HP Chromebook 14 Review

Don’t have a lot of spare cash but need a new laptop? You might not need anything super powerful – you’ll mostly be accessing the web, creating and editing some simple documents, and watching some YouTube and Netflix. If that’s you, then relax: You can pick up a Chromebook that should serve you well.

The HP Chromebook 14 starts inexpensively at $270 for an AMD A4-9210 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, and an HD (1,366 x 768) resolution 14-inch display. HP sent us the higher-end version with a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display that’s $330 at Walmart.

Yes, that’s right: This is the first Chromebook powered by AMD. Not only is it a very inexpensive laptop, but it’s also fairly unique. Does that give it enough of an advantage to be worth investing your very limited budget?

It’s plastic and not terribly exciting, but that’s okay

Let’s get this out of the way right up front: The HP Chromebook 14 is made of plastic. I comes in one of three color schemes, Snow White, Chalkboard Gray, and Ink Blue. And that’s just fine. Ours was the Ink Blue color, and it was very conservatively attractive. That’s another way of saying it’s not an exciting design and doesn’t stand out, but it won’t embarrass you either with cheap bling when you pull it out in a coffeehouse.

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There’s also nothing wrong with plastic when it comes to durability. Yes, there’s a little flexing in the keyboard tray, and maybe a bit more than we saw in the Acer Chromebook 514 with its all-aluminum chassis, but it’s not egregious. The lid and chassis bottom are rigid enough. It isn’t built like a tank — like the Lenovo Yoga C930 as an example – but it also costs around one-fifth as much money. Your $329 goes a long way.

Like many budget laptops, the HP Chromebook 14 doesn’t even pretend to join the tiny bezel movement. Its bezels are large and in charge, meaning that it’s not the most modern appearance. It’s not thick at 0.72, although that’s not as thin as the Acer Chromebook 514, which is 0.67 inches and weighs 3.5 pounds compared to the Chromebook 514’s 3.09 pounds.

There’s enough travel on the Chromebook 14’s keyboard, but the keys feel a bit mushy in their bottoming action.

The Chromebook 14 is fanless and remains silent during use. It does get a touch warm when the processor and GPU are being stressed.

Connectivity is good for a Chromebook, with two USB-C 3.1 ports for charging and power, two USB-A 3.0 ports, and a microSD card reader. A dual-band radio provides 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 wireless connectivity.

The touchpad is fine, but the keyboard’s a bit mushy

We do like precise keyboards, where the key mechanism has plenty of travel and a nice springy click and doesn’t require too much pressure to engage. The HP Chromebook 14’s island keyboard with black chiclet keys misses out on two of those criteria. There’s enough travel, but the keys feel a bit mushy in their bottoming action. We liked the Acer Chromebook 514’s keyboard much better  – and it’s backlit, unlike the HP Chromebook 14’s keys — as we did the keyboard on the more expensive HP Chromebook x2.

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The laptop’s touchpad is in HP’s usual wide format to fit the display, and we found its surface provided plenty of tactile feedback and was precise for scrolling and swiping. The usual Chrome OS multitouch gestures were supported and quite accurate and responsive. It’s as good as any we’ve used outside of a MacBook.

Finally, HP Chromebook 14 supports a touch display, which is nice to see on such a budget machine. It’s perfect for scrolling long web pages and tapping the occasional button.

The display didn’t knock us out

The HP Chromebook 14 has a 14-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display, which is great to see in such a budget laptop. You can drop down to $270 in price if you’re willing to live with an HD (1,280 x 720) resolution, but we don’t recommend it. The Acer Chromebook 514 also has a Full HD display, but it’s also more expensive ($500 as we reviewed it).

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Of course, the resolution is just one aspect of a display’s performance. Colors, contrast, and brightness also matter, and while we can’t subject Chromebooks to our colorimeter for objective results, our subjective impressions were clear. The HP Chromebook 14’s display doesn’t punch outside of its price bracket.

Colors were muted and contrast was lacking, which when combined with a relatively low brightness that struggled with bright ambient lighting resulted in a display that was merely acceptable for productivity use. Surprisingly, Netflix video was quite good, which hints that the display’s gamma is spot on. The Full HD resolution is particularly helpful here.

The Chromebook 14 is one of the first Chrome OS machines to be powered by AMD.

