There was a time when all I cared about in a Chromebook was having the latest CPU, most RAM available and a good display. Since I spend a lot of time testing out new features and experimenting with Linux apps and VMs, I like to have the maximum amount of horsepower available at my fingertips. So, when the opportunity to review a 10th Gen, Core i7 Chromebook with 16GB of RAM fell into my lap, of course, I was excited.
The HP Pro C640 Chromebook is not only one of the most powerful Chromebooks on the market but also one of the most customizable. HP has taken to offering a wide range of flexible options in its enterprise offerings and yes, this device is aimed squarely at that exact segment. The C640 can be configured with anything from a Pentium Gold CPU all the way up to a quad-core Core i7-10610U. These CPUs, of course, all part of the 10th Gen Comet Lake family from Intel. That means that the HP features awesome stuff like Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5 and a shelf life of nearly eight years with its AUE date of June 2028.
The model I’m reviewing happens to be the Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and the best display that HP offers on this device. I’ll save the benchmarks for now but suffice to say, this thing is powerful. So long as you don’t need a discrete GPU, there is likely no task, Android app or Linux package that you can throw at this thing that it won’t cut through like warm butter. That said, should you buy this Chromebook? The answer may surprise you a bit. Check out my full review and then we’ll discuss the good and the bad about the HP Pro C640 Chromebook.
HP Pro C640 Chromebook Review
There is very little if anything that I can knock about the build of the HP Pro. The chassis is solid and built to look and feel like something an executive would feel proud to carry into a meeting. Granted, at 3.35 pounds it is a little chunky but not to the point that it feels unwieldy when you’re packing it around the office. There’s nothing that feels flimsy on this Chromebook and that’s a good thing but at the same time, the overall design just doesn’t feel inspired. As I mentioned in the video, at $1,200, I want to be wowed. Yes, this specific model runs $1,177 on HP’s website. That’s not to say it isn’t worth the money, just that paying a grand or more for a Chromebook should net you something inspiring. That’s all.
Keyboard and Trackpad
I’m not a snob when it comes to keyboards. I have a mechanical clicker that I use off and on and I love the analog experience with a lot of travel. I absolutely love the Hush keys on the Pixelbook Go. When I’m at home, the PB Go gives me a quiet and smooth typing experience that doesn’t distract anyone around me. Lenovo has some great keyboards. Acer does, too. HP, well, HP has never really impressed me outside of the x360 14 and even that device is nothing to write home about. This Chromebook? I think HP finally got the premium keyboard right. The travel is perfect for my personal preferences. That’s to say it has a little more travel than a device like the Pixelbook but it doesn’t sacrifice user experience with loose, rattling keys. The backlighting of the keys is good and I found myself using it in a variety of settings and never tiring of typing.
The trackpad is about what you’d expect from a premium glass trackpad. The click is sharp and there isn’t a lot of play in the trackpad. However, like many devices, the trackpad does plunge a bit lower than I’d like at the bottom left and right sides. If you press hard enough, it wouldn’t take much for something to get lodged in the space that’s created. That’s not good on an enterprise device. Overall, the trackpad is good but I think that most OEMs should take a note from Google’s playbook. The Pixelbook Go perfected the trackpad and it’s difficult to take a step back.
Another feature, tangent to the trackpad, is an optional fingerprint sensor. This isn’t a huge selling point but it’s becoming commonplace for a lot of PCs and it is an awesome productivity feature for a laptop. HP placed the sensor to the right of the trackpad which is where it belongs. I’m not a fan of fingerprint sensors being placed above the backspace key. With the HP, you open the lid, touch the sensor and you’re on your way.
This is where things began to fall apart for me with this device that costs a cool grand and then some. Don’t get me wrong, the display isn’t horrible. The colors are relatively sharp and the viewing angles are good but seriously, that shouldn’t even be in question when we’re talking about a Chromebook of this caliber. Where this device falls flat is the brightness. HP offers four different screens on the C640. Two are non-touch and two are touchscreens. You get to choose between an HD 1366 x 768 panel or a Full HD 1920 x 1080 display. In my humble opinion, the former shouldn’t even be an option for a device that starts at $555.
