As we all know, affordable Chromebooks are harder than ever to find right now. Whereas 6 months ago there was a new deal on one Chromebook or another seemingly every day of the week, those days are gone for now. Instead, we now have a market that is low on inventory and much higher on prices across the board. While we aren’t seeing price gouging too often, we are definitely seeing Chromebooks sell at their MSRP which, in most cases, is far above what you could buy them for a few months ago.
Part of the response to this issue will be manufacturers getting affordable Chromebooks launched and out the door as quickly as possible. As we have observed with the launch of the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, affordable Chrome OS devices sell like hotcakes these days, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see manufacturers scrambling to put together launches of Chromebooks that maybe wouldn’t have been top of mind prior to the pandemic.
My guess is that is what we’re seeing with a mysterious new Chromebook from HP that we’ve not seen or heard of before. Hiding in plain sight right on Google’s official Chromebook page, the HP Chromebook 14a is a bit of a head-scratcher right now. According to the landing page for the new Chromebook, this device comes with the Intel Pentium Silver N5000 processor and up to 64GB of storage for $299. It’s a good looking device with upward-firing speakers and a handsome two-tone color scheme.
Looking at the Google Chromebook page, you won’t find this device in the list anywhere. However, visiting this link directly, you can see the device is already a part of the website even if it isn’t found in the sort tool Google utilizes. This led me on a hunt to find this device on sale at other vendors like Best Buy, Walmart, etc. After looking around a bit, I did manage to find the device listed in two places: Office Depot and Walmart. For now, the cheaper $249 Walmart listing is sold out, but the one at Office Depot is available at $299 and is shipping now.
Oddly enough, the version at Office Depot looks different than the one at Walmart and they both differ from the Google Chromebook site listing. It would seem they are all the same device underneath, so ultimately they are just different paint jobs of the same Chromebook.
Other than these listings, there’s no mention of this device officially launching anywhere on the internet that we can see. Without knowing exactly what model number is being shown on the Google Chromebooks site, it is hard to tell if the model you can buy right now from Office Depot or Walmart is exactly the same thing or not, but from the looks of it, I think that is the case. If so, this device comes in at 1366×768 in its display resolution and that’s always a bit of a bummer to see in a 14-inch screen. If history serves as a guide, cheap 14-inch displays with a sub-1080p resolution tend to be pretty terrible TN panels, so don’t get your hopes up that this will be different. Additionally, no touch functionality looks to be available, either.
Remember, this is a $299 device, so corners will be cut. Generally, HP delivers great keyboards and trackpads even on their cheaper Chromebooks, so if you just need a cheap device that will be a solid performer, this could be a great Chromebook to snag right now at this sort of price. Just know going in that it may be all plastic with a poor screen and I think the rest of this one will impress for the price.