Back in April of 2019, Acer previewed a Chromebook to the world at their annual hardware reveal that possessed a very unique feature at the time: a number pad on the keyboard. Sure, this is a pretty commonplace item on many Windows devices, but we’d not seen a Chromebook sporting this input method yet and many readers and YouTube viewers were very excited about the prospect of seeing a 15.6-inch Chromebook with a number pad on the keyboard.
Fast forward four months and we’re still waiting on the Acer Chromebook 715 to actually begin shipping. In the meantime, Lenovo has teased a number pad-toting Chromebook and HP has simply just shown up first with their brand-new Chromebook 15 equipped with a number pad. While that means we now have 3 choices for large Chromebooks with number pads, you technically only have one choice at this point if you are ready to pull the trigger and actually buy one.
Other parts of this Chromebook are nice, but not really noteworthy. We’re going to go through the parts piece by piece like we always do, but don’t be looking for any further superlatives with HP’s latest Chromebook and you likely won’t be disappointed. It does plenty well, but this Chromebook’s clear claim to fame is that number pad. With all that in mind, let’s look at the HP Chromebook 15.
Approaching the HP Chromebook 15, you’ll feel a tad bit of déjà vu if you’ve ever seen or handled the Chromebook x360 14. The lid is the same treated aluminum that feels a tad like ceramic and the chassis is aluminum on top, plastic on bottom. The two-tone look of the x360 is also present here, but the bottom color is gray instead of the slate blue from that device, so it will likely be a bit less polarizing. I honestly like the look of both devices, but I understand not everyone is a fan.
The hinge is solid, the device is relatively thin at only 0.7-inches, and also weighs in at an acceptable 4 lbs. With a 15.6-inch Chromebook, this weight and thickness make the device feel quite a bit thinner and lighter than those numbers portray and I was impressed by the form factor of this device overall. It looks good and feels good, too.
We’ve already mentioned it a bit, but this 15.6-inch device comes equipped with a FHD 1920×1080 IPS panel that does nearly everything right. Viewing angles are wide, colors pop, and the resolution is perfect for this size. Again, where this Chromebook falters a tad is in the brightness category. For whatever reason, HP seems content to ship Chromebooks with dim displays. At about 160 nits, this screen is simply not bright.
If you are in controlled lighting environments most days, it likely won’t bother you. But if you, like me, are out and about most days with your Chromebook, you’ll want to think twice about this purchase. It honestly doesn’t matter how good your colors, sharpness or viewing angles are if your screen isn’t bright enough to be viewed in your environment. There were times it didn’t bother me, but taking this Chromebook to our local Starbucks (which is mostly windows) was a pretty big fail.
Keyboard & Trackpad
On the other side of the spectrum, the HP Chromebook 15’s keyboard and trackpad are fantastic, just like many of the Chromebooks HP’s delivered on over the past couple years. Keys feel great, have backlighting, and you get the coveted number pad to smash those spreadsheets like a boss. The trackpad, while not glass, is wide and smooth, delivering a great click and excellent user experience.
I do wish they would have brought over the remarkable glass trackpad from the x360 line, but I was never bothered by this one in the least. Many plastic trackpads get oily fast and don’t register swipe gestures well after a bit of use. This one stayed smooth and responsive throughout my entire review period and was never cause for any concern.
Ports & Speakers
By now, we’re painfully familiar with the port layout of this device. It is built on the same ‘Nami’ baseboard as the Lenovo Yoga C630, Dell Inspiron Chromebook, HP x360, and Acer Spin 13. This means we get dual USB Type C ports, a single USB Type A port, headphone/mic jack, microSD card slot, and a Kensington lock. I’ve said it plenty of times in the past, but it still applies; this port layout is my favorite as it is one of the most versatile available. USB type C gives you flexibility on each side while the type A port lets you mostly escape the dongle life. And I don’t care what anyone says: headphone jacks are nice to have.
The speakers, however, are a repeat of a familiar HP theme of B&O branding without B&O sound. I’m still surprised B&O allows their brand to be associated with such middling sound, but here we are with another HP Chromebooks that flaunts B&O speakers and sounds like audio quality was literally the last thing they considered when building the device. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t good either. I’m still waiting for the first time I crack open a B&O branded Chromebook and get something like what Google delivered in the Pixel Slate. This is most definitely not that.
For most people, the internal setup on offer here is the 8th-gen Pentium Gold processor paired up with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. For some of you, however, you can grab the version we reviewed that seems to be a Sam’s Club and Costco exclusive with a Core i3 processor and an expanded 128GB of storage. Unfortunately, the RAM on all models is capped at 4GB.
First, a bit of a rant about that RAM. We’re getting to the point where only budget-minded Chromebooks should offer 4GB of RAM, honestly. It is time for anything sold over $400 to always have 8GB on offer across the board. It doesn’t cost that much to upgrade and in a day and age where most phones ship with 6GB or 8GB or RAM, it is time for 8GB to become the new normal. I personally didn’t run into issue with memory while testing this device, but I could easily see a scenario where it becomes an issue in the very near future.
For the processor, we haven’t tested a Pentium Gold device yet, but according to the benchmarks, there isn’t a ton of performance drop from the Core i3 we tested. The performance from a processor perspective shouldn’t be an issue unless you are planning on getting into some heavier Linux development. With Chrome OS and Android apps, however, either processor will deliver enough power for you not to have to think about performance on a daily basis.
So, is this Chromebook for you? From a user experience standpoint, that depends. If you need a Chromebook with a number pad right now, the answer is yes and I think you’ll enjoy this one overall. If you are not really that excited about a number pad, the answer to that question is quite a bit more nuanced and that is mainly due to price.
At the MSRP, this device starts at $449 and I can say that you simply should not buy this Chromebook at that price. It does seem, however, that most retailers have agreed to a $379 price point on this Chromebook, and at that price I think most people would feel great about their purchase.
The Core i3 model comes in at $549 MSRP and, again, with the current lineup of incredible Chromebooks out there for near that price, I can’t recommend it. We got a one-day deal on it for $399, though, and at that price there’s not much like it on the market. The closest competitor is the Lenovo Yoga C630, but it rarely dips down to that low of a price, loses the number pad and backlit keys, and is a bit heavier.
In the end, price informs on all these decisions. Know what you are getting and don’t pay full price for this Chromebook and I think you’ll walk away from the purchase satisfied with your decision and satisfied with your Chromebook. After all, this device is only weeks old and is already on sale left and right. At the right price, this device quickly becomes a great value. With both Lenovo and Acer poised to offer Chromebooks with number pads as well, it might be worth waiting to see how those fare. Either way, if you do need a Chromebook with a number pad and find a sale on the HP Chromebook 15, I think you’ll enjoy it.