As the kids who started out using Chromebooks grow up, the kinds of systems running Chrome OS need to evolve too. So in order to please the increasing number of people who want something more sophisticated out of a modern-day netbook without abandoning the platform’s budget-conscious roots, HP brought the new moderately priced Chromebook x360 14 G1 and super cheap Chromebook 14 to CES 2019.
For the Chromebook x360 14 G1, HP started out with a more premium aluminium body and spruced it up with chamfered edges and B&O-tuned speakers, and then gave it an optional 8th-gen Core i7 CPU, something HP has never done for a Chromebook before.
As its name implies the Chromebook x360 G1 also sports a rotating hinge that lets the system transform into a tablet, along with a 14-inch 1080p touchscreen to help deliver a more traditional experience when using Android apps.
However, HP’s aspirations for the Chromebook x360 14 G1 seems somewhat confused, as if the company isn’t fully ready to take on something like the Google Pixelbook. That’s because while you can configure the HP’s new premium Chromebook with up to 16GB of RAM, it’s limited to just 32GB or 64GB of eMMC instead of the much faster 128GB SSD that comes on the Pixelbook.
That said, the x360 14 G1's appeal may end up hinging on price, which sadly HP hasn’t released just yet. If it costs around £400 for the base Core i3-model, it might just be the right system for a student who got a Chromebook in primary or secondary school, and now, wants to replace it with something more well-rounded.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the budget spectrum is HP’s plainly named Chromebook 14. Sporting a dual-core A4-9120 CPU, HP’s Chromebook 14 is, alongside Acer’s new Chromebook 315, one of the first Chromebooks ever to feature an AMD processor.
But the really notable thing about the Chromebook 14 is its price, which starts at just $270 ( £212, but exact UK price TBA). And while a figure that low would scare a lot of people away, from the short time spent with it in person, the Chromebook 14 felt quite solid.
In a lot of ways, the Chromebook 14 seems like the Chrome OS alternative to HP’s cheap and cheerful Windows-based Stream notebooks. And despite sporting a mostly plastic body (available in blue, white, and grey) and a slightly higher starting price than its Windows counterparts, I think the Chromebook 14 looks even better.
The Chromebook 14 has very little flex of bending on its sides and lid, and on the blue model I saw, little things like the colour-matched touchpad and a healthy amount of ports (including both two USB Type-A and two USB Type-C, and microSD) are nice touches that often get cut out on systems this cheap.
While a lot of Mac and Windows fans might not like to admit it, Chromebooks have slowly become a legitimate third platform, especially when it comes to schools and students. And starting at that price, the Chromebook 14 looks like a treat.