HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook review: Stuck halfway between Chromebook and laptop

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The Good The HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 feels more like a traditional laptop than other Chromebooks. Its big screen and Chrome's improved offline capabilities make a better case for the category.

The Bad Other Chromebooks perform better and run longer. The limited Chrome OS is still not for everyone, or even for most. This model lacks the mobile broadband that makers of other Chromebooks have touted as a must-have feature.

The Bottom Line The HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 advances the argument for Chrome as a low-cost mainstream computing environment, but the laptop's most noteworthy feature is a slightly bigger screen.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Battery 6
  • Support 7

Sitting down in front of the $329 HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook, one could be forgiven for thinking this is just another in a long line of slim plastic laptops with budget prices. I previously reviewed the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15z, an ultrabooklike 15-inch laptop with a similar black plastic body, and this looks like its slightly smaller cousin.

Besides having a larger screen than other currently available Chromebooks, making it feel more like a standard Windows laptop, The Pavilion 14 also has a familiar Intel Inside sticker on its wrist rest. In this case, it indicates an Intel Celeron processor, a low-power chip also found in some Acer and Samsung Chromebooks, but rarely if ever seen in a Windows laptop anymore.

As with the smaller 11- and 12-inch Chromebooks we've reviewed, this system operates almost entirely within the Chrome Web browser, which largely looks and feels the same as the Chrome Web browser you may be using right now on your Windows or Mac OS computer. But, that browser window is almost this computer's entire universe. I say almost, because Chrome OS now has a more pronounced (if still rudimentary) file system than the very first Chromebooks did.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This HP model only includes 16GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage, but Acer's C7 Chromebook includes a standard 320GB platter hard drive. In either case, photo, music, and video files can all be stored and sorted there, by downloading online or sideloading from a USB drive or SD card.

This HP model sits right in the middle of the range of other current Chromebooks, but often not to its benefit. There are less expensive models, as well as ones with mobile broadband antennas (originally pitched as a must-have feature for Chrome), more onboard storage, and longer battery life, and there's even Google's oddball $1,299 Retina Display-style touch-screen Pixel Chromebook. Aside from its larger 14-inch screen, the Pavilion 14 Chromebook is a competent effort, but doesn't stand out in any of these categories.

Price as reviewed $329
Processor 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847
Memory 2GB DDR3
Hard drive 16GB SSD
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Operating system Chrome OS
Dimensions (WD) 13.4x9.4 inches
Height 0.83 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 14 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.8 pounds / 4.5 pounds
Category Midsize/Chromebook

Design and features
More so than any other Chromebook we've seen before, the HP Pavilion 14 is easy to mistake for a traditional Windows laptop. That's because it's not a diminutive 11- or 12-inch Netbook-like box. Instead, this is a 14-inch laptop, following the same design cues as HP's other midsize Pavilion models.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If it were not a Chromebook, HP would no doubt call this a Sleekbook, which is the company's proprietary name for laptops that are thin and light, but for a variety of reasons do not conform to Intel's strict guidelines for using the official ultrabook name. This is, in some sense, a hybrid of a Chromebook and an ultrabook.

The plastic body feels solid and dependable, considering this is a $329 laptop, but corners have clearly been cut for price. The flat-topped island-style keyboard looks similar to the versions found on other HP Pavilion laptops, but the keys themselves feel cheap and a little wobbly under the fingers, and the entire keyboard has a grating, hollow clacky sound when typing. Points, however, for the full vertical row of navigation buttons along the right side, including Page Up, Page Down, and Home keys. Those make moving around long Web pages easier, especially considering the lack of a touch screen and the low-end feel of the touch pad.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That pad is of a reasonable size for a 14-inch laptop. Like most budget laptops, the touch pad here has physical left and right buttons, rather than a larger clickpad-style surface. The pad is simply stamped into the plastic wrist rest via a raised dot pattern, rather than having its own low-friction surface -- another sign of a low-cost device. For general navigation, the touch pad works fine with single-finger input. The two-finger scroll move is a very important one, and here it's a little finicky, with a hint of lag that makes precise scrolling difficult. I ended up using the Page Up and Page Down keys more often on long pages.

The glossy 14-inch display could be considered a highlight, if only because it's larger than screens on other Chromebooks. It has a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, common enough in budget laptops, but these days it's on the low side for a 14-inch screen. So many laptops, including the Google Pixel Chromebook, show what you can do with ultra-high-resolution displays, although those screens are in systems that cost a good deal more. Even for a budget laptop, the image on this 1,366x768-pixel display is a bit fuzzy and washed out, but it's important to keep in mind this is a $329 system, so you should expect some compromises.

HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 Average for category [midsize]
Video HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None DVD burner

Connections, performance, and battery
The larger screen and chassis of the HP Pavilion 14 mean that there's room to fit in a few more ports and connections than Chromebook users are used to. In this case, that means an SD card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, and a full Ethernet port, that last being increasingly uncommon in even slim Windows 8 laptops.

Performance is a tricky thing to quantify in a Chromebook, as much of it is dependent on what you'll want to do, and whether the Chrome OS is particularly well-suited for those tasks. For example, the current version of Chrome includes (very) basic photo-editing tools, limited to brightness and contrast adjustments, plus cropping and rotation. Photoshop it's not, and since you can't actually install a program such as Photoshop on a Chromebook, it's often one of the main examples people call up to show off why a Chrome OS device won't work for them (iTunes is another oft-cited example). There are a couple of online cloud-based tools that can help with Photoshop-style editing in a pinch, but it's far from an ideal solution.

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