The HP Chromebook 13 G1 is a sleek, brushed-aluminum notebook that pairs a high-end design with the simplicity of Chrome OS. Starting at $499 ($819 as configured), this machine is part of the Google for Work program that looks to convince companies that Chromebooks aren't just for schools and minimalists. Available with high-end (for a Chromebook) specs, such as a powerful Core m5 CPU and a 3200 x 1800 display, plus the security and manageability features that IT managers need, the Chromebook 13 means business. However, competitors offer much longer battery life.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 bears all the hallmarks of a premium laptop design. From its brushed-aluminum body to its shiny, metal hinge and its angled front edge, this notebook stands out from the pack.
While the HP Chromebook 13 G1's lid and deck feel solid, this machine isn't tested for durability. Businesses looking for a ruggedized notebook may prefer the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, which passed multiple MIL-STD durability tests and survived fall testing done from 4 feet with our Dropbot 5000.
On the left side of the Chromebook 13 G1, you'll find two USB Type-C ports for charging, as well as a USB 3 port and a headphone jack. Those USB Type-C ports support output to two 4K displays using the HP Elite USB-C Docking Station ($149) and HP's HDMI and DisplayPort adapters (both $29). A microSD memory-card reader sits on the right side of the notebook, allowing you to add up to 512GB of additional storage.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 measures 0.5 inches thick and weighs 2.6 pounds, making it thinner and lighter than fellow 13-inch notebooks, such as the Toshiba Chromebook 2 (0.8 inches, 2.9 pounds), Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (0.78 inches, 3.1 pounds) and Dell Chromebook 13 (0.7 inches, 3.2 pounds), as well as the 14-inch Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (0.9 inches, 3.2 pounds).
IT administrators will appreciate the HP Chromebook 13 G1's multiple security features. It has an integrated Trusted Platform Module to protect files in the cloud (100GB of which comes free from Google Drive).
Chromebooks also support multiple user accounts, so the same laptop can be shared with multiple people across an organization. This machine also supports SAML (security assertion markup language) for single-sign-on security.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 is available with either a quad-HD, 3200 x 1800-pixel or a 1920 x 1080-pixel display. Our review unit's QHD panel appeared sharp and color-accurate in our testing.
When I watched a Suicide Squad trailer on the panel, I noted correct-looking tones in the red of Deadshot's glowing eyepiece, El Diablo's flaming orange hands and the inky blacks of the shadowy Batman. Killer Croc's slimy scales rendered clearly on the high-res screen as well, which should be expected considering the resolution. A 4K clip of the SFX test video Tears of Steel played smoothly on the panel as well.
We were surprised to notice that the Chromebook 13 G1 came with its resolution set to 1600 x 900, rather than 3200 x 1800. However, when we switched to 3200 x 1800, all the icons and text were way too small to read on the 13-inch display. On the bright side, a 4K video looked equally sharp at both resolutions.
We didn't get to test the 1920 x 1080 model, but users might be better off with the lower-res panel, because it costs $50 less and likely uses less power.
According to our colorimeter, the HP Chromebook 13 G1's QHD panel produces 106 percent of the sRGB gamut, which makes this display more colorful than those of the Dell Chromebook 13 (96), Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (64 percent), Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (60 percent) and average ultraportable (91 percent), but similar to the Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (110 percent).
The HP Chromebook 13 G1's colors are relatively accurate, as it scored a 1.4 on the Delta-E test (closer to zero is better), which is tied with the Dell Chromebook 13's showing (1.4) and better than the average ultraportable notebook's score (2.3). The Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (0.9) and Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (0.7) did even better.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 emits up to 294 nits, which proved bright enough for me during testing. While this laptop outshines the Dell Chromebook 13 (270 nits), Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (241 nits) and Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (231 nits), it's slightly less luminous than the average ultraportable notebook (304 nits) and the Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (378 nits). If the panel were brighter, it might have provided better viewing angles, as a white cast of reflected light muted colors when I viewed the panel at 45 degrees to the left or right.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Since the Chromebook 13 G1 is meant for work, it's good that HP gave this device a solid backlit keyboard and touchpad. When I tested the notebook out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I click-clacked my way to 78 words per minute, a rate that's close to my 80-wpm average. This Chromebook's keys are good enough, offering 1.23 millimeters of travel and requiring 50 grams of force to actuate, but more comfort would be possible if those numbers were closer to 1.5 mm and 60 g.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1's 3.8 x 2.1-inch, buttonless touchpad accurately tracked my input as I navigated web pages. The touchpad speedily and smoothly responded to two-finger page scrolling and three-finger navigation gestures.
