Quick Chromebook mini-reviews

B. Diddy

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The following is a little mini-review I prepared for a planned holiday guide by the Ambassadors that never quite came together. I thought it was still worth posting:

I’d like to talk about my two Chromebooks. They may not be Android devices, but they’re still relevant, since Chrome OS and Android are gradually converging--at this time, there are about a dozen Android apps available on Chrome OS, and there is also a way of running more. Besides, Android devices and Chromebooks complement each other nicely when it comes to productivity.

[TIP]I think Chromebooks make ideal gifts because (a) they’re something that people have wondered about but might not feel ready to try on their own, and (b) they can be quite inexpensive.[/TIP]
Ever since getting my Chromebooks, I would estimate that I spend about 95% of my computer time on them (much of it working on AC threads and guides), while my Windows 8 desktop stands forlornly in the study. I currently have two Chromebooks--extravagant? No! Because each of them cost about $200, meaning both of them combined were still cheaper than most decent Windows laptops. The first is an Acer C720-2802, an 11.6” machine that is my main travel companion. The second is an HP Chromebook 14 q063-cl, a 14” device that acts as my main kitchen/living room laptop.


Acer C720

My Acer C720 is the one that sports a Haswell Celeron 2955U CPU, which is significantly faster than the pokey Celeron 847 in the original C710. The 2nd generation C720 has an Intel Core i3 CPU, which should be even faster, but I have found the Haswell to be perfectly fine for my daily use. My C720 has 2 GB of RAM--4 GB would be better, allowing for more tabs to be open at a time, but I’ve hardly encountered any issues with even 5 or 6 tabs open, one of them often streaming from Google Play Music. It has a 16 GB SSD, which may not seem like much, but remember that you only need the SSD for local storage, not for app installation. Google Drive is my main storage, anyway. It has two USB ports, one of them USB 3.0. There's also a full sized HDMI output, a standard SD card reader, headphone jack, built-in mic, and webcam. It has Bluetooth 4.0, and wi-fi supports 5 GHz. Battery life is somewhere around 7-8 hours, but I haven't formally tested mine.

The C720 is fairly solidly built, with a decent keyboard (I can type pretty fast on it) and an excellent touchpad. But the 1366x768 matte TFT LCD screen is mediocre at best, with poor viewing angles and washed out colors. The speakers are exactly what you’d expect from a sub-$200 laptop (i.e., they stink). And the materials are very plasticky--you’re not going to mistake this for a premium device. But for $199 (or as low as $129 refurbished), I certainly didn’t expect nor want a Macbook Pro. I wanted a device that was highly portable (2.8 pounds) and highly functional, that I didn’t have to pamper and stress about because it cost over $1000.

By the way, I covered up the boring and cheap plastic with this nifty skin from Decalgirl.com.

Acer closed.jpgAcer open.jpg

What about the C720P, which has a touchscreen? I wasn't interested, because I find using a touchscreen while typing and using a trackpad too awkward. As a touch typist, I like having my fingers on the ASDF JKL; keys as much as possible, so if I have to go back and forth to the screen, that would seem disruptive to me. Besides, I have read in some reviews that the touchscreen versions might have slightly worse performance due to the processor having to deal with the touchscreen itself.


HP Chromebook 14


It is important to note that this is completely different from HP's first 14" Chromebook, which was called the HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook. Like the Acer C710, that Chromebook also had the Celeron 847 CPU, which meant slow performance. This one has the same Haswell Celeron 2955U CPU as the C720, but with 4 GB RAM and a 32 GB SSD. Double the RAM does make things noticeably a bit smoother when multiple tabs are open. The bigger SSD is nice to have, but as I mentioned above, I hardly ever need it. Other features are similar to the C720, but instead of only one USB 3.0 port, there are two, along with a third USB 2.0 port. This Chromebook's wi-fi also supports 5 GHz. Battery life isn't as good as the C720--more like 6 hours, probably due to the larger screen.

