The title for this review really says it all, doesn’t it? On the market right now, there is no Chromebook you can purchase that is more powerful than the HP Chromebook x360 14 G1. Not the Pixelbook, not the Pixel Slate, and not even the very-powerful Acer Chromebook Spin 13. No other Chromebook has the raw horsepower this one delivers, but you’ll pay a hefty price for all that power and though it is adept at nearly everything it does, there’s one piece of the puzzle that may cause you to think twice about a purchase.
As I said in the open, this Chromebook is good at nearly everything, so don’t be surprised as the positive descriptions flow pretty freely with the HP x360 14 G1. Starting with build quality, this device doesn’t disappoint. With a fully-aluminum, single-color body (unlike it’s cheaper cousin which sports a 2-tone finish), the HP x360 14 G1 looks every bit the expensive, corporate part. The fit and finish is simply top notch and exactly what you expect from a more expensive Chromebook. The aluminum is an eye-pleasing light gray with a finish that resists fingerprints very well.
The overall frame is sturdy and confidence inspiring from head to toe as well. Even the cutouts for fans are done in a way that looks good and not garish, allowing the extremely fast processor under the hood to do its job effectively without being obnoxiously loud when the fans kick in. For what it is worth, that rarely happened during my review period. This device is a very decent weight for portablility as well, weighing in just over 3.5 pounds and measuring 12.81 x 8.93 x 0.63 in.
The one issue I have with the build is a subjective one. The hinges are ever-so-slightly looser than I would like and it caused the lid portion to flop open from time to time when I picked the device up off a desk or my lap a bit too quickly. Oddly, poking around on the screen didn’t seem to make this panel bobble all around, so that wasn’t really the issue. It would simply fall too far open too easily and it made the entire thing feel a tad cheaper than I’d like for a Chromebook in this price bracket.
This display panel is the one place the HP falls down a bit, but it is really only in one area: brightness. This is an unfortunately dim display, only measuring around 180 nits when we tested it at max brightness. Considering Chromebooks average about 220 nits, this feels a bit unacceptable on a Chromebook that basically has everything else basically tucked in. I simply don’t understand how this passed inspection and was considered OK to ship this way.
Apart from the brightness, I love everything about this display just like I have on most of the late-2018 Chromebooks that launched. The colors are great, the viewing angles are on-point, and 14-inch size at 1920×1080 pixels is both sharp enough in general and not overly-taxing on the processor. All they really needed to do was crank up the max brightness of the backlight and this would have made for a great display. As it stands, the dim nature of this panel makes quite a few lighting environments a bit tough to work from. Sure, you can use it just fine indoors under standard lighting, but you’ll likely have it cranked up at or above 80% brightness all the time with little headroom to bring it up if any additional lighting enters your surroundings.
Keboard & Trackpad
Alright, now that we have the bump out of the way, it is time to return to all the things this Chromebook excels at, and this category may be the highlight. As we’ve come to see over the past couple years, HP makes great keyboards and trackpads for their devices across many price brackets. The HP x360 14 G1 is not exception to this rule and may be one of my favorite keyboard & trackpad combos on offer in any Chromebook.
The keys are backlit with a very pleasing soft-touch finish and the travel/click in them is second to none. I said it about the standard HP x360 14 we reviewed months ago and the same goes here: this thing is simply a joy to type on. If you spend lots of your work day writing or answering emails, you will absolutely love the typing experience on this Chromebook.
The keyboard is great on its own, but HP has paired that great keyboard up with the graciously-wide, glass trackpad that is second to none. With a whisper-quiet click, impossibly-smooth surface, and huge size, the trackpad on the HP x260 14 G1 is easily my favorite trackpad on any Chromebook available right now. No contest.
Ports & Speakers
At this point, the port layout on this device is as predictable as the sun rising. A duo of USB Type C ports flank each side with an additional USB Type A port, Kensington Lock, MicroSD card slot, and a headphone/mic jack. We’ve seen this on the HP x360 14, Lenovo Yoga C630, Dell Inspiron, and Acer Spin 13, so the port layout is anything but surprising. Regardless, it is insanely productive and useful in this Chromebook just like it is in others. With the flexibility of the USB Type C ports, you also get the increased compatibility of the USB Type A port (who needs a dongle?) and expected standbys like a headphone jack and SD card slot, so anything you need is usually at your fingertips.
A nice surprise was the speaker output on this Chromebook. I’ve lamented the poor quality of the B&O branded speakers on HP Chromebooks in the past, but this device actually has some pretty nice speakers on it. The Pixel Slate still wipes the floor with it, but that is the case with most laptops in general. I enjoyed watching back videos and listening to a bit of music on these speakers more than most Chromebooks, so that’s saying something. I wouldn’t expect them to replace a good pair of headphones or a nice Bluetooth speaker, though.
Though the HP x360 14 G1 shines in most areas, performance is the area where it is unquestionably the champion in the Chromebook world for now. The device we tested comes equipped with an 8th-gen Core i7 8650U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 64 GB of internal storage. There are other variations (Pentium 4515U, Core i3 8130U, or Core i5 8350U) that come with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM, but all of them ship with 64GB of storage and that is a bit of a bummer. At the high end of the spectrum, I’d freely assume 128GB would be the minimum on offer, but HP has cut a corner here that I really wish they wouldn’t have on the upper-tier models.
Battery life was great as well, easily getting me a solid 10 hours of mixed use and pushing into 11 or 12 hours on some days. I honestly expected the battery life to suffer a bit when compared with the standard HP Chromebook x360 (which is a battery life champ) mainly due to the much-faster processor, but I was pleasantly surprised that this Chromebook stands its ground in the battery life department. Color me impressed.
Though this device is aimed clearly at the enterprise market, consumers like you and me can easily head over to HP’s store and buy one. And with everything good I’ve said here, I wouldn’t blame you if you did. The HP Chromebook x360 14 G1 packs a ton of great features into one package and I was genuinely happy using the device during our review period. But I was able to use this device at no cost to myself, and I have to believe that if I were to have paid the exorbitant $1250 that this Chromebook retails for on HP’s website I would have been a tad disappointed.
I don’t think I would have found much fault in it aside from the dimness of the display and slightly-loose hinges, honestly, but those two things would have likely made me unhappy enough at this price point to return the Chromebook. I’ve said it many times over and it bears repeating: price informs our experience. When we pay a large sum for anything and there are cheaper, comparable alternatives, we view that think under a much harsher, much more judgmental lens. We need to just own the fact that cheaper stuff just gets a pass on some things. As the price goes up, so do my expectations.
There is hope, though, and that lies in the other models on offer from HP. For one, there’s a usually-on-sale HP Chromebook x360 14 available all the time for $399-$449. Or, on HP’s store, you can customize the device in this review down to the Core i3/8GB/64GB variation and get it down to around $600. That Chromebook would be fast enough for nearly every single user out there and would save you a ton of money as well. Sure, at that price I still expect a slightly brighter screen, but I can get over it a bit easier and feel a lot better about anyone buying this Chromebook, too.