- 16:10 screen
- Very attractive and thin
- Chromebook Plus perks
- Great webcam
- Excellent speakers
- High-end keyboard/trackpad
- Dim 250 nit screen
- Flimsy bottom half
- Too pricey when not on sale
- Fingerprint scanner removal
Chromebook Plus is officially here and upon us and with that comes a ton of reviews we’re beginning the process of working on. Of the 8 new devices that debuted with Google’s announcement of Chromebook Plus, 5 of them were already available for purchase and are simply getting a bit of rebranding. The Chromebook we’re talking about today – the HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c – was one of those devices. We don’t have the version with the new branding on the lid, but this Chromebook is exactly the same as the branded version, and I’ve been spending some time with it to see just how good Chromebook Plus really is to use. Spoiler alert: it’s been pretty great. Let’s talk about why.
HP has been making the x360 14c Chromebook for years at this point. The past 3 versions have all had the same-ish look to them, and they’ve all been quietly great. This most current model keeps the same weight and thickness while increasing the overall size a bit to accommodate the new 16:10 screen. We’ll talk about that and one other notable improvement we’ve been asking for in this lineup for the past few years in a few minutes.
But we’ll start by talking about the build quality. And it’s a mixed bag. You see, the prior models of the x360 14c all had rigid, mostly-aluminum chassis, great hinges, and a very premium feel. This latest version has most of that, but there are changes to the bottom half of this Chromebook that I simply don’t like.
While the lid is all aluminum and glass, the bottom portion is all plastic and/or some sort of alloy, and the difference is noticeable. On the desk, it looks pretty amazing: sleek, modern, and professional. But once you pick it up, you can feel some deflection in the bottom half of the chassis, and with the thin nature of this Chromebook, that slight bend is enough to engage the click mechanism on the trackpad. So, if you are holding it in one hand by the front corner and try to click on the trackpad, it simply won’t work.
If you avoid that particular hand placement, you may never notice the give in the bottom of the chassis, but I still hate that it is there. Yes, it is slight, but with devices like the HP Dragonfly Pro out there, it’s clear that HP understands the importance of a solid material choice for the bottom half of a laptop and chose to ignore that a bit for this Chromebook Plus model. Oddly enough, the hinges are pretty firm and when on the desk and the keyboard deck feels fantastic. The issue only arises when you pick it up from the front two corners.
Otherwise, the build of this device is solid. Closed up it feels thin at just .71-inches, light enough at 3.34 pounds and the rigid thanks to the lid portion’s aluminum makeup: it all comes together to make the x360 14c feel great in the hand. And I can’t stress enough how good this Chromebook looks. A slim bottom bezel, the powder-coated body, and the particular color on this Chromebook all just work. I love the way it looks even if I don’t always love the way it feels.
We started off on a tough note, but things really do get better from here. And it starts with the screen. HP chose to upgrade to a 16:10 14-inch IPS display this time around, and I love this combo of size and aspect ratio. We’re seeing it more and more, and for good reason: it just works so well. At 14-inches, the slight bit of extra vertical real estate offered up by a 16:10 screen makes the workspace feel far larger than you’d expect, and the 1920×1200 resolution is enough to keep those pixels at bay from any standard viewing distance.
And though I’m still sitting here wishing HP would borrow a few of those nits from the 1200 they have in the Dragonfly Pro to lend to the x360 14c, I’m not totally put off by the 250 nit screen. It could stand to be a bit brighter, but nits don’t always tell the whole story; and if I didn’t know better, I’d think this screen was at least 300 nits. It’s not super bright, but the resulting image from this panel doesn’t feel as dim as I expect a 250 nit screen to be. Still, I really wish HP would go with a panel like we see in the Acer Chromebook Spin 714. Same size, same resolution, and a lot more brightness.
As you would expect, we get full USI support as well, so if you have a pen or want to pick up one from Penoval, HP or anyone else, this Chromebook will work well for pen input. With the faster processors on hand for Chromebook Plus devices, that means pen input is simply better, and the inking on the x360 14c has been really good to use when needed.