The HP ChromeBook 13 G1 features strong, clear audio tuned by Bang & Olufsen that filled a large conference room. Blasting DMX's "Party Up (In Here)" on the system, the notebook reproduced the rapper's gruff vocals clearly as well as strong, accurate bass.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 that we tested features a 6th-Generation Intel Core m5-6Y57 CPU and 8GB of RAM, which provided enough performance for serious multitasking. Both the Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 and the Dell Chromebook 13 sport less-zippy Celeron processors and only 4GB of RAM. The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work packs a 6th-Gen Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, and the similarly priced Windows-based ThinkPad 13 comes with a Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM.
Since the HP Chromebook 13 G1 packs more oomph than the average Chromebook, I kept opening tabs until I saw a slowdown. The system stayed responsive and zippy with 20 tabs open (including Google Docs, TweetDeck and Slack), and with the camera on and the file manager open. I noticed pauses only when switching among open tabs after I had 24 tabs running at once.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1's Core m5 CPU notched a new high score for a Chromebook on the Octane 2.0 performance test, with a 28,485, edging out the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (27,987). The Dell Chromebook 13 (14,453) and Toshiba Chromebook 2 (17,044) achieved lower scores.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1's integrated Intel HD 515 graphics didn't earn the same high scores that the notebook delivered on other tests. The HP Chromebook notched a solid 6,980 on the Oort Online test, which measures the browser's ability to display computer-generated environments. That showing is below the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work's mark of 8,530. The Dell Chromebook 13 (5,050) and Toshiba Chromebook (5,060) earned lower marks,
The HP Chromebook 13's 3D-rendering capability was similarly mixed on the WebGL Aquarium graphics simulation, with the frame rate dropping below 60 with only 500 fish in the tank. The Acer Chromebook 14 for Work, Dell Chromebook 13 and Toshiba Chromebook 2 all fared better, at 60 frames per second with up to 1,000 fish.
Google for Work
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 is one of a handful of notebooks designed to be compliant with the Google for Work initiative. So while this laptop operates just like its consumer-friendly siblings, it also allows IT administrators to easily and remotely manage the machine, with the same software and technology used to secure thousands of similar devices. Administrators can preconfigure apps and set restrictions on extensions through the web-based Chrome Device Management panel.
Google for Work devices also support VPN and virtualization apps such as VMware and Citrix, which enable users to access Windows apps from a Chromebook. That may be a good work-around, but you have to remember that the HP Chromebook 13 G1 can't use those tools when it's offline.
For any company that has adopted Google Apps for Work --as more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies have, according to Google -- the HP Chromebook 13 G1 should easily fit into all of your existing workflows. Chromebooks support Google Docs, Sheets, Gmail, etc., but these machines can also access Office 365 web apps for Word, Excel and Outlook.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 may require you to carry its power adapter on day trips and leave you hunting for AC outlets later in the day. The notebook lasted only 6 hours and 48 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness).
Not only is this an hour less than the average ultraportable lasts (7:48), but it's also less than the times for the Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35 (10:05), Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (9:13), Dell Chromebook 13 (13:25) and Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (8:33).
The HP Chromebook 13 G1's 0.9-megapixel webcam captured washed-out color and little detail.
The red wall behind me is reproduced with orange splotches, and my hair appears fuzzy in most areas.
You might feel a little warmth if you use the HP Chromebook 13 G1 in your lap, as the machine's underside spiked to a feverish 101 degrees Fahrenheit after we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the device. The Chromebook's touchpad (84 degrees) and the area between the G and H keys (88.5 degrees) stayed under our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The Chromebook 13 G1's entry-level configuration comes with the 3200 x 1800-pixel QHD display, costs $499 and packs a Pentium processor, 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. A $599 configuration upgrades you to a Core m3 processor, and our $819 review unit features a Core m5 CPU and 8GB of RAM.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1's QHD screen may be pleasing to the eyes, but we suggest you buy a model with a 1080p display to maximize battery life, as it takes a lot of energy to power all of those pixels. In order to get that display, though, you'll need to get the customizable model, which starts at $713.25. This gets you the same Pentium CPU, 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM as in the entry-level model, which feels like a lot of money for those basic components. HP tells us that it expects to see commercial retailers selling this model for $489 by the end of August.
You can select customization options that include Core m7 processors and max the RAM at 16GB, but combining both costs $1,925 from HP, but that same model is available at $1,030 at Best Buy.
Bizarrely missing from the configuration options is a touch-screen display, which Chromebooks will benefit from once access to Android apps spreads throughout the line.
The HP Chromebook 13 G1 offers the impeccably good looks of a premium laptop, tons of speed and none of the fuss that complicates other operating systems. After all of that upside, though, the Chromebook 13 G1's price, battery life and heat should give any shopper a moment of pause before hitting order.
A more durable and similarly configured Acer Chromebook 14 for Work costs $80 less, but you lose the brushed-metal body for a thicker and heavier chassis. Despite the HP Chromebook 13 G1's drawbacks, it is a solid option that will turn heads while you plow through your workload.