June 11, 2016

Thoughts on HP Chromebook 13 G1

When I first heard about HP Chromebook 13 G1, I immediately wanted one. For three reasons: (i) 3200×1800 screen, (ii) USB type C charging, and (iii) the looks. As soon as it became available, I bought the 8GB RAM variant with the Core m5 processor. I have been using it for a few days now; this post is to record my thoughts on this laptop’s hardware.

Things I like
  • This is the first hardware device ever that made me like it for its build quality. I really like the metal build of the machine and its strong screen hinge.
  • USB type C charging. Of course! It’s one of the reasons I even bought this laptop.
  • Keyboard is really nice to type on. Has good tactile feedback. Way better than the 2015 Toshiba Chromebook 2 I was using before.
  • Touchpad is smooth. I can actually use this touchpad for an extended period of time without my fingertips asking me to stop.
  • Some reviewers are not fond of the B&O speakers that come with this laptop, but I like it. (But then, my reference points are Toshiba Chromebook 2 and ThinkPad P50. Coming from these laptops, I would like pretty much anything.) From what I see, this Chromebook 13’s speakers are on par with the speakers of Nexus 9.
  • There’s an LED that shows status when the laptop is sleeping, charging, etc.
    LED glows red when the laptop is charging
Things I neither like nor dislike
  • Although the screen is impressive on paper, it doesn’t live up to the expectations in reality. I believe it’s the same panel that was in Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro. I can see pixels on this screen just as I could on the Yoga 2’s screen. Yellow rendered by this screen is the same dull yellow like on the Yoga 2 Pro (expand the “spoiler” to see the colour difference). When I am not actively looking for pixels or colour accuracy, this screen is nice; I can live with this. 
Things I am not a big fan of
  • There’s exactly one USB Type A port. I need to always have a security key inserted into a USB Type A port, so I have zero usable Type A port. I don’t often plug things into my Chromebook but it’d still be nice to have a free port.
  • MicroSD card reader. The only place where I use an SD card is on my digital camera, and it’s a full-size SD card. So this MicroSD card reader is essentially useless to me.
Comparable devices
Anyone considering the m5 variant (with 8GB RAM) or a more expensive option should also look into the base model Chromebook Pixel 2. For less than $200 more, you get a better screen, more USB ports, Type C ports on both sides for easy charging, and more Google Drive storage quota. The HP has an edge over the Pixel in its fanless design and being lighter and thinner. It’s a choice you’ll have to make for yourself. (I am still torn, and I honestly can’t choose between the two.)