Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Samsung Chromebook vs HP Chromebook 11

Chromebooks

A few months ago, my wife got fed up with her old Ubuntu Thinkpad, so I bought her a Samsung Chromebook for $250 (it is only $230 as of Jan 2014). A few months later, our toddler spilled a large cup of tea directly onto the Samsung's keyboard. The next day it stopped working. A couple weeks later, we bought the HP Chromebook 11 for $280. This post describes our experiences with Chromebooks in general and compares the two Chromebooks that we have used.

Why Chromebook

Having spent much of my life maintaining the windows machines of friends and family, the idea of a machine that cannot be messed up by its user (even accidentally) is fantastic. We moved all our photos to Smugmug, so there was little reason to have a full computer for my wife anymore. In bullet form:

  • No manual patching
  • Instant boot up
  • No need for backups
  • Great battery life
  • Lightweight
  • The point about backups is really great when you need it. When our Samsung drowned in a pool of green tea, we didn't have to worry about it. No need to recover from a possibly dead disk. No need to reinstall software on the new machine. Just plug in the new machine and login. All the settings and applications we had installed on the old Chromebook automatically arrived in the new Chromebook.

    Drawbacks

    The CPU in the Samsung and HP is a bit slow; they both use the Samsung Exynos 5250 1.7GHz dual core. This processor gets the job done, for example netflix streaming is no problem, and web pages load up without much delay. The processor's weakness shows up when doing things like scrolling web pages quickly; the page does not re-draw frequently enough during the scroll, so the scrolling isn't smooth like my Macbook Pro.

    My wife needs Citrix XenApp to work from home. I haven't tried to install it on the Chromebook, but I have my doubts. For now she uses her old Ubuntu machine for working from home.

    Samsung Chromebook vs HP Chromebook 11

    Since the CPU and the OS are the same on both of these Chromebooks, the only real difference is the hardware, mainly the screen, trackpad, and case. There are some differences in the hardware ports, but those don't bother me much, and the keyboard is about the same.

    First the screen. The Chromebook screen is not great. I'm used to using a unibody Macbook Pro, so the TN screen in the Samsung is noticeably bad. Bad viewing angles and low contrast. However, it is a matte screen which I do like. The HP on the other hand is a fantastic (but glossy) IPS screen. It has rich color, great viewing angles, and a saturated look to it. This reason alone is to choose the HP even though it's $50 more.

    The trackpad on the HP seems a little better than the Samsung. It seemed like the Samsung isn't sensitive enough or something. The HP seems closer to the Macbook Pro's trackpad.

    The case on the Samsung flexes (and maybe creaks) when you pick it up or move the screen. The HP flexes much less and feels more solid.

    The Samsung was cheaper and came out earlier than the HP, so it's understandable that the HP is a better machine for just $50 more.

    Wish list

    The HP Chromebook 11 is a really great machine, but they could make it much better with a slightly faster processor and a larger screen with a correspondingly higher resolution. The HP Chromebook 14 had potential, but it has a TN screen with the same resolution as the HP 11, which is really unfortunate. I would gladly pay an extra $50 or so to have a nicer screen. The only real differentiator between all these chromebooks is really the screen now, so they would focus on using something nice. I think people will pay for it.

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