HP Chromebook 13 review: An affordable HP Chromebook with MacBook Air appeal

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The Good The HP Chromebook 13 has a lightweight, portable and posh aluminum design.

The Bad It's more expensive than other Chromebooks, and the Chrome OS is naturally limited.

The Bottom Line The HP Chromebook 13 satisfyingly combines the cloud-based simplicity of the Chrome OS with a stylish modern design, even if it's expensive for a Chromebook.

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7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8

If a Chromebook and the Apple MacBook Air had a baby, it might look like the HP Chromebook 13.

This HP laptop has a slim and sleek aluminum design that almost rivals the $999 Apple MacBook Air in portability and polish. Its all-metal, anodized aluminum chassis is more durable and eye-pleasing than less expensive, plastic Chromebooks.

However, with configurations starting at $499 and going up from there, it's expensive in comparison to most Chromebooks, such as the $299 Acer Chromebook 11 or $149 Hisense Chromebook.

If you're interested in a laptop for casual use, like streaming Netflix, reading email or checking Facebook, most Chromebooks fit the bill. And if you don't mind paying extra, the HP Chromebook does it with faster performance and more style.

For the binge-watcher

  • 13.3-inch screen
  • 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution; 3,200 x 1,800-pixel resolution
  • B&O-branded audio

The HP Chromebook's screen looks sharp and bright for everything from reading Reddit threads to streaming "Stranger Things." But as I sometimes forgot, evident by the fingerprint smudges on its screen, it lacks a touchscreen. (It's common for Chromebooks to have touchscreens.)

The laptop is light enough to comfortably prop up on your lap in bed while rewatching "Friends" for the 89th time and doesn't get too hot even after long video viewing marathons. The screen also has great viewing angles, so no matter how it's tilted, the image is clearly visible.

Above the keyboard there's a speaker grille that stretches across its entire length. The B&O-branded dual speakers are loud enough to watch a movie with a friend or two, but sound quality is tinny at high volume.

Backlit keys are always a plus.

Josh Miller/CNET

For the writer on the go

If you're carrying around a laptop everyday for work or school, the less cumbersome, the better. And as much as I love a big screen, sacrifices have to be made for portability.

The HP Chromebook 13 hits that perfectly portable 13-inch sweet spot. It was as unintrusive as the 13-inch MacBook Air that I carry to work every day. Like my MacBook, it barely made a dent in my bag and wasn't a burden to bring along to after-work happy hours (don't worry, I kept it in my bag the whole time!) or last minute errands.

Packed with two USB-C ports

Josh Miller/CNET

Anything smaller than a 13-inch laptop makes for a cramped keyboard, and the HP's compact keys took me some time to get used to. Though I quickly got comfortable with it., I still preferred the more spacious feel of typing with my 13-inch MacBook Air.

The keyboard is also backlit, making it easy to see in dimly lit environments, but it can't flip over to use the laptop as a tablet, like the Acer Chromebook 11's keyboard can. If you're flirting with the idea of a laptop-tablet hybrid, that's something to consider. (I already have a tablet, so I never had the need to use the laptop in that manner, making it a moot design point for me.)