HP has thrown its hat in the Chromebook arena with its first Chrome OS device. Featuring a 14-inch display, this is the largest screen you’ll find on a Chromebook. It’s also one of the more visually appealing, if you really like black hardware.
I’m still on the fence about Chromebooks, personally. I like the idea of a low-cost laptop that offers the best of the Web without the overhead and frustrations of a more robust, program-based OS. The downside of this type of experience comes when you really want to get something done that isn’t presently available in the form of a Web app. I’m OK with a browser-based chat program, but there are times when I just want to run Pidgin or Adium and bringing a Chromebook with me on trips over my regular laptop just makes less sense.
The Chromebook is, indeed, a secondary machine. It’s made to be tossed in a book bag and/or shared with family at the couch. It’s not so much a primary production computer at this point. Perhaps one day, but not right now.
HP making an appearance in the Chromebook world is an interesting development. It could serve to draw in other popular OEMs to follow suit by creating their own Chromebooks in a move that would further legitimize the platform as an alternative to Windows, OS X, Ubuntu, or other Linux distros. Google has done a lot to make Chrome OS a viable solution for the majority of the tasks of an average user. With a little more support, it’s very possible that Google may just be on to something.
It’s also difficult to ignore a 14-inch screen. It’s not small by any means, and it’s perhaps the first Chromebook that doesn’t look like a glorified netbook.
The biggest downside to this particular Chromebook is its battery life. While not the lowest in the history of Chromebooks, its just-over-four-hour battery life is barely enough to get you through the average domestic flight. You’re not going to be using it for all-day productivity unless there happens to be an outlet nearby.
Time will tell whether HP’s decision to build a Chromebook will really have an impact in the market. It’s fairly clear that this particular offering likely won’t cause people to rush to the electronics store, but at the very least it could be the tipping point that brings Dell and Sony to the drawing board in order to compete in this new space.