General Hardware

HP Chromebook x360 14c review: a solid upgrade – Chrome Unboxed

The HP Chromebook x360 14c is a solid offering from HP that takes the formula from its 18-month-old predecessor and improves on it in nearly every way. Just like that earlier iteration of the x360 14, this latest version delivers a great overall Chromebook experience and does so while getting pretty aggressive price reductions along the way. After all, the original HP x360 14 wasn’t the best overall Chromebook you could buy on most days, but it was often the best deal you could find because of those frequent sales. With price drops basically on day one, HP is making the same case again with this well-built successor to one of our favorite Chromebooks of all time, so let’s take a look at what the x360 14c brings to the table and find out if it is a good fit for you.

Buy the HP Chromebook x360 14C at Best Buy

Build

HP has put together a cohesive, well-made Chromebook in the x360 14c. The powdered aluminum feels great in the hand and there are no creaks or wobbles in the chassis. Thought the bottom is plastic, it is a convincing one and I had a hard time discerning the difference in it and the metal that adorns the rest of the device.

All this aluminum and firmness come at the cost of size and weight, though, and the x360 14c comes in at a hefty 3.64 pounds and 18mm thick. For a 14-inch Chromebook, those are far from ‘thin and light’ and if that is what you are ultimately after, you’d probably be better off looking elsewhere.

For all that heft, you do get a device that feels substantial and thoughtfully designed, however, and there are no misaligned edges or gaps to find with the x360 14c. Crafted is the word that comes to mind here, and even the way the edges of the keyboard deck slightly slope away from the center give off a pristine vibe with this Chromebook. If overall build quality is your thing and you like a device that is well put together, you’ll enjoy this one.

The x360 14c transforms into all the convertible shapes we all expect at this point from this type of device, and the hinges are nice and sturdy. The magnet holding the lid closed is a tad aggressive for my taste, but it does add to the tightness of the design. One odd note is the strange way the hinges align when the Chromebook is in tablet mode, offsetting the screen and base just a bit. This doesn’t hinder any operation, but it looks a somewhat strange and for those of you who do actually use large, 14-inch Chromebooks in tablet mode for extended periods of time, this is probably something you’ll want to note. You can see this at the 2:00 mark in the video.

Screen

The screen on the HP Chromebook x360 14c is fine. It is a fairly standard 14-inch 16:9 1080p screen that hits a max brightness of 250 nits. Compared to the older x360, this screen is quite similar and a bit brighter, but still lags far behind what some other Chromebooks in this price range are doing. For me, 250 nits is not where we should see screens cap out on $600+ Chromebooks. At the end of the day, even sat at my desk, I was keeping the brightness maxed out on this one at all times just in an effort to keep up with various lighting. Devices like the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 have far brighter screens for the same MSRP, so I think it is time for Chromebooks that break the $600 mark to ditch dim displays.

All that said, this panel isn’t bad. Viewing angles are nice, colors pop, and the 14-inch measure is a very solid workspace to have in your bag. 1080p at this size is quite sharp, too, so there’s little to complain about aside from the lacking screen brightness in this one. Additionally, HP has really trimmed down the bezels on three sides of the screen, giving this Chromebook a far more modern feel and a sleeker overall look.

Keyboard, Trackpad & Pen

One of my favorite parts of the older x360 was the excellent keyboard and trackpad HP put together. Little has changed on this version and little needed to. The keyboard is backlit and has excellent click and travel, giving as good of a typing experience as I’ve had on a Chromebook across the board. The same is true of the all-glass trackpad. It stays smooth, is generously sized, and clicks feel solid and fantastic. While more and more keyboard/trackpad combos are becoming solid options on newer Chromebooks, I always appreciate it when manufacturers get this part right. Between the screen, keyboard, and trackpad, you spend little time interacting with anything else on a Chromebook. These three things are essential, and HP is nailing it with the keyboard and trackpad portion.

As for the pen, this Chromebook follows the popular 2020 trend of being USI pen compatible and not really having a good selection of pens to really test that functionality against. We have a pre-production HP pen in the office and while it technically works, it isn’t a great experience. We’re hopeful that as more pens hit the market later this year, that won’t be the case. For now, just know that this Chromebook works with USI pens and you’ll be able to choose yours once they arrive later in the year.

Ports & Speakers

The ports are pretty standard fare, giving you a USB Type C on either side for charging, power, display and data transfer. Those are flanked by a funky jaw-drop USB Type A port, a headphone/mic jack, and a microSD card slot, rounding out the I/O on this Chromebook.

