It was a pretty simple choice thus far. If you wanted to buy a laptop all this while, you essentially had two choices. Laptops running the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system or the Apple MacBook line-up. A lot of variables, such as the budget, the budget and the budget, perhaps dictated your choice. You thought you didn’t have third option, did you? To be honest, Linux never really cut it with the masses and Android, even with all the tablets that do the convertible aspect well, was never primed to be a laptop replacement for a large demographic of users. HP has ensured that this scenario changes, with the re-emphasis on the Google Chrome OS.
The HP Chromebook x360 comes in India with a huge challenge ahead—do consumers even know Chrome OS well enough to understand what it means? Google has been able to plonk Chrome OS based machines right in the middle of all the Windows 10 laptops and the Apple iPad + keyboard combinations, at least in the stores in the US and parts of Europe. But will that work in India. The torch bearer of the experience aspect is the HP Chromebook x360 which is priced at Rs 44,990 and doesn’t exactly come cheap. But before you dismiss this outright, we must tell you that the experience has been nothing short of true uniqueness.
For starters, the HP Chromebook x360 looks like, well, just about any other laptop. Okay then. The typical HP design language is very much visible with this laptop as well, including the rounded edges, the bevelled spines and the matte finish on the lid and the keyboard deck. It is all very well built, and there are no rough edges. Simple yet elegant, with no unnecessary complications in terms of the design, the connectivity options or even the keyboard layout as we know it. This is just 16m thick which is about as thin as conventional laptops go in this price range. In a way, this looks no different at first glance to a typical Windows laptop made by HP. And the classy blue colour really has us sold though—and HP calls this the sandblasted finish.
But what really is the big deal with the Google Chrome OS? It is the sheer simplicity of the Chrome OS which makes it a pretty compelling alternative to Windows 10 based laptops. Simplicity was the very foundation of Chrome OS many years ago, and that continues. I remember my first tryst with Chrome OS when it was launched, and there was the distinct feeling that anyone who was using Google’s services extensively would love it, but it was a pretty sparse beyond that. How times change though. The Chrome OS is no longer what you may call a glorified Chrome web browser, with some additional smarts. Now you have a desktop, a file explorer, a download manager, and full-fledged apps—and lots of them too. Perhaps as you would expect from any computing device worth your time and money. This no longer feels basic and to the point, and there is that definite aura of a complete computing device that you can use at work, while traveling and even for lighter work at home.
The biggest evolution that the Chrome OS has gotten over the years is the ability to run apps meant for your Android phone as well. That is why the full-fledged Play Store is also available on the Chromebooks. Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps? The Spotify app? Video streaming apps. You name it, and the whole wide world of productivity, utility and entertainment apps are available. For any Android phone user, the switch could prove to be close to seamless—and that is a genuine value addition.
The Chrome OS in its current avatar also counters the perception, at least among those who have some experience with Chromebooks, that buying this means you are locked into Google’s ecosystem. Buying a Chromebook no longer mans that you will in a way be restricted to Gmail, Google Drive, Chrome web browser and Google Docs. Don’t like Google Chrome? You can switch to Firefox. Want to use Dropbox instead Google Drive? Sure, you can. Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, PUBG, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you name an Android app and chances are it will run smoothly on Chrome OS. The Google Smart Lock feature would be fantastic for anyone who uses an Android phone.
There are extensive security measures working away in the background as well. For instance, the sandboxing feature isolates every open app from core operating system processes, which makes Chrome OS secure from malware that may attempt to cripple the OS itself.
Coming back to the machine that drives it all, the HP Chromebook x360, which is the the very vehicle of the Chrome OS experience. For starters, this laptop has very powerful specifications chugging away under the hood. Our review unit, for instance, runs the Intel Core i5 processor, an 8th generation chip. Now that is more than adequate power to run what is a slick and streamlined operating system. This is paired with 8GB of RAM, and the experience that you get while running apps and switching between them is something that can safely be categorized as buttery smooth. It won’t wow you perhaps, because a lot of smartphones now have similarly powerful specifications.
There is 64GB internal storage, plus there is a memory card slot as well on this HP Chromebook x360. That, and all the cloud storage options that you have, and the space to save your files really shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, and there is a headphone jack too. Did we just hear a collective sigh of relief?
The 14-inch display (1,920 x 1,080 resolution) is an IPS panel and everything about this is acceptable. The brightness, sharpness, viewing angles and the touch response just simply work. Yes, we can perhaps say that colours could have been dialled up a bit, but that would be pure nit-picking.
Is there really nothing wrong with the HP Chromebook x360? Well, not on the face of it. Slick performance, great battery life and a simple to use operating system does have its priceless advantages. Then there is the small matter of the price. Yes, Chromebooks all this while have carried the perception that these are affordable computing devices. But around the Rs 45000 price point, the Chromebook x360 isn’t exactly a starter laptop price point. One of the reasons for that is the fact that Chrome OS is now considerably grown up. And HP isn’t cutting any corners in terms of the build and the design. If nothing else, the gorgeous ceramic white and cloud blue dual colour combination should do the trick!