AMD-powered Chromebooks are a bit of a new breed. No, the hardware isn’t different and the operating system is still the same, but under the hood, these Chromebooks are being powered by a completely new player in the Chrome OS space. AMD is no stranger to personal computing devices, however, and they’ve been a standard competitor to Intel for many years in the world of Windows laptops and desktops. Over the past few years, AMD has encroached more and more Intel’s market dominance and as of the beginning of 2019, Chromebooks are part of that overall growth.
At the end of the day, for users like yourself, the important thing to know about AMD is they build chips like Intel does in the x86 architecture. Though they go about it differently, the main premise is the same: these processors are going to be more powerful and power-hungry when compared with ARM chips from companies like Qualcomm and MediaTek. AMD’s benefit is twofold: better performance for the price and better integrated GPUs. You can read more about AMD with a quick Google search if you are interested, but those are the main things you need to know about AMD and their entrance into the Chromebook ecosystem.
With the new AMD Chromebooks that hit the scene early this year, we’re seeing manufacturers take a bit of a safe approach with the AMD A4 and A6 systems. These are older, low-powered processors that are definitely meant for the lower end of the hardware spectrum. Flagship level processors are being leveraged for future devices, but this is a great way for AMD chips to get started in Chromebooks. As with other reviews of this sort, price will drive many of the things I say about this device. As of this post, this Chromebook can be had directly from HP for only $230. There are few things in the world of computing you can buy brand new for $230. While HP’s Chromebook 14 is decidedly cheap in a few ways, the low price helps me look past quite a lot. There’s one part I can’t look past, but we’ll get to that in just a few minutes.
With all that out of the way, let’s take a deeper look at HP’s first AMD-powered Chromebook.
This one is, not surprisingly, plastic from head to toe. I don’t personally dislike plastic all together, and many parts of this device are nice to look at and feel good to the touch. The outer shell is nice and grippy and the overall look is clean and somewhat classy. Perhaps it is a bit of nostalgia hitting me, but the resemblance to the first real Chromebook I reviewed in the original HP Chromebook 14 just gives me the feels.
There’s no way for me to know how the white would hold up to discoloration over time, but the whole thing resists fingerprints and dirt quite well so far. On a desk or in your lap, the HP Chromebook 14 looks different and appealing from most angles. Opening it up reveals an all-white keyboard deck with a slightly irridescent, brushed finish that, again, looks pretty nice. Overall things feel firm and well-assembled with bezels that aren’t out of control. The hinge is firm and confident without a ton of wobble when in your lap and, while this doesn’t feel like a premium enterprise-level device, it isn’t supposed to be. It feels young, fresh, and interesting and I’m not put off by it in any way at all.
Yikes. It’s really bad. This is a TN panel with abysmal viewing angles, extremely washed out colors, and a resolution that should frankly never be on anything larger than 11 inches. Sure, 14-inch devices are a great mix of screen size, productivity and portablity, but this screen just doesn’t aide the user in any real way. It is virtually impossible to angle the screen in a way that you get one uniform white across the entire face and the 1366×768 resolution makes things way to big on the screen to really get any advantage in using a larger-screen Chromebook. The lack of touch also adds to the overall sting of a bad screen.
I said in the opening that a $230 price tag makes a lot of things forgivable, but this screen isn’t on that list. There are cheap devices with much nicer screens, so I can’t understand why we’re still seeing these terrible displays in any device in 2019. I suppose this is the cost of keeping things affordable, but in my opinion, a few more dollars on the bottom line would have made a really big difference, here.
HP’s site has an option for upgrading most parts of this Chromebook, including processor, RAM, storage, and screen. While I don’t know how much better the A6 would be when compared with this A4 we tested and RAM/storage can help in certain situations, I’m completely positive that upgrading to the 1080p screen will at least get you a better overall resolution and the improved viewing angles and colors that IPS panels deliver.
The keyboard on this device is great and I enjoyed banging out articles on it. HP is on a roll lately with keyboards and I love the keyframes they make. Keys travel well, have a decent click, and allow me to type plenty fast across any activity I’m into at the time. Sure, I’d like some backlighting, but I surely don’t expect it in a Chromebook at this price.
The trackpad is plastic and carries an interesting texture. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but its ability to resist oils from your hands and remain smooth all day made me a believer. The click mechanism on our review unit was a tad stiff for my liking, but I could see it working in nicely over time. There was no wobble or floating, double-clicking trackpads here. Oh, and the surface is very large as well, so that is always a welcome addition.
I enjoy the port selection a lot. With one USB Type-C and one USB Type-A on each side, this Chromebooks is a connections master. Add in a microSD slot and headphone/mic jack and you get all the connections you really need in 2019. I still love having at least a single USB A port on my device for keeping the dongle life in check, and this Chromebook delivers that on each side for ultimate flexibility. The SD card slot also mounts flush, so you can leave your card inserted all day and honestly forget it is there.
Speakers are also pretty impressive, finally giving a bit of a reasoning for the B&O branding near the grill. With the now-signature HP speaker grill adorned above the keyboard, these speakers deliver a very punchy and loud sound when listening to music or videos. I put them up against the HP x360 G1 and while the G1’s speakers were clearer, the HP 14 (AMD) delivered more mids and more volume. I don’t expect much from laptop speakers, so I was pleasantly surprised by these as they can deliver some sound in a pinch when you don’t have headphones around.
I talked a bit about this in the opening, but it is really what’s inside that sets this Chromebook apart from other HP offerings. That AMD A4 gets along quite nicely paired up with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. With an Octane score of right around 13,000, you can expect to have a few tabs and apps open before seeing things get a bit slow. Navigating inside those perameters yields very acceptable performance with almost no drops in frame rates as you move about the OS.
Battery life has been as good as expected, too, easily delivering the 8-10 hour window we are beginning to expect from Chromebooks. Overall, I’d come at this Chromebook with expectations similar to the highest-end Apollo Lake processors from late 2018. Decent, but not great. The Gemini Lake processors coming soon in this same space in the market will perform better, but don’t expect to get them at this low of a price.
If you temper your expectations and don’t try to have a ton of apps running at the same time, this Chromebook (and these chips from AMD) can deliver a pleasing user experience.
In the end, though, is the price right? Should you grab one of these Chromebooks? For some of you, sure. If you are looking for a great Chromebook at a reasonable price, this could be the one for you. HP charges a strange premium to customize this device (the base model of the custom version starts at $340, for instance), so I’m unsure if spending more money on it would be warranted or not. Perhaps if you simply upgraded to the 1080p screen the experience would be much better, but then I’d fear the A4 wouldn’t be quite enough processing power. You can get there with 8GB of RAM and a backlit keyboard and no touchscreen for $408 on HP’s site.
At that point, though, you’d likely want to go ahead and get the A6, 8GB of RAM, and the 1080p touchscreen. Again, that comes with a backlit keyboard, but it also carries a hefty $468 price tag. With the slew of fantastic Chromebooks on offer in that kind of price range, it would be very difficult to recommend getting this one in the customized form.
However, if you can look past the screen and keep your activities in check, I can see quite a few people who would really enjoy this device at the $230 asking price. I can also see quite a few users buying one of these for the kids just to have around the house.
For the money, you are getting a good looking device that performs pretty well for most tasks, has good battery life, has great input methods and port selection. When we talk about sub-$300 devices, there will always be trade-offs. If you can deal with the few quirks this one comes with, I think the HP Chromebook 14 is a good overall purchase.Buy The HP Chromebook 14 AMD from HP