google, and represent a fresh take on legacy laptops as we know them.

The x360 has been my daily driver for a while now. I’ve used it keeping aside the complexity bias towards the Windows and Macs of the world. So, if you’re in a pickle, reading this review won’t hurt. You will get to know how it holds up against the alternatives. After all, they vaunt a unique value proposition, especially for the Gen Z.

Let’s see whether it’s true.

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HP Chromebook x360 – 14-da0003tu Specs and Price

Model HP Chromebook x360 – 14-da0003tu
Display 35.56 cm (14) diagonal FHD IPS BrightView WLED-backlit (1920 x 1080)
Processor Intel Core i3-8130U (2.2 GHz base frequency(2b), up to 4 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology(2g), 4 MB cache, 2 cores)
Graphics Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 64 GB eMMC with 256GB expandable storage, 100 GB Cloud storage, Unlimited Google photos/videos storage
Memory 8 GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM (onboard)
Ports
  • 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
  • 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • 1 headphone/microphone combo
  • 1 microSD media card reader
  • Kensington Nano Security Slot
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2 combo
Software Chrome OS
Battery 3-cell, 60 Wh Li-ion polymer; 45 W AC power adapter
Dimensions 32.54 x 22.68 x 1.6 cm
Audio
  • ASUS SonicMaster stereo audio system, certified by Harman Kardon
  • Array microphone with Cortana and Alexa voice-recognition support
Keyboard and Trackpad
  • Backlit Chiclet single-color keypad
  • Precision (PTP) Technology Supports up to Four-finger Smart Gestures
Weight 1.68 Kg
Biometric unlock HP Wide Vision HD Camera with integrated dual array digital microphone
Colors
White Ceramic
India Price Rs. 44,990

HP Chromebook x360 Review: Design and Build

Let me put it out there that this one’s a charmer. The Chromebook X360 comes with a 360-degree rotating hinge, which means you can use it as Flip in Laptop, Stand, Tent, or Tablet mode. This opens up multiple use cases. Go figure! Whilst using in the flip-in form, the screen wobbles a bit. But it is not a biggie and the hinge is pretty solid with no creak.

Even if you keep the convertibility factor aside, the laptop still slays on the design front. The hood is made of aluminum anodized body cloaking a ceramic white finish, which looks slick. There is a chrome logo, the staple Chromebook identifier on the left side. The company claims the matte surface is scratch-resistant, although we never went out of our way to test it.

The Chromebook is slim at 16.05mm and trim at 1.6kgs. So, it was lite to carry around in hand, in my daypack or seating it on my lap. Like lap-ability, the one-handed opening test also was easy peasy. Once you open the lid, you’ll see a 720p webcam nesting right above the display. But there is no face unlock or any other biometric unlocking option, which is a real kicker.

ALSO READ: Asus ZenBook 14 (UX434FL) review: That Dual Display though!

HP Chromebook x360 Review: Display, Keyboard and Audio

This one has an IPS WLED-backlit (1920 x 1080) display that stretches 14-inches diagonally. It is affable in terms of colors, brightness, viewing angles, yada yada yada. The only glaring issue I have with this panel is that its glossy and reflective, which spoils the experience while using under harsh lighting.

The touchscreen is also responsive and plays well with the Chrome OS interface, especially in flip-in and tablet mode. Don’t wanna touch? Then use it as any other regular clamshell model. The chicklet keys offer a comfortable typing journey across the board. As for the trackpad, it’s one of the spacious ones I’ve come across so far with a precise response to my fingers.

Now since its a Chromebook, it carries few bells and whistles of its own, which you must know. You might be caught off guard by the layout and kind of keys on the pad. There are dedicated keys for various Chrome OS functions. Well, if you find it tough to adapt, then simply remap the buttons from the settings. Likewise, there is a slew of shortcuts and gestures, which you can learn to enhance your experience.

The X360 sports dual speakers tuned by B&O (Bang & Olufsen), one at the base of the laptop and the other above the keypad. The combined output is decently loud and clear. You even get a volume rocker flanked on the chassis, just as on your mobile handset.

HP Chromebook x360 Review: Performance and Experience

The internals includes an 8th gen Intel Core i3 CPU with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. On the memory front, you get 8 GB DDR4 SDRAM and 64GB eMMC storage. Although you won’t notice an apparent difference in speed, the volume transferred is crippled by a single lane system unlike SSD, which is a multi-lane highway.

All of these are soldered directly onto the device’s motherboard and are sealed off from the user’s access. Anyway, if you’re short on storage, you could expand it further up to 256GB using a microSD card or avail the 100GB of google cloud storage.

The software is, however, the key differentiating factor here. Now, there are several misconceptions surrounding the Chrome OS, which needs to be debunked.

If you conceive it as just a browser, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Though the platform is built on and around Chrome,  it’s much more than that.

You can use it w/o the internet. An umpteen number of apps work offline including Google ones like Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets. If you’re connected, well then you can enjoy your google data on the go, since its all synced real-time to the cloud. It has a wide library of apps on the Play Store and Linux Virtual Machine.

Off the cuff, you would notice it boots like a flash in a matter of seconds. Once you log in via a password or pin, the home screen appears. There is a taskbar at the bottom, which is called Shelf and is similar to the dock on Mac. You get to pin your favorite apps on to it. Since you’re not allowed to place icons on the screen, the desktop is clutter-free and minimal with just the dock and the wallpaper.

