"The HP Chromebook 15 is well above its price and offers excellent performance at affordable prices."
Solid build quality for the price
Powerful performance of Chrome OS
Good battery life
Touch display is a plus
The keyboard has an uncomfortable crack
Fast CPU can quickly discharge the battery
If you're spending less than $ 500 on a laptop, your expectations should be low. There may be some plastic here and there, performance may suffer, and the display may not be the best. However, some Chromebooks can do wonders with relatively modest components. The HP Chromebook 15 has such ambitions.
HP provided a $ 469 configuration (only available through Wal-Mart) that included an Intel Core i3, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of eMMC storage. Does the Chromebook under $ 500 add more than the sum of its parts?
A little touch can have a big impact on how a product comes across. Take the ceramic-like finish of the Chromebook 15's aluminum lid – it gives the otherwise rather boring aesthetic a little flair. It even forms a nice contrast to the metallic blue of the rest of the chassis.
The laptop apparently costs more than it costs, and that's exactly what you want from a budget computer. Note that HP says this is a "micro-edge" display, but while the side bezels are thin enough, the top and bottom bezels don't meet modern standards.
The build quality is also good because the lid only bends slightly under pressure and the sandblasted aluminum keyboard cover is only slightly bent. The plastic bottom of the case is stiff enough, and overall the Chromebook 15 feels like a quality product. Compared to some other larger Chromebooks in the same price range, such as the HP Chromebook 14 and Acer Chromebook 15, the Chromebook 15 is both better built and looks better.
The Chromebook 15 is also relatively well connected, offering pretty much the standard number and types of ports for similar Chrome OS laptops. Two USB-C 3.1 ports support charging, data and display as well as a USB-A 3.1 port and a microSD card slot.
You need a dongle to connect an external display. This is crap, but otherwise HP has you covered. As with all Chromebooks known to us, there is no Thunderbolt 3 support. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, both lagging behind but still offering decent wireless performance.
Core processors are a welcome addition
The next item on the buyer's list of an affordable laptop is probably its performance. Here the Chromebook 15 has a trick up its sleeve. Strictly speaking not a trick, but a normally fast CPU in the 8th generation Intel Core i3-8130U CPU. Perhaps one day this will be more of a standard for budget-oriented Chromebooks, but at the moment the HP has a clear advantage over other low-cost options that run on much slower Intel Pentium and Celeron processors.
The processor offers the Chromebook more than enough power to satisfy the vast majority of Chrome OS users. This includes 4 GB of RAM, which is sufficient for everyone except the most aggressive multitaskers. The Chromebook 15 stayed snappy no matter how many Chrome tabs and Android apps I ran in the background. This is something new for such a cheap Chromebook.
Browse the market and you will find many Chrome OS laptops, such as Acer's Chromebook 15, that still use the Intel Pentium and Celeron CPUs mentioned above. These offer reasonable performance to many users, but are more likely to encounter lag and hesitation.
This contradicts what Chrome OS is all about, which should be fast and optimized on laptops that don't cost thousands of dollars. This makes the HP Chromebook 15 worth the additional $ 70 over the Acer and much more.
If performance is important to you, the Chromebook 15 deserves a special place on your shortlist.
The web benchmark Tachometer 2.0 confirmed my suspicions. The HP Chromebook 15 achieved a strong 93.8. This is at the top of our database, a place dominated by Intel Core processors.
Slower Chromebooks with Pentium and Celeron processors typically achieve less than half the speed. The HP Chromebook 14 with an AMD A4 CPU only scored 24.2 points. Ouch. The situation is similar in Geekbench 4, where the HP Chromebook 15 was faster than most Chromebooks – and even competed with some Windows 10 laptops with Y-series CPUs.
If performance is important to you, the Chromebook 15 deserves a special place on your shortlist. The laptop is likely to go through your workflow without missing a beat, and that's gold.
