Quietly and seemingly in the shadows of the release of the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, HP released an update to one of their best-selling mid-high-end Chromebooks in the x360 14c. This device has been released as the x360 for many years, but the most-recent design cues have been present since the past two releases. Versions of this Chromebook with both 10th-gen and 11th-gen Intel silicon have arrived and carried nearly identical aesthetics for the past few years; so much so that we made a specific video to help consumers tell the two apart when going to purchase them.
This year, HP has changed a few things with the overall design, but the look and feel remain quite close to the previous x360 14c Chromebooks that came before. Some of the changes are definitely for the better, and some are for the worse, but probably the biggest selling point to this Chromebook is the history of sale prices that have marked the two prior version. While a $699 price tag causes us to pick a few more nits than usual, I’m also looking at this Chromebook knowing that the previous version was recently on sale for a whopping $300 off, and I don’t expect this one to deviate from that pattern over the next few months.
Stuff I like
One of the best parts of the previous x360 14c Chromebooks is the fact that they’ve all had features largely held for higher-end devices. From finger print scanners to USI support to a manual switch that kills the camera, the x360 14c from this year retains nearly every nicety from the previous models and simply adds to them. Even the excellent keyboard and spacious, smooth glass trackpad are once again along for the ride.
But the big change with this year’s model is the screen aspect ratio. While still a 14-inch display, it now comes in at 1920×1200, giving users a tad more vertical real estate to work with. As we’ve seen on other devices, this little change actually feels quite large in use. That more-square screen means more space to put things and more room to get things done. I’m a big fan of taller screens all the way up to a 3:2 aspect ratio, so I’m happy to see this addition.
The speakers are a big improvement this time around, too, giving the Bang & Olufsen branding a bit more reason to exist. While nowhere near the full, loud speakers we see in the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook, these speakers are a great step up in the latest x360 14c, and I’m glad to finally see HP taking advantage of those upward-facing speaker grills on this Chromebook line.
You also get 12th-gen Intel silicon (Core i3), so performance will be plenty fast. Sadly, this choice by HP to go with the Core i3 means it won’t be great for Steam games, so if that’s what you are after, you’ll want to look elsewhere. It will be quite solid for standard Chromebook-type tasks, however, and paired up with the same 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage from the previous models, you’ll have a device that can tackle most things with ease.
Stuff I don’t like
One of the changes HP made to this device that I don’t like too much is a change in the chassis material for the keyboard surround. Previous models were aluminum up top on the lid and aluminum around the keyboard as well. This year, it seems they went with an alloy or plastic, and paired up with the plastic bottom cover, the device feels a bit more flimsy than I care for at this price. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the previous versions felt firm and confidence-inspiring, so this is a bit of a letdown and a change that I’m not too happy about.
And while I think 8GB of RAM is fine, I’d like to see 256GB of storage at this price point or a Core i5 option. While general performance won’t be an issue, a $699 Chromebook should be able to really take advantage of Steam games down the road, and while this one will be able to play them, the sub-par GPU on board won’t make it a great experience.
But that is far from my least favorite returning spec. No, that easily goes to the middling 250 nits of brightness on the display. Kudos to HP for expanding the screen a bit with the 16:10 resolution, but shame on them for keeping it stuck at 250 nits of brightness. The coffee shop I’m in right now would eat that brightness for lunch and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they can’t source displays with a bit more brightness. The Acer Chrombook Spin 714 has a 16:10 14-inch panel and it hits around 350 nits of brightness. These screens already exist: why not use them?
It’s all about that price tag
At $699, these are arguments and frustrations HP needs to address, but if history serves, that won’t be the price of this Chromebook all that often. Instead, regular deals will be had on this device and it will likely be a Chromebook that costs closer to $499 on most days. And at that sort of price, a bit of give in the chassis, a screen that isn’t as bright as I’d like it to be, and a bit less storage than I want aren’t as big of an issue.
Until that point, however, I’d have a bit of pause recommending this Chromebook to everyone. There are too many fantastic devices out there for less money (the Acer Spin 714 comes to mind) for you to spend $699 on this particular one. How long we have to wait for the first deal on this new x360 Chromebook is up in the air, and I still need to actually use this one as my daily driver to really see how it stacks up before rendering any final judgment on it. I’ll be doing that sooner than later, so keep your eyes peeled for it and if you are thinking of picking one up before that, just keep the issues I’ve mentioned in mind. If they don’t bother you too much, I think there’s still a lot to like in this Chromebook for a lot of users.