Chromebook makers quit the Indian market years ago. India’s internet infrastructure simply wasn’t ready for a desktop operating system that was largely just a web browser – at least in those days.
Both Chrome OS and India have come a long way since then. While the former has evolved beyond what it originally was with Android and Linux support, the latter has experienced a spurt in online connectivity and gone through a data boom.
India has, at long last, reached a state where Chrome OS can work. As data tariffs reach new lows, Chromebooks can prove ideal for anyone from new internet users looking for a simple, affordable way to go online on a large screen, to professionals whose work predominantly revolves around the web and documents.
The shift has made Chromebook manufacturers sit up and take notice, and they have trained their sights yet again on India to sell these Chrome-based notebooks. Well, at least, HP has.
In the last few weeks, HP has brought a handful of its Chromebooks to India. That includes the high-end Chromebook x360 which we’ve been actively putting through its paces of late. At a starting price of Rs 44,999, the Chromebook x360 is clearly on the expensive end of the Chrome OS spectrum. Is its feature set able to justify that price tag? We find out in this review.
Design and display
The HP Chromebook x360 is a bulky notebook by today’s standards. Even though at 1.6kg, it’s not dramatically heavier than the Apple MacBook Air (1.2kg), you feel the heft in HP’s case when you pick it up. The weight doesn’t bog you down when you carry it in your backpack, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
The notebook can feel heavy but it certainly doesn’t look it. The HP Chromebook x360 is surprisingly thin and measures 0.63-inches at its thinnest section – about the same as the MacBook Air. It also features a handsome exterior and a pleasant dual-tone finish.
On the outside and lid area, the HP Chromebook x360 is coated in a clean white paint job. Open it up and you’re greeted with a refreshing shade of (mist) blue that doesn’t look cheap at all.
The matte aluminum chassis itself is sturdy and it’s built like a premium product. As the name suggests, the HP Chromebook x360 isn’t a traditional laptop. It’s equipped with a 360-degree hinge that lets you turn it into a tablet in a jiffy. The hinge is strong and even when you poke the touchscreen in the laptop mode, it barely wobbles. Because of that, unfortunately, you can’t lift the HP Chromebook x360 with just a finger.
Although the added bulk works in favor of Chromebook x360 when you’re operating the touchscreen in laptop mode, it does the opposite when you hold it in the tablet form. The Chromebook x360 is simply not for tablet purposes. And that’s fine since it’s not primarily designed for that either. The Chromebook x360’s comes in handy when say, you want to watch a movie. You can push back the keyboard and bring the display to the front for a more immersive experience.
Speaking of watching films, the HP Chromebook x360 has a wide 14-inch 1080p screen that’s both vivid and sharp. But it’s a glossy panel rather than matte which means it’s a little reflective. Depending on what you’ve lived with in the past, this either won’t matter or will be annoying. I belong to the second group. Thankfully, it’s not a dealbreaker and you can get used to it.
What bothered me more was the screen’s brightness. I found myself turning up the display’s brightness more often than I normally do. Especially outdoors or when you’re sitting at a cafe by the window, the HP Chromebook x360 tends to fall short.
The touchscreen itself is quite responsive and the touch lag is minimal. You can easily sign documents or even do a bit of casual sketching. Like most laptops in this range, the HP Chromebook x360’s screen doesn’t go edge-to-edge and there are noticeable bars around it.
Keyboard and trackpad
Arguably my favorite aspect of the HP Chromebook x360 is the backlit keyboard. I’m not at all exaggerating – It is the most balanced keyboard I’ve ever typed on. There’s plenty of travel, yet it won’t vex your coworkers. The keys have a smooth texture that allows you to comfortably type for hours.
The glass trackpad is equally excellent. It’s enormously wide, tactile, and accurate. You can execute any of Chrome OS’ tens of gestures with ease. I also appreciate the matte palm rest flanking the trackpad that never gets warm and is way better than plain old metal.
The speakers on the Chromebook x360 are average at best. They are loud enough, but the quality isn’t as impressive as the B&O branding promises it will be. The HD webcam was another letdown and if you video-call often, you might need to invest in an external camera. The dual-microphone array, on the other hand, does its job well and lets you execute Google Assistant commands hands-free.
The HP Chromebook x360’s full-fledged Intel Core i3 processor (there’s also a higher-end Core i5 version) and 8GB of RAM are more than ample for Chrome OS, which itself is a lightweight operating system. And that shows when you use the notebook. Whether it’s multitasking between numerous Chrome tabs or watching 4K movies, the HP Chromebook x360 never skips a beat. Web pages load quicker than any other computer I’ve tested and that includes Apple’s new MacBook Pro lineup.
You can easily run Android games but since the screen is huge, you will have difficulties actually playing and tapping the controls. I was a tad skeptical of the 64GB eMMC storage but that turned out to be a non-issue. It does get a little warm but not to an extent where you’ll need a cooling pad.
In my daily use – which involves tens of Chrome tabs as well as windows, a couple of Android apps like Simplenote, a constantly connected pair of Bluetooth headphones – the Chromebook x360 was able to last 7-8 hours on a single charge. My workday begins at 9.30am, and I usually didn’t put the laptop on charge until late evening. Charging it to the full takes about 3 hours if you’re concurrently employing it as well.
The HP Chromebook x360 can be topped up through either of the Type-C ports present on the left and right sides. Apart from that, there’s a standard USB-A port, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack.
By now, you’re probably wondering – that’s all fine but what about Chrome OS? Can I live with it?
It depends. Chrome OS, as I mentioned earlier, has made a lot of progress. More importantly, the web has made a lot of progress. Every service like Google Docs and YouTube Music I rely on has a competent web or Android app. Web apps from most of the leading companies function offline as well, and you can always turn to Play Store for downloading content for offline consumption. Plus, it supports Linux if you’re a developer and want a traditional command line and tools. You can even install Android Studio on Chrome OS.
Therefore, unless there’s a specific Mac/Windows app you heavily use everyday such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Chrome OS won’t let you down. In my case, the mobile counterparts of high-end Mac apps like Lightroom were sufficient.
There are a few other Chrome OS features I’ve grown accustomed to. You can expand the storage with a microSD card, set up a cloud service like Google Drive in the file manager, and there’s a dedicated Search key on the keyboard which allows you to instantly fire up a universal search or Google Assistant. Chromebooks also have a significantly longer shelf life than their Windows counterparts and you won’t ever have to face those ghastly updating screens on boot.
At Rs 44,999 for the Core i3 variant and Rs 52,999 for the Core i5 (Rs 42,499 and Rs 50,499 if you have an HDFC debit card), the HP Chromebook x360 offers bang for your buck. It’s fast, looks nice, has a lovely keyboard and trackpad (which you won’t find on any similarly priced Windows PCs), plenty of ports, great battery life, and more. The only major cons I came across is the low brightness and mediocre webcam. If Chrome OS itself is not a dealbreaker for you, I can assure you you won’t have a better computing experience at this price.
Pricebaba’s rating: 7.5 / 10
- Good design
- Fast and long battery life
- Excellent keyboard and trackpad combo
- The screen is glossy and not bright enough
- Terrible webcam quality