Which HP Chromebook is best?
HP is no stranger to the world of high-performance personal computers. Their desktops are nothing short of fantastic, delivering premium gaming performance at reasonable prices.
What some don’t realize is that they were also among the first companies to offer lineups of high-performing, ultra-compact laptops, starting with the netbook craze years back that essentially evolved into today’s huge market for Chromebooks.
The best HP Chromebook for most people is the HP X360 14a, not because it’s their absolute top-of-the-line offering, but because it offers an impressive balance of price and performance.
What to know before you buy an HP Chromebook
What HP Chromebooks can and can’t do
Google’s ChromeOS is the most lightweight operating system that’s still highly user-friendly. Lightweight means that it doesn’t require a huge amount of processing power to run any of its supported programs.
The combination of low resource overhead and a streamlined interface means it’s excellent at everyday tasks like word processing, checking email and general web browsing. Chromebooks are also great for viewing high-definition media. They’re also very capable of conducting video conferencing, which is more important now than ever for many remote workers.
There are some things Chromebooks aren’t really meant for. Things like video editing and advanced 3D gaming are basically off the table for these efficiency-centric machines. In general, they also won’t be able to run a good deal of programs that are optimized for Windows and simply don’t offer ChromeOS support.
Google Play Store
If you’re not sure that ChromeOS has the right apps for your needs, there is a wide range of software available and approved by Google for ChromeOS use. Only a very small percentage of users will need to bypass Google’s dedicated installation procedures, and if you’re among them, you probably already have the resources and understanding available to make that happen.
If most of your computer time is spent at home or in an office, a full-fledged laptop might provide you with the screen space and processing power you need to work efficiently. If you spend a lot of time traveling, working at coffee shops or otherwise away from a traditional desk, a Chromebook is a great choice.
What to look for in a quality HP Chromebook
Storage and system RAM
Arguably even more so than the CPU itself, the amount of RAM and storage space dictate just how useful each HP Chromebook will be for your needs. RAM allows the operating system to store the most relevant data from each program that’s currently in use. For example, each additional tab you open in Google Chrome will take up a certain amount more RAM.
Unlike system memory, internal storage space holds program data until you need to access it as you start up each individual program. The earliest Chromebooks could get by with as little as 16GB of storage space, but today the most common offer 32GB or 64GB and an increasing number sport an impressive 128GB of persistent flash memory inside.
Just a few years ago, keyboard quality was practically an afterthought, even on some of the nicest laptops on the market. With the notebook PC market basically exploding in demand in recent years, that has changed significantly. If you opt for a relatively recent HP Chromebook, know that the quality midrange and high-end options offer surprisingly pleasant typing experiences.
Intel vs. mobile CPUs
You’ll find a couple different types of processor formats in various Chromebooks. Mobile APUs from companies like MediaTek, who also supply microchips for smartphones and tablets, operate with impressive efficiency and can offer increased battery life versus more advanced CPUs.
The drawbacks with a mobile CPU variant are twofold. First, they do have slightly lower performance when running some ChromeOS programs, although a mobile CPU won’t entirely hold you back from using most Google-approved programs. The only other reason to avoid a mobile-class APU is that you’ll have a harder time using one of the few workarounds to install Windows programs that don’t have a specialized version in the Play Store.
If you plan on hacking your Chromebook or running Windows apps in a virtual machine, the easy way to make this possible is to get a Chromebook with a dual-core Intel CPU. The architecture of Intel CPUs, even the ones used in Chromebooks, enables the use of a huge range of Windows software. Keep in mind that in some cases, you will need some extra tech know-how to get everything working correctly.
How much you can expect to spend on an HP Chromebook
The most affordable HP Chromebooks come in at around $150, but their performance may frustrate you if you normally work with a more advanced PC. The most costly models run a whopping $1,500 or so — at which point, you might as well just buy a Windows or Apple laptop — but the best balance of price and performance will set you back around $700.
HP Chromebook FAQ
Can you play games on an HP Chromebook?
A. There are plenty of fun games available on the Google Play Store. Many of them are relatively simple and strongly resemble common browser games. Some of them are full-on 3D shooter games optimized well enough that you can run them without much issue on a good Chromebook. As well-optimized as they may be, however, you’ll still need a relatively powerful Chromebook to get decent frame rates on modern 3D games.
Do Chromebooks have good battery life?
A. Yes. One of the big positives about having modest hardware and the lightweight ChromeOS is that most Chromebooks released in the last few years can run for an entire workday or more without needing a recharge. In fact, some of them even offer high-speed USB-C Power Delivery charging that lets you top up the battery without waiting too long.
What’s the best HP Chromebook to buy?
Top HP Chromebook
What you need to know: The convertible 2-in-1 form factor of this mid-range Chromebook makes it perfect for consuming media.
What you’ll love: The main draw for this one is its durable, 360-degree hinge, which turns it into a de facto tablet when you want extra convenience. For the times you want a traditional laptop, this model has plenty of system memory and a reasonably powerful Intel Pentium CPU. It even has an array of six microphones that make videoconferencing especially good, even without a pair of high-end headphones.
What you should consider: There are very few complaints about this model, given its convertible design and reasonable price.
Top HP Chromebook for the money
What you need to know: This 11-inch model is about as compact and portable as they get.
What you’ll love: It’s small, inexpensive and still capable of everyday tasks like email, web browsing and writing a novel. Its low price and small size make it an especially nice choice for travelers who don’t want to make a big investment on something they’ll be using in adverse conditions.
What you should consider: From time to time, you’ll probably experience some slowdowns, and it’s not suitable for more resource-intensive programs like 3D games.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This high-powered Chromebook is available with enough processing power to run anything you need from the Google Play Store without any slowdowns.
What you’ll love: Its 14-inch display offers a good balance of visibility and portability. One common configuration with an Intel Core i3 CPU is good enough for a supremely streamlined experience, but you can customize it on HP’s website to suit your specific needs.
What you should consider: While it’s less expensive than most Windows laptops, it’s still not exactly cheap.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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