HP Chromebook x360 12b Evaluation:

Chromebooks in the Indian laptop industry are analogous to electric cars (EVs) in the Indian automotive market. They are often purchased by serious enthusiasts and early adopters looking to make a statement. They are not available in all price ranges or from all prominent manufacturers.

In terms of functionality and compatibility, they cannot always replace mainstream models. They do, however, exist alongside traditional Windows/macOS-powered laptops, as do the current generation of EVs in India. And, guess what, they’re on the rise, just like EVs.

With the release of the Chromebook x360 and the low-cost Chromebook 14, HP essentially became the most active participant in the Indian Chromebook market in August of last year. Later in the year, the American multinational extended its trend by releasing a Celeron version of the Chromebook x360 as well as a smaller, less expensive 12-inch version of the same.

The latter is what you’re going to learn. But, before you start, we recommend reading our reviews of the Chromebook x360 here and the more cheap Chromebook 14 here to get a sense of HP’s Chromebook lineup.

Performance

The HP Chromebook x360 12b, which is currently priced at Rs 29,990, is one of three models in HP’s Chromebook lineup to be powered by an Intel Celeron CPU. This Celeron N4000, released in late 2017 as part of the Gemini Lake generation, is a 14-nanometer device with two cores and a maximum boosted clock speed of 2.60GHz.

It comes with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of internal storage on an eMMC flash drive. Storage may be increased with a microSD card, however HP has not specified the maximum capacity supported. Unfortunately, because the RAM chip inside is soldered to the motherboard, it cannot be updated.

To my dismay, the Chromebook x360 12b evaluation unit performed poorly in common usage instances. A cold boot to the lock screen took 15.05 seconds, and then another 10.6 seconds to get to the first browser tab, putting the entire boot time to 25.66 seconds.

Android applications like OneNote and Apple Music took between 5 and 10 seconds to launch for the first time. A 3MB PDF file took roughly 2.5 seconds to open in a new Chrome browser. When switching attention from one tab or window to another, the animation or background music playing periodically stutters.

When compared to the more cheap Chromebook 14 that we examined last year, the performance of the Chromebook x360 12b appears to be poorer in terms of statistics alone. The Chromebook 14 is powered by an Intel Celeron N3350 (Apollo Lake) processor, which is both outdated (it was released in late 2016) and sluggish (2.40GHz boosted clock speed).

The Chromebook x360 12b, on the other hand, has a newer and somewhat faster Intel Celeron N4000 processor. Both variants have the same amount of RAM and storage space. Despite having a supposedly faster and newer CPU, the Chromebook x360 12b lags behind its less expensive, non-convertible sibling.

In addition to the overall sluggishness, I noticed software stability concerns with the Chromebook x360 12b. On the review unit, Chrome frequently failed abruptly, leaving me with a new browsing session and the ‘Restore pages?’ dialogue box.

At first, I believed the instability was caused by the YouTube window playing music in the background (read: stuttering). Later, I observed that even a basic operation like right-clicking in a blank portion of a web page will cause Chrome to crash and restart. Fortunately, these crashes ceased when I manually updated Chrome OS to version 79.0.3945.123.

Even if we exclude the stability concerns I observed with the review unit, the Chromebook x360 12b is a slug when it comes to browsing performance.

It can keep several (say, a dozen) Chrome tabs open in the background, but it won’t transition between them all quickly. Opening websites such as Gmail and Outlook Live takes tens of seconds, and navigating between them demands some patience on your part.

However, when compared to a Windows counterpart in the same price range, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad S145 that we examined last year, the Chromebook x360 performs far better, owing to static storage technology.

Battery

Chromebooks often outperform their Windows counterparts in terms of battery life, and the HP Chromebook x360 12b is no exception. During one of my daily test runs, the review unit’s battery went from 100% to 45% in around five hours.

During that period, I did a lot of browsing on the Chromebook. The screen brightness was set to 75%, and the brightness of the keyboard backlight was set at around 30%. I also spent around twenty minutes watching a Netflix film and fifteen minutes listening to music on YouTube Music.

On another run, I switched off the keyboard backlight and reduced the screen brightness to roughly 60%, and the battery lost just 5% of its entire charge in thirty minutes. In other words, if you’re a frequent traveller who likes to write, take down notes, and consume material on the fly, the Chromebook x360 12b should be a good fit.

After a single full charge, the HP Chromebook x360 12b should provide close to 10 hours of continuous use.

Display, audio, and input/output (IO)

The HP Chromebook x360 12b has a 12-inch IPS LCD touchscreen panel with a rather low resolution of 1366 x 912 pixels, as the name indicates. HP has opted for a 3:2 aspect ratio rather than the standard 16:9. The text and photos on the review unit’s LCD were notably blurry.

At maximum brightness, colours were largely drab and even faded out. While the panel was adequate for indoor use, it felt inadequate in bright outside conditions. In conclusion, the screen on the Chromebook x360 12b is mediocre in terms of overall quality, but it is far from the worst in the laptop’s price range.

Despite the fact that the review unit’s touch panel recorded touch inputs accurately and without perceptible latency, it didn’t feel very helpful. This is due in part to the fact that HP does not provide a pen with the tablet and in part to the fact that there aren’t many programmes for stylus input pre-installed on Chrome OS, like Windows does with OneNote, Paint 3D, and so on.

However, HP claims that the panel will be compatible with all styluses that support the new Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) standard. Furthermore, the laptop’s side can magnetically retain an HP Pen.