You can invoke Google Assistant with your voice or the dedicated button on the keypad. This button can be used to access the app tray. Speaking of apps, you can use a plethora of them from the Google Play Store. As an Android user, this meant I can use the same apps that I use on my phone.

But can’t say it’s device agnostic. When the apps ape the UI meant for the mobile phones onto a bigger canvas, the overall experience takes a backseat. Plus, the Play Store alternatives of legacy apps like Microsoft Office and Adobe Suite are barebones. 

Another quick tip would be to use CrossOver for running legacy Windows applications or try out the Linux based alternatives. But either of them isn’t a simple solution.

On that note, what about Linux on Chromebook? If you’re unfamiliar, Linux on Chromebook is based on Debian distribution and runs within a Virtual Machine. I tried flashing Gimp. While the installation went smooth, the app, as well as the Linux terminal, crashed. All this may be cuz it’s still in beta state. So it’s not a viable option still. My case in point.

Coming to the main course – the performance!

If you’ve felt the Chrome browser to be a ginormous RAM sucker in other laptops, here inside Chromebook, it feels at home. I’m the kind of guy who’d have a fleet of tabs opened on Chrome at all times. Yet, I felt no hiccup, lag or crashes during my review frame. But, let me be clear, there was no jot of difference in the browsing Speedtests (Chromebook | Windows Pavilion Laptop). A quick tip: you may use extensions such as The Great Suspender or OneTab to better manage the tabs.

Just like the cold boot times, other processes like app-loading and pdf opening were also a breeze.

The system updates and backup resembles the Android implementation. They take place smoothly in the background without interrupting your activities. No sweat!

Next up, let me put light upon some security features I loved –

Chromebook sandboxes every activity instance of yours, isolating any threat you’ve downloaded from the web. The boot also verifies the system and will reset everything to its original state, if it detects some malfunction. Like the Former FBI most wanted hacker, Kevin Mitnick claims, there is a limited attack vector and just nothing to exploit on Chromebooks. So good riddance from viruses and antiviruses.

Lastly, there is Powerwash, which is the reset option that’s fairly quick and effective. Since the data is mostly stored online, you get a fresh copy without losing much data. In fact, the system snapped while I was poking around Chrome Flags and Powerwash came in real handy.

Speaking of chrome flags, you can tweak some experimental features and even basics like – Show previews of running apps when hovering over the shelf.

All that said and done, there is one area where Chromebook bites the dust and that is – any graphic intensive process. So, this one gets a big no-no for playing heavy games. In my trials, Asphalt 9 and Call of Duty performance was passable with noticeable frame drops and ghosting issues. However, you can have a good time playing casual titles like Subway Surfers, Temple Run, etc.

Now since the Chromebook caters to low graphic processes, it depends on passive cooling and so you need not worry about any whirring noise over the course.

Nonetheless, here are a few of our benchmark test results –

ALSO READ: Asus VivoBook S14 S431F Review

HP Chromebook x360 Review: Battery and Connectivity

This HP Chromebook claims to run for 11 hours on a 3-cell, 60 Wh Li-ion polymer battery. I must say the Chrome OS is very power-efficient and I’m impressed by X360’s battery endurance. In my Crosh (accessed by the command – Ctrl+Alt+T) test, the laptop discharged 77.86% in 8 hours. The battery discharged within 9 hours 25 minutes according to chrome://power data.

When it begs for a charger, you can use the bundled 45W AC power adapter via either of the 2 USB-C ports. It took around 15 minutes to refill 25% of the battery. Other ports are 1 USB A, 1 headphone jack, and an SD card expansion slot. If you’re scratching your head about the tiny square slot beside the USB-A port, its for security lock cable to moor the Chromebook to a table. I just wished there was an HDMI socket instead so that I could connect my secondary monitor. 

So should you buy it? Is it worth your money?

HP Chromebook x360 Review: Verdict

Lately, Apple is seen repositioning iPads and Microsoft is banking on the Surface Go as a Chromebook alternative. So, when both these biggies act wary of Chromebook, it got to mean something, right?

Yes, that’s somewhat true. But essentially, HP Chromebook X360 feels like a double-edged sword.

On one hand, HP has engineered a good-looking laptop with ergonomic keypad, touchpad, respectable audio output, and pleasing display. It can transform into multiple formats, to each their own.

It suits well for those who want something to carry on-the-fly and can live without games, Photoshop, Premiere Pro and the likes. It is a capable work machine for internet browsing, media consumption, and anything but graphics-demanding tasks. The GPU acceleration or the lack of one – is its Achilles heel.

Thus, on the other hand, HP Chromebook x360 might not be the renaissance in the world of Chromebooks. It is marred by the same pros & cons that come with Chrome OS.

Summing up, if it fits your bill, go for it. Else, you still have your options. Either way, you better mull over your preferences and needs once. Maybe this will help you –

Reasons to buy

  • Attractive and Solid Convertible
  • Good keypad, touchpad, and touchscreen
  • Fast and Secure OS with Real-time data sync
  • Long-Lasting battery life backed by a USB-C charger
  • App uniformity for Android users

Reasons to not buy

  • Reflective display
  • Missing HDMI port
  • Lack of powerful graphics card
  • Small Storage capacity
  • Play Store apps can’t match the legacy apps

Photos by Manmeet Singh | Smartprix

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