The Full HD panels are good but it only cranks out a dismal 250 nits of brightness. That’s just unacceptable in today’s premium Chromebook market. 300 nits should be the bare minimum on a “flagship” Chromebook and that’s still too dim to work outside in direct sunlight. For the professional on the go, this screen will quickly become a thorn and a pricey one at that. One other thing to note is that HP opted not to make this device USI compatible and I feel like that’s a fail. I don’t use the touchscreen on a clamshell device very often but I can imagine that business types could benefit from this versatile and affordable technology. The Chromebook does lay flat and I think that a Chromebook designed for productivity should come with stylus support. That’s just me.
Ports & Speakers
Let’s start with the speakers. Once again, HP has slapped on the B&O branding but the company opted for the speakers to be located on the left and right sides of the keyboard. They are up-firing like many of the company’s Chromebooks but I wasn’t holding my breath that they’d offer much in the way of audio quality or volume. Previous B&O-branded models have not only been mediocre, some have been outright putrid which left me wondering why B&O would even allow its name to be stamped on the machine. The C640 has remedied this gross oversight. Yes, they are laptop speakers so don’t expect to host a house party with them. Next to the Pixelbook Go, they sound tinny and a bit harsh but they put out ample volume and don’t sound completely horrible. For video meetings or consuming quick-hit content, these speakers are far better than average.
HP did nail the port selection and layout on this device. For starters, it has a full-size HDMI port. That should be a feature on any and all enterprise-focused devices for the foreseeable future as the majority of offices and even home displays have an HDMI input. HP also gives you two USB-C and two USB-A and unlike some other devices we’ve seen lately, they put one of each on the left and right sides of the device. It drives me batty when a laptop has two USB-C ports and they’re both on the same side. Counterproductive much? Anyway, the only real gripe with the ports is this “jaw drop” hinge cover thingy that HP put over the USB-A ports. As you can see in the video, it is a pain to try and put a small USB dongle into the port because the jaw drop is in the way and it swings down toward the table or desk that the device is sitting on. I get that this is designed for protecting the port but it feels like a useless gimmick and a bit of an annoyance.
You will also find a MicroSD card slot and that’s a big deal for those who are frequently downloading and swapping data from machine to machine. It’s also important because HP opted to offer a maximum of 128GB of eMMC storage. That may sound like a lot for a consumer device but when you throw in tons of saved data and chunky Android and Linux apps, that space can be chewed up quickly. Also, NVMe should have been an option on the more powerful models. If you’re using this thing as a developer, speedy storage can definitely increase productivity.
Internals, Performance and Battery
I already covered the storage on the C640. HP should offer NVMe and at least a 256GB option. Enough said. The internals on this Chromebook are the best available from any Chrome OS machine. The only way you’ll get something with more horsepower is to get one of the recently announced Comet Lake Chromeboxes and upgrade the RAM to 32GB or more. The Core i7 in the C640 is powerful but we’ve put it up against the Core i5 found in the Acer 713 and the performance gains don’t feel substantial enough to opt for the larger processor. That said, this Chromebook will definitely future-proof the developer that is looking to get the most out of the Linux container on Chrome OS. There wasn’t a single Linux app that I installed that wasn’t handled with ease by the 10th Gen CPU.
The battery life on the C640 was better than I expected. When you have a device that is fanned, I never anticipate it lasting all day but I was able to regularly get 8-9 hours out of it under a normal workload with the scree brightness around 80%. It’s not the 12 hours that HP advertises but we all know that those ratings are usually under very conservative conditions. As far as professional-grade devices go, this one gets two thumbs up on the battery life.
My overall impression of the HP Pro C640 is good. The device is built well and offers a lot of the options you’d expect from a premium device. As far as recommending this Chromebook, I’m afraid I’ll have to take a pass this time around. I am a big fan of getting the most horsepower available but unless you absolutely need a Core i7 and 16GB of RAM, there are other devices out there that offer plenty of premium features, better displays, USI support and they cost half as much. Outside of the model we reviewed, I can’t recommend the lesser builds. The Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM is going to run you $200 more than the Acer Spin 713 and the Spin has an awesome display, 360-degree hinge and many other features that are simply better. For the enterprise that needs a fleet of powerful Chromebooks, this is a solid pick but consumers should probably steer clear. I will miss the raw power of this Chromebook but that’s about it.