The Chromebook x360 12b comes with a lengthy speaker strip on the bottom panel, immediately above the keyboard. Below the keyboard is the Bang & Olufsen logo, which can be found on practically every other HP laptop these days.

The two upward-firing speakers within provide a strong but mainly flat sound. While the highs and mids emerge out the speaker grille with noticeable clarity, the lows are completely flat. This makes HP’s 12-inch Chromebook’s speaker arrangement suitable for presentations and vocals but not for bass-heavy music.

For a 12-inch convertible laptop, the HP Chromebook x360 12b has a plethora of connectivity possibilities. It has a 3.5mm audio connection for headsets, a USB-C 3.1 connector, and a microSD card slot on the left side of its 17.3-millimetre-thin shell.

It has a USB-A 3.1 port, another USB-C 3.1 port, and a Kensington Lock Slot on the right side. The laptop can be charged using the included 45W power adapter through any of the two USB-C ports, making desktop operation a breeze. The sides also have a power button and a volume rocker, but no fingerprint sensor, as seen on the previous Pavilion x360.

Chrome OS

“While Chrome OS is just a glorified internet browser, it has certain added characteristics that lift it beyond a simple method to access the web,” HP states in its online buying guide. Yes, although HP is correct in referring to Chrome OS as a Chrome browser in a box, it is a little more than that. It supports Linux software as well as Android apps via the included Google Play Store.

It also has a built-in file explorer and native support for popular file formats like PDF and JPEG. Android applications such as OneNote, Facebook, and Apple Music, in my opinion, aren’t properly optimised for usage on a display as large as the Chromebook’s or good keyboard mapping, making Google’s claim of smartphone-like app experience on Chromebooks somewhat dubious.

Because Chrome OS is primarily intended for surfing, you can’t really rely on it for offline activities like image editing and video file playback—unless, of course, you’ve loaded an Android app for it before going offline. Despite these limits, Chrome OS has certain benefits in terms of speed and ease.

This is why, even with an Intel Celeron CPU, the Chromebook x360 12b outperforms its Windows counterpart in terms of browsing performance. A Chromebook, such as HP’s Chromebook x360 12b, is certain to provide a better surfing experience than, say, the similarly priced Lenovo IdeaPad S145.

Touchpad and Keyboard

Given that HP’s new Chromebook is a 12-inch laptop with a 3:2 aspect ratio, you’d think the keyboard arrangement would be a little tight for comfortable typing. Surprisingly, this is not the case. The keys on the Chromebook x360 12b are, in reality, well-sized and properly indicated, with numerous phases of illumination.

However, the keys themselves are a little mushy for long docs and emails, unless that’s how you want your keyboard configured. Furthermore, the keys might need more travel, although it may be too much to ask in a convertible this small. To summarise, this keyboard will be useful for your everyday emails.

The touchpad on HP’s 12-inch Chromebook is underwhelming. Although it works well for multi-finger taps and swipes, the pointer movement on the screen is not linear. In terms of accuracy, its touchpad falls between between the more expensive HP Chromebook x360 and the less expensive HP Chromebook 14.

While it’s significantly more exact and handy than the Lenovo IdeaPad S145’s touchpad, it’s not as excellent as a precision unit recognised by Windows 10. Still, it should suffice when you’ve forgotten your mouse at home. On Chrome, a three-finger swipe will allow you to switch between tabs but not virtual desktops.

Construct and Design

The HP Chromebook x360 12b is a little tablet-like device with lots of elegance as a laptop. It has an all-metal construction that offers its top cover and base panel plenty of stiffness and class while being lightweight at 1.35 kg.

The little Chromebook also has a good grip. In fact, I frequently chose the review unit over my long-term MacBook Air due to my affinity to its tiny snow-white look. In conclusion, the HP Chromebook x360 12b is a well-made and well-packaged gadget for consumers who want small, elegant computers.

Unfortunately, opening the display on the Chromebook x360 12b requires two hands. When you open it in laptop mode, you’re met with a 12-inch glossy touchscreen display with broad piano-black bezels. The keyboard island has a silvery finish, although the keys share the top cover’s white backdrop.

To provide a little of contrast, the hinges and touchpad edges are chrome-lined. Because Chrome OS requires a six-digit PIN rather than Windows’ four-digit PIN, I wish HP had included a fingerprint scanner in its Chromebook x360 series.

Verdict

The Chromebook x360 12b is clearly the middle kid in HP’s newest Chromebook family, which leads to some natural uncertainty about its identity and location. The more expensive Chromebook x360 has faster performance (due to a Core i3/i5 processor), a crisper display (with Full HD resolution), and a much finer trackpad (with smoother tracking and keyboard backlighting).

It’s what you should acquire if you want to do full-fledged Chromebook computing. The sleek design, backlit keyboard, and ‘convertible’ display are what this 12-inch model inherits from it. In other words, the little Chromebook x360 12b inherits the appearance and versatility of the larger Chromebook x360 12b.

In terms of performance, the Chromebook x360 12b is comparable to the less expensive non-convertible Chromebook 14, which is similarly powered by a low Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM. This means it has the same appearance and feel as its bigger sibling, but not the same speed.

As a result, the HP Chromebook x360 12b is ideal for those who value design and mobility above raw browsing speed. But if you’re prepared to forego the latter, the solution is clear: acquire the less expensive Chromebook 14 and save roughly Rs 8,000.

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