Overall build is much nicer. My unit is white, although this line of Chromebooks was also offered in funky colors like coral and and turquoise. The plastic casing has a nice rubberized soft-touch feel (but can get dirty easily). The keyboard has a more premium feel than the Acer's, and the touchpad is just as good. The 14" glossy TFT LCD screen is significantly nicer than the C720's, with brighter colors; however, viewing angles still aren't great. The speakers are a few notches better.

One of the very nice perks of my particular model is the HSPA+ 4G radio, which connects to T-Mobile's network. All HP Chromebook 14's with this feature get 200 MB/month of free data for life. It may not seem like much, but it can be very helpful if you're on the go, can't find wi-fi, and don't have any way to tether to your phone. 200 MB/month is certainly enough to check email or work on a few documents in Google Drive, and if you need to buy more for the month, T-Mobile's rates aren't outrageous. One quirk about this plan to note is that it shows up as a "promotional data plan," renewing every month ad-infinitum.

I don't think HP makes this particular model any more, since their latest, the HP Chromebook 14 G3, is supposed to come out soon. But you may be able to find refurbished units on various deal sites like Woot.com and Groupon Goods, usually for around $200-220. Mine was a refurbished unit, and it works perfectly. Look closely at the unit's description to see if it includes the mobile data feature, because there are models that don't have it.

hp1small.jpghp2small.jpg
 
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Oloth

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I use a Samsung Chromebook and a Android Quad Tablet for all my needs, including entertainment. Very happy with both. They do everything I want or need them to do....plus more! I am elderly and do not need a lot of expensive high tech stuff. When I have had a question about use, etc. I have been able to find the solution on the forums or help pages.
 

ab2c4

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The HP you bought actually seems like a better device than the newest model. I really think in the next 12 to 24 months that we are going to start too see a bunch of really good Chromebooks get released.

Doesn't seem to be a lot of activity in the Chromebook Forums on this site and I wish there was. I really want to get more into the Chrome OS. I wonder if my safest bet is to buy a sub $200 USD Chromebox to play around with. Sadly the Chromebox forum is empty.

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B. Diddy

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Yes, it's mostly Android here. But there are still some good discussions to be had. As you can tell, I am quite satisfied with my HP 14. But if I were you, and I didn't want to spend too much, I'd look for a used or refurbished Acer C720 with the Haswell processor (not the C710, which has a slower and older Celeron). You can probably find it for around $140-150. It's a great little machine--very portable, and pretty fast.

EDIT: Found this later generation C720 on Groupon Goods, with the N2830 processor. I don't know how it compares, but I'm sure it's just as good, if not better. $165 ain't bad! https://forums.androidcentral.com/e...leron-n2830-processor-and-16gb&token=juQU5PNU
 

ab2c4

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I have heard mostly good things about that Acer. The one thing that bothers me about it when I looked at it in a store was the display. I just wouldn't be happy with the display to be honest but I appreciate the link you provided, that is a good price.

Part of why I am thinking about a Chromebox instead is so that I could hook it up to my 1080p monitor, which I imagine would look really nice. Plus, I don't actually need a laptop since almost all the time I used my laptop at home at a desk.

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B. Diddy

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You can also hook up your 1080p monitor to a Chromebook, as long as the monitor has an HDMI input (although granted, it's not as elegant as a small Chromebox connected to a monitor).

You're correct, the Acer screen isn't great. It's a little washed out (since it's a matte finish), and viewing angles are poor.
 

Algus

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The skin you have on your Acer is great!

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 comes in a variant with a 13'' 1080p IPS screen and is my pick for current best chromebook. The original HP 14 with a Haswell and 4 GB of RAM is still my top pick for a chromebook. I own one too, in turquoise, and it's a real beast. I still use my old Samsung 303 a lot because I love the size but I watch a lot of TV on my HP 14. I just can't figure out why HP decided to drop the Haswell CPU in favor of a Tegra. It's a real shame because that Haswell CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and free T-Mobile broadband made for an amazing computer.

Of course I can't figure out why they retired the original HP 11 design either. Maybe Google stopped paying them? lol

I used to dock my Samsung to a 24'' 1080p LCD and it worked pretty great. I eventually bought a Mac Mini to use as my desktop computer but for about six months, the Samsung Chromebook was the only computer I owned and it performed admirably.
 

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