Above that screen is a 5MP webcam that employs the temporal noise reduction Google requires for Chromebook Plus, and it is quite good. And the fact that you get to use the new Chromebook Plus camera tools with the camera whether in a call or not means I can add a bit of background blur and lighting fixes to take a selfie when needed and actually use it for something. Take a look at this shot with no setup, no extra lighting, and no doctoring in post:
Keyboard, trackpad and speakers
Below the screen sits one of the major highlights of this Chromebook: the keyboard/trackpad combo. HP has been getting this setup right on the x360 14c lineup for years, and this one is no different. The backlighting looks great, the keyboard is easy to type on, quiet and clicky. And the trackpad is huge, glass, and smooth as silk. The click mechanism is sure and using this trackpad on a daily basis is just a pleasure. It is only outdone by the haptic version on the Dragonfly Pro, and even then it’s not that far off. I really like this trackpad a lot.
Flanking those input methods are a set of speakers that finally make good on the long-standing B&O branding HP includes on this line of Chromebooks. In the past, even with upward firing drivers, the overall speaker quality on the x360 14c line has always been a let down. I’m happy to say that this year, that isn’t the case at all. Instead, the speakers are full, rich, loud, and offer up some of the best audio you can get on a Chromebook. Seems like they borrowed a little bit of the Dragonfly Pro mojo for this one.
And we can’t forget the other two premium additions on this bottom portion of this model: the fingerprint scanner and the hardware camera shut off switch. As they have for years at this point, the fingerprint scanner works perfectly and provides a simple, fast way to get logged into your Chromebook. And the hardware shutoff switch for the camera simply provides a more elegant way to shut down video quickly when you need some privacy. It’s a nice touch.
UPDATED: We found after making the video that the Chromebook Plus version of this device actually removes the fingerprint scanner. It’s a bummer, for sure, and a decision we’re unsure why HP made. Yes, the storage gets doubled, but a fingerprint scanner certainly doesn’t add that much to the bottom line.original post continues below
Internals and I/O
On the inside, this Chromebook Plus model comes with the 12th-gen Intel Core i3-1215U, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of NVMe storage. With that speed, you also get a decent port selection with 2x USB Type-C (3.1), a single USB Type A (also 3.1), microSD card slot, and headphone/mic jack. With a chassis this slim, fitting in the fan favorite full-sized HDMI slot simply isn’t possible, so you’ll need a dock or dongle if you want to push an external display.
And this Chromebook can most definitely do that. At my desk, it handled the QHD 120Hz external screen with no problems at all and at no point was there ever any indication that this Chromebook couldn’t keep up. And that’s the idea behind Chromebook Plus. With a specific guideline on internals, you can know that you’re going to get a great performance experience across the board.
And that power comes with decent battery life as well. Though quoted by HP to be up to 10.5 hours, I was getting more like 8-9 hours of real use. While I tend to feel the need to pump the screen up to 100% most of the time on 250 nit devices like this one, I actually ended up keeping things closer to 70% on the x360 14c. Still, that’s on the high end of things, and I’m sure that shaved off a bit of my total battery life.
Should you buy it?
So, with all that said, is this device worth the $699 asking price? I’d say…no, but it’s complicated. At $699, I think you should pass on this Chromebook. There’s a lot to like in it for sure. The screen size, the keyboard, trackpad, speakers, fingerprint scanner, and the speed all make for a great overall experience. But the give in the chassis and 250 nit screen really do give me pause at this price point.
But here’s the good news: this Chromebook has been on sale a few times already, and as we were filming this review, it was actually marked down a ridiculous $320. Will it stay there? Not all the time, but the fact that we’re seeing massive deals on it already means those deals are likely to continue in different amounts over time.
So, while I’d say $699 is too much, anywhere under $499 makes this device a fantastic value! At that sort of price, you can forgive the small issues with this Chromebook and really enjoy all the great parts. There’s a ton to love about the HP Chromebook Plus x360 14c, and it’s a great value if you simply wait for the right time to buy it.