The Full HD display (1,920 x 1,080) was just as good and provided enough brightness for work in an office or classroom (but not enough to overcome bright light sources like the sun). I can't test Chrome OS ads with my colorimeter, but the colors were vivid enough for general browsing and media consumption. If you depend on high-precision colors for your work, you probably have to look elsewhere.
The contrast was enough to highlight black text on a white background, which is essential for me as a writer, and the gamma of the display seemed almost perfect. 2.2 – Netflix video was neither too light nor too dark.
Compared to other inexpensive Chromebooks like the HP Chromebook 14 and the Acer Chromebook 15, I found the display to be superior and pleasant to use. You'll have to raise the price to something like the new Google Pixelbook Go, which costs a few hundred dollars more if you want a much better display.
In fact, Netflix binging on the HP Chromebook 15 is a lot of fun – as long as I have some headphones connected. The built-in speakers were fine, but the bass was missing (as is common with laptop audio systems) and there was some distortion at higher volumes. Use the speakers for system sounds and occasional games or YouTube videos. However, have your favorite headphones ready for TV shows, movies, and music.
Long-lasting as long as you do not load the CPU
Chrome OS is naturally promising as a lightweight operating system. Typically, Chromebooks can do the usual tasks for a day, especially if they're web-based.
If you mainly use the Chrome browser, the HP Chromebook 15 should deliver almost 13 hours. That's six hours longer than the HP Chromebook 14 and almost 90 minutes longer than the Acer Chromebook 15. The HP has looped our test Avengers trailer for over 10 hours, which is good, but not great, and almost two hours behind the Acer Chromebook 15 is lagging behind.
When we ran the Basemark benchmark, which stressed the CPU, the Chromebook 15 only lasted three and a half hours. That's almost an hour behind the Acer Chromebook 15 and an hour and a half behind the HP Chromebook 14. It's clear that the Core i3 processor can shorten battery life if it works too hard.
Overall, the Chromebook 15 probably lasts well beyond a full day of work or school for the common Chrome OS user. This is a strong result for a laptop that is so well equipped and costs so little.
A springy keyboard
HP makes great keyboards, especially for the Specter line of Windows 10 laptops. The HP Chromebook 15 benefits somewhat from this family tree, with a keyboard with enough travel and a snappy feel that avoids the muddy experience of the HP Chromebook 14.
However, there is a harrowing jump at the bottom of the button press that distracts. After a while I got used to it, but the keyboard never felt comfortable to me. On the other hand, there are four levels of backlighting, and that's a plus for an affordable laptop.
However, the touchpad was fine, had a nice size and supported all the usual Chrome OS multi-touch gestures. HP has also integrated a touch display that allows you to scroll through web pages with your thumb and occasionally tap the button.
Few inexpensive laptops from a manufacturer or operating system have touch displays, unless they are 2-in-1 laptops. HP's decision to include one is welcomed.
If it costs a few hundred dollars more, we cannot recommend it. It's not the solidly built device, it doesn't have the best display, and the keyboard is a bit rough on the fingers.
At $ 469, however, that's a strong value for a Chromebook. Add the excellent performance and battery life for the whole day (as long as you don't overuse the CPU), and this is a winning combination.
Are there alternatives?
The HP Chromebook 14 is a great option if you need AMD Radeon graphics for Android games. For $ 330, you get a full HD display, 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It outperforms the Chromebook 15 in terms of price and graphics performance, but is nowhere near as well built or as fast, and the battery doesn't last long either.
Another option is the Acer Chromebook 15, which is also a well-built laptop and offers a full HD display, 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage for just $ 400. However, the battery life is not so good and the performance takes a back seat thanks to an Intel Pentium N4200 processor.
How long it will take?
The Chromebook 15 should last as long as you need because of the low entry cost. It's rigid enough to build trust, and the components keep Chrome OS buzzing for a long time. The one-year warranty is nothing special, but it's the industry standard.
Should you buy it
Yes. You won't find a better 15-inch Chromebook for less.