At a time when most other brands have stepped away from it, HP has emerged as the standard-bearer for Chrome OS – Google’s web-friendly operating system – in the Indian market. The brand had come with a Chrome OS variant of its X360 range a few months ago, then with a 14-inch Chromebook (the Chromebook 14) and now has come out a Chromebook X360, which comes in 14-inch and 12-inch display variants.
We got the 12-inch display variant in ceramic white color, and well, it definitely turned heads thanks to its rather square-ish shape and metallic build. The color will pick up smudges, however, so we would advise keeping a cloth handy, not just to brush it clean but also to clean the surfaces on which you park it. At about 1.35 kg, it is definitely on the lighter side and is proportioned smartly enough to slip into most backpacks without any trouble. The hinges connecting the display to the keyboard are very solid and allow the display to rotate a full 360 degrees and use the device as a tablet if need be (yes, the keyboard on the back gets deactivated when you swivel the device around).
The 12-inch display is a touchscreen one, not a full HD one as in the previous X360, but one with a resolution of 1366 x 912, and a web camera right above it. Below it is a full-sized keyboard with large-ish, backlit keys and a trackpad bang in the center below it, and a Bang and Olufsen speaker panel above it. The keyboard section of the HP Chromebook x360 contains all the ports on the device and there are plenty of them – two USB Type C ports (both of which can be used for charging the notebook), one USB port, one 3.5 mm audio jack, and one microSD card reader slot. Some might find the hardware a little underwhelming – there is no Intel Core i series chip here, with an Intel N4000 processor doing all the work, accompanied by 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. But then, before you start judging those specs, do remember this is a Chromebook and not a Windows one, so those specs are actually not too bad. There is also support for a stylus, although that does not come bundled with the notebook and has to be purchased separately.
And that becomes eminently evident when you start using the Chromebook. In the best Chromebook tradition, the notebook literally boots up and shuts down in seconds. Most apps open smoothly, and if you stick to using Chrome-based apps (which basically run within the browser or in a browser-like environment), you will find yourself working at a very decent clip indeed. And frankly, that should suffice for most Web-based users – you get Google Docs for all your word processing and spreadsheeting, using social networks in the browser is more than adequate, and for just about every other service, you can just head to the website rather than download an app. It all just works.
Where it gets a little jumbled is when you get into Android app territory. Yes, Chrome can now run Android apps, but the apps themselves are not exactly designed for that display and the experience is a little mixed. No, it is not bad, but let us just say that playing games on a phone is far more convenient on a smartphone than on a notebook. The apps work, but truth be told, we found ourselves going to the browser more often than taking the app route. The keyboard is a good one, and while the trackpad is a little moody, the touchscreen is responsive enough to compensate.
No, the display is not the best or the brightest we have seen, but the speakers are decent enough to allow you to sit back and watch some Netflix or YouTube on the go, and well, there is the 3.5 mm audio jack for some very decent sound. Incidentally, we hardly ever found ourselves using the Chromebook in tablet mode. Perhaps 12 inches is just too large to be used as a tablet, or perhaps we just found the notebook form factor more convenient, but the fact is that one of the biggest features of the notebook was kind of not used by us, although we did use it in “tent mode” for some videos! The battery easily gets into the double-figure territory. We often got 10-11 hours of usage even when connected to Wi-Fi throughout.
It has the looks. The speed. The performance. And reasonable enough specs. But the big question is whether the Chromebook X360 does enough to make it worth its Rs 29,990 price tag (there is a 14-inch variant that is priced at Rs 34,990)? That’s a tricky question, not least because HP itself has another Chromebook (the Chromebook 14) at Rs 22,900 – it does not fold all the way back into tablet mode and has an older processor but is still speedy enough (hey, Chrome OS is generally a brisk performer). And then there is the matter of the Windows notebooks hovering around that price band – you can get a Core i3 (8th generation, albeit) machine for that price, and even the Microsoft Surface Go gets in touching range. Then, of course, there will be the brigade that will even consider the base iPad.
The HP Chromebook X360 to its credit can hold its own against all these. The problem is that it does not exactly beat them hollow. It is a very good device in its own right, but leaves the door open for the competition to make claims – there are more affordable Chromebooks, the base iPad with a keyboard has better apps and a better touch experience, and the Windows notebooks can wave the “but we are REAL notebooks” banner at it.
This is why the HP Chromebook X360 falls into that rather odd zone where it has a lot going for it but faces competition that it cannot overwhelm. So should you be investing in it? Well, we would say definitely if you are looking at a versatile, well-rounded Chromebook experience – the build quality is a clear step ahead of the HP Chromebook 14 – or are just looking at a device that you need for basic writing, Web browsing and social networking. Get into more “strictly notebook” or “strictly tablet” work and the shadows of Windows notebooks and the iPad start looming.
It does face competition. The competition that it does not always beat. But for a certain section of users, the Chromebook X360 still shines.
- Speedy operation
- Good keyboard
- Terrific battery life
- Android apps run awkwardly
- Touchpad is a little iffy
- Tablet mode is not really convenient
|Build and design|
Does it make sense to invest in a Chromebook that is priced in the vicinity of Rs 30,000? HP tries to make a case for its new Chromebook X360. But can it fight off its Windows-laden brethren at similar price points?