The audio was decent enough, albeit there’s not a ton of volume. We could watch Netflix by ourselves, and the experience was just fine, but trying to serve up TV and movies to a group would be a bit of a challenge. There wasn’t any distortion when we turned the volume up all the way, though, which is a plus. Just keep your favorite headphones handy if you really want to rock out.

An average CPU means average performance

The Chromebook 14 is one of the first Chrome OS machines to be powered by AMD. There’s an AMD Stoney Ridge A4-9210 inside, which is a dual-core chip that competes with Intel’s Pentium CPUs at this price point.

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According to our (more limited) suite of benchmark tests, the AMD processor couldn’t keep up with Intel’s equivalent. In Geekbench 4, the HP Chromebook 14 scored 1,151 in the single-core test and 2,232 in the multi-core test. This compares to the Acer Chromebook 514 with its Pentium N4200 at 1,556 and 4,837, respectively. The AMD CPU was slower even than the Intel Celeron 3965Y in the Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 at 2,107 and 3,646.

The results in the web benchmark, Speedometer 2.0, was a little more evenly matched. The Chromebook 14 scored 27.9 compared to the Acer Chromebook 514 at 24.2, making the AMD model slightly faster. The Samsung Chromebook Plus V2, however, scored a 43.2, demonstrating that there’s more to this benchmark than just the CPU.

Unfortunately, battery life is not among this Chromebook’s strengths.

The HP Chromebook 14 equips 4GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage. That’s adequate for Chrome OS, and we found the laptop to be speedy enough for all our usual Chromebook tasks.

The AMD A4 chip also comes with Radeon R4 graphics, which are theoretically faster than Intel’s integrated graphics at this level of CPU. We don’t have any standard benchmarks to test against, but we did run some games, such as Asphalt 8, and the Chromebook 14 kept up well. It felt slightly slower than the HP Chromebook x2 with the Intel HD Graphics 615, but the performance held up.

You’ll get a full day at work or school without plugging in

The HP Chromebook 14 comes with 47 watt-hours of battery capacity, which should be sufficient for Chrome OS and a Full HD display. Generally speaking, Google’s platform is less power-hungry than Windows or MacOS, and so we were interested to see how efficient is AMD’s A4 processor.

Unfortunately, battery life is not among this Chromebook’s strengths. It performed as expected  in our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, lasing for almost five hours and roughly matching the Acer Chromebook 514. That falls behind the Acer Chromebook Spin 15 but meets or exceed the rest of our comparison group.

In our web browsing test, though, the HP Chromebook 14 lasted for only a little more than seven hours, which is well behind the Acer Chromebook 514’s 11.5 hours and the HP Chromebook x2’s nine and a half hours. And in our video looping test that plays a Full HD Avengers trailer, the HP Chromebook 14 couldn’t make it to seven hours, again behind the Acer Chromebook 514’s 11.5 hours and the HP Chromebook x2’s almost 10 hours.

In short, the Chromebook 14 will struggle to get you through a full day’s work or school. You’ll likely have to keep your charger handy if you need to spend the entire day away from your home or office.

Our Take

The HP Chromebook 14 is a budget laptop that offers plenty of durability, conservative if somewhat dull good looks, and decent enough performance for the usual Chrome OS productivity tasks. It holds its own in graphics thanks to AMD’s Radeon R4 GPU, but its battery life is disappointing.

Is there a better alternative?

The first challenger is the Acer Chromebook 514, which is slightly more expensive at $350 for an Intel Celeron N3350, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage. It has a slightly better display and   better battery life with an all-aluminum chassis that’s more robust and attractive.

You could also step up a bit in price and size and consider the Acer Chromebook Spin 15. That’s $450 for a Pentium N4200, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage, and it’s also a 2-in-1 and makes a great Netflix binging machine.

If your budget can handle even more of an investment and you can step up to a 15-inch laptop, then the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 is a good option. It comes in at $540 with an 8th-gen quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, which runs Chrome OS very quickly indeed, and it’s well-built and attractive with a display that’s no worse than the Chromebook 14’s (but not much better, either).

How long will it last?

The Chromebook 14 maybe be made of plastic, but that’s not a bad thing for long-term durability. And the components should keep up with Chrome OS without any problems. The warranty is the usual one-year duration, and at this price point, that’s to be expected.

Should you buy it?

No. You don’t have to spend much more money to get a laptop that’s more attractive and lasts longer on a charge.