HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook review:

Stuck halfway between Chromebook and laptop

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google of late has specifically emphasized the offline capabilities of Chrome, which are largely tied in to the offline modes that have been built into Google's various tools, such as Google Docs, over the years. A few other Chrome-compatible Web tools also work offline, and Google has set aside a section of its Chrome OS app store (really just a dressed-up set of links to Chrome OS versions of Web sites) to help find them.

But if you're connected to Wi-Fi, you'll likely end up using similar apps and tools to Windows and Mac laptop owners. Netflix, for example, works well (to be fair, Google pitches it as a key Chrome app). Amazon's music cloud player also works well, as does Outlook.com, Microsoft's updated answer to Gmail. But as the Chromebook is not capable of running truly separate apps, from AIM to TweetDeck, everything ends up in a browser tab, and you end up with a half-dozen or more open tabs within a few minutes while trying to set up for even basic productivity.

Running a couple of cross-platform browser-based benchmarks gives us an idea of what's going on under the hood in this Intel Celeron system. In both Futuremark's Peacekeeper test and the popular SunSpider JavaScript test, the more expensive Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook (which has a slightly faster Intel Celeron processor) was faster, but both Chromebooks did better on these tests than Dell's $500-plus Latitude 10, an Intel Atom Windows 8 tablet.

Despite it running some tests faster than an Atom-powered system, we still ran into situations where the Pavilion 14 Chromebook felt sluggish. Web pages often took an unreasonably long time to load or render, or would force themselves to reload if we spent too much time in another tab or browser window. The wonky touch pad made quickly navigating between windows and tasks slower than it should be, all of which added up to a laptop that feels -- as we've noted regarding other Chrome OS systems -- like a discounted experience compared with a Windows or OS X PC.

Despite the unchallenging hardware and lack of high-end features, the Pavilion 14's battery life was merely OK, at 2 hours and 54 minutes on a special streaming version of our video playback battery drain test. This Chrome-specific test uses the laptop's Wi-Fi connection, so it's more intense than our usual Windows video playback test. Still, an older Chromebook, the Samsung 550, ran that same test for nearly 90 minutes longer.

The HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook has to be considered on two levels. First, on its usefulness as a Chromebook in a world dominated by Windows and OS X laptops; and secondly as compared with the small number of other available Chromebooks, most of which are competing on price and ease of use, leaving very little margin for error when it comes to properly balancing price and features.

As a platform, Chrome OS is better than it might seem on paper. Using the Pavilion 14 as my primary PC for several days, I found the Chrome OS handled about 80 percent of my needs in a fairly transparent way. It's the other 20 percent, where the system doesn't respond the way a Windows user would be accustomed to, that gets tricky. It's rarely plainly stated, but like a tablet or netbook, a Chromebook is most workable as a secondary, part-time PC.

In the Chromebook ecosystem, the Pavilion 14 is bookended by systems that either cost less, or offer more and better features (such as mobile broadband, smaller and lighter bodies, or more storage). At $329, it's a good price for a midsize laptop for Web surfing, but it doesn't stand out as best-in-breed in this still-evolving category.

Futuremark Peacekeeper browser test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook

SunSpider JavaScript benchmark 0.9.1
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook

Streaming video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook
Chrome OS; 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM Intel HD Graphics 16GB SSD

Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550
Chrome OS; 1.3GHz Intel Celeron 867; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM; Intel HD Graphics; 16GB SSD

Dell Latitude 10
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB MMC SSD

What you'll pay

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