Chromebooks aren't just for school kids anymore. With its sleek aluminum design and available 6th-generation Core m processor, the HP Chromebook 13 is MacBook thin and powerful enough to run dual external high-def displays. Starting at $499, this system is on the expensive side for a Chrome OS laptop, but it's much cheaper than Windows ultraportables while offering business-friendly features.
The Chromebook 13 should turn heads and stand up to abuse with its brushed anodized aluminum design, which measures just 0.5 inches thin and weighs 2.86 pounds. The all-metal chassis also packs a sharp and glossy quad HD display (3200 x 1800 pixels) and premium B&O Play audio, which should come in handy for conference calls. (HP will also offer a 1080p matte screen option.)
The port selection includes two USB-C, a full-size USB, headphone jack and microSD Card slot. Based on my first impressions, the keyboard felt fairly comfortable and the touchpad offered smooth navigation, though it's a bit shorter than I'd like.
What makes this Chromebook worthy of your work desk is its USB-C Docking Station, which will allow you to connect two external monitors a full-size keyboard, mouse and Ethernet jack for wired Internet. HP says the Chromebook 13 can power a single 4K display or two 2K monitors. During my brief hands-on time, moving a PowerPoint window around the desktop (in a Citrix virtualized environment) was a little jerky but certainly workable.
The starting configuration will have a Pentium M processor, 4GB or RAM and 32GB of flash storage, but you can step up to Core m3, Core m5 or Core m7 and as much as 16GB of RAM for serious multitasking.
When you're running from meeting to meeting, the Chromebook 13 promises up to 11.5 hours of battery life, which should give you plenty of endurance. (We'll have to see how the laptop holds up in our test.) USB-C fast charging should top you off in a hurry when you start to run low.
So why would business users pick this machine over a Windows notebook? Select models will offer a Lucid Sleep feature for keeping documents, emails and notifications up to date in the background while the Chromebook 13 is in sleep mode. Other perks include multi-layered security (automatic updates, sandboxing, verified boot and data encryption and recovery), enterprise fleet management and HP Print for Chrome support.
HP isn't the only laptop maker targeting businesses. The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work sports a solid and sexy Gorilla Glass body that's built to survive drops and spills, and it will offer a Core i processor and up to 12 hours of battery life when it goes on sale in May for $349. However, the cheaper Acer has a lower-resolution screen and is heavier and thicker.
It's hard to beat the versatility of Windows 10, but if you do the vast majority of your job in the cloud, the HP Chromebook 14 could be an attractive option. And if the rumors prove true -- and your IT department allows it -- you might be able to run over a million Android apps on Chrome OS through the Google Play store as soon as this summer.