Would consumers buy an average laptop - void of any top-of-the-line specs - and would any tech enthusiast/reviewer recommend one? That’s the question that immediately came to mind when I received the latest Chromebook from HP. To my, and probably everyone’s surprise, the answer is a resounding yes. One just wishes that there were more Chromebook options available in India.
The HP Chromebook 15.6 has its work cut out. It’s a laptop with a very specific use case in mind. Chromebooks, according to Google’s website, are “a new type of computer designed to help you get things done faster and easier. They run ChromeOS, an operating system that has cloud storage, the best of Google built-in, and multiple layers of security”. Since ChromeOS uses web apps, one needs to be able to constantly access a Wi-Fi/hotspot connection. Chromebooks are positioned for school/college students who just need to do research and type out papers.
At ₹28,999, the HP Chromebook 15.6 (2023) is a compelling option. Sure, if work (writing and researching) is not a priority, a tablet like the Redmi Pad or OnePlus Pad might be a better alternative though they require a add-on keyboard.
Like most devices in this price range, the HP Chromebook 15.6 is made out of plastic. It’s durable, weighs just 1.69kg, but is slightly bulky. The hinge is very solid, and there is little to no flex. The port selection is pretty good for a laptop of this price. There are 2 USB-C ports (with support for power delivery), one headphone jack (which doubles up as a microphone input), one USB-A port, and an SD card reader.
What I liked most, and I think is very useful for students, is the addition of a full-sized keyboard with a numeric keypad. The keyboard is good for typing, with well-spaced keys and good key travel. The one downside is that the keyboard isn’t backlit and therefore, it might be a struggle to type in low-light situations.
The 15.6-inch anti-glare display with an HD resolution of 1366x768 resolution is strictly average. It’s good for daily usage, but if you’re a connoisseur of the finest movies, you’ll be very disappointed. The colours are muted and even sometimes washed out. The Chromebook 15.6 offers 80 an percent screen-to-body ratio.
Being an anti-glare display, and with good viewing angles, this laptop was good for casually streaming YouTube videos.
Chromebooks don’t need state-of-the-art hardware to run smoothly and that’s their main USP. The HP Chromebook 15.6 comes with Intel’s Celeron N4500 processor (with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 128GB of eMMC storage along with 100GB of Google Drive storage for the first year). I used the laptop mainly to type out article after article while having 15 plus Google Chrome tabs open while listening to music via YouTube. The laptop wasn’t blazingly fast, but it did suffice for this work profile. If your work revolves around Google Docs (Google’s equivalent of Microsoft Word), then the laptop should be very handy. HP does offer Microsoft 365 with the HP Chromebook 15.6 for free. That’s one advantage of getting this laptop.
Furthermore, HP has included the HP Quickdrop app. This means that one can easily transfer data from a phone to a laptop. ChromeOS, being a Google product, lets you easily sync your Android smartphone with the laptop. You can view your images, see your contacts and do more on the laptop itself. No need to constantly pick up the smartphone. If you’re buying a laptop for your children, then the Android Family Link feature will come in handy. As a parent, you can easily manage this laptop.
It’s 2023 and a webcam is a must. We all attend classes or work meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or some such app. Thankfully, there is a webcam on the HP Chromebook 15.6. The 720p wide-angle webcam does a good job for those attending classes.
One area where I wasn’t much impressed was the battery life. The HP Chromebook 15.6 gave me just about five and a half hours of battery daily. On some days, it was even less. That’s below par for laptops these days, but given the price point, one can’t complain much. Thankfully, the laptop charges via Type-C, and hence you needn’t carry the power brick around, making your backpack that much lighter.
The HP Chromebook 15.6 (2023) retails for ₹28,999. At that price, it is good value for students. Around this time last year, I had a journalist friend ask me for recommendations for a laptop with a tight budget. I wish there were more Chromebooks in the market as this would have been my go-to recommendation.
The display of the HP Chromebook 15.6 may be average, and the laptop may be slightly bulky, but thanks to good performance, a good enough keyboard, and a solid build, this laptop gets two thumbs up.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He tweets at @IMSahilBhalla