Up top, you have two speaker grills that run next to the keyboard on either side and I’m happy to report that the B&O branding isn’t a total let down this time around. As we’ve seen with prior HP Chromebooks, that branding didn’t really deliver very good sound at all. While these speakers aren’t Pixelbook Go killers, they are loud and substantial. Given their positioning, they also give off wide stereo separation and were very pleasant to listen to while consuming video content.

Finally, there’s a small surprise lurking on the left side of this Chromebook in the form of a camera privacy switch. This is the first Chromebook to launch with a dedicated camera switch and it allows users to simply turn off the camera with a quick flick. While I’m fine with the built-in, physical slide cover that ships with the Lenovo Flex 5, I have to admit this switch on the HP x360 14c feels more futuristic and elegant as a solution. In an age where we’re all using our webcams more than usual, this is a nice addition. It’s a shame it is connected to yet another 720p webcam. Hopefully that trend begins to change in the next wave of Chromebooks.

Internals & Performance

Inside this Chromebook, we’re looking at a similar spec layout to the original x360 14, but updated for 2020. Powering things is a 10th-gen Core i3 U-series processor coupled with 8GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage. There’s good and bad, here, so let’s talk about the good stuff first.

I really like the Core i3 for Chromebooks across the board. There’s little performance loss and it saves a bit of money that can be used to make some other part of the device better when compared with the Core i5’s and i7’s of the world. The Core i3 used here is the same we had on the ASUS Flip C436 and it is a solid, very fast chip. Along with 8GB of RAM, this combo is all the horsepower you really need in a Chromebook for the vast majority of users. Sure, some will like the performance overhead of a Core i5 or i7, but very few actually need it.

With those speedy internals comes very solid battery life. Even with the screen cranked up, I was able to easily surpass the 10 hour mark on a regular basis and if I took it easy, I could achieve the promised 12-13 hours of battery HP claims with this Chromebook. Bottom line: battery issues won’t be among the problems users will find with this device.

For all that good, there’s the issue of storage we need to discuss. For a $629 Chromebook, 64GB is just not enough, especially considering HP opted for the cheaper, slower eMMC variety. If this were some form of SSD, users could swap it out for themselves and this could almost be forgivable. As it stands, eMMC is soldered to the board and not swappable, so there are no paths to manual upgrades, here. If HP chose the cheaper, slower eMMC and gave 128GB or 256GB of it, I’d really have no complaints. eMMC is fine for Chromebooks in most cases, but with devices like the Acer Spin 713 shipping for the same $629 price with 128GB of NVMe storage, 8GB of RAM and a 10th-gen Core i5, it’s a pretty tough sell to convince me HP couldn’t have put a bit more storage space inside.

Buy the HP Chromebook x360 14C at Best Buy

Wrap-Up

I’m not going to lie, coming off the very-excellent Acer Chromebook Spin 713, this was a tough review period. When two devices share the exact same price point, it is nearly impossible to not draw comparisons between them. For what it is worth, at MSRP, I simply don’t think the HP Chromebook x360 14c brings enough to the table to compete in the current Chromebook landscape. When nearly the same device can be had for $220 less in the Lenovo Flex 5 and a clearly-superior option is available in the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 for the exact same money, I’m just not sure where the HP slots in.

But, as was the case with the original HP Chromebook x360 14, MSRP might not actually be a regular part of the discussion with this Chromebook. Right out of the gate, the starting price of $629 was undercut down to $399 over at Best Buy. Right now, you can still get $130 off, and I’ve not seen this device attempt to sell for $629 apart from the first few days of availability, and I honestly don’t expect it to very often. As it was with the first version of the x360, it looks like HP priced this one to go on sale, and that’s a very good thing.

Buy the HP Chromebook x360 14C at Best Buy

At $400-$500, this overall package is far more compelling. I can overlook a 250 nit display and 64GB of storage on a Chromebook that runs $399 all day. I do it with the Lenovo Flex 5 and when we compare overall build, fit and finish, the HP is a far better device. HP’s biggest issue here will be devices like the Acer Spin 713 which has also been on sale a few times in the last month. If Acer stays aggressive, it will hurt this Chromebook. If not, I think HP will stay relevant in the mid-range category based on price alone. If you see it on sale and you like the look of this one, I think you’ll be quite satisfied with this Chromebook. Just stray away from it at MSRP.