HP’s Chromebook 13 G1 is ready for work, with the security and manageability features that IT departments demand. It also boasts an elegant, premium design, a sharp 13.3-inch display and zippy performance, making it an enticing option for everyday productivity.
The Chromebook 13 G1 should last a bit longer on a charge, and other Chromebooks offer comfier keyboards. Plus, it could be months before support for Android apps is rolled out for HP’s system. That functionality is already available on a number of competing systems, including Acer’s Chromebook 14 for work.
Still, a gorgeous, portable design and solid business credentials makes the Chromebook 13 G1 worth a close look.
The Chromebook 13 G1 looks sleek and professional, with a handsome aluminum lid and clean, angular edges. The system’s shiny metal hinge looks sharp, too. It might be the best-looking Chromebook I’ve seen.
But while it feels sturdy and well-made, HP’s system could be tougher. The system doesn’t offer business-class durability, which is particularly noteworthy since one of its closest rival – Acer’s Chromebook 14 for Work – offers MIL-STD durability credentials, which protect that machine from dings, drops, vibrations, humidity, and more.
But while commuters might wish for a more durable design, they’ll be pleased by the HP Chromebook 13 G1’s thin and portable design. The system weighs just 2.6 lbs. and measures just 0.5 inches, making it noticeably more portable than competing systems including the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (3.1 lbs, 0.78 inches), Dell Chromebook 13 (3.2 inches, 0.7 lbs.) and the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (3.2 lbs., 0.9 inches.) HP’s system slid easily into my work bag, and I barely noticed it was in there while I toted it around.
Don’t expect much in the way of conenctivty options here. The Chromebook 13 G1 provides just a few ports, including two USB Type-C ports – one of which doubles as the charging port and either of which can be used to link the system to to an external 4K display. You also get one USB 3.0 port for connecting basic accessories. Finally, a microSD card slot on the laptop’s right edge lets you expand the notebook 512GB of internal storage.
The Chromebook 13’s crisp 13.3-inch display is equally good for work and entertainment. The quad-HD, 3200 x 1800-pixel panel looks nice and sharp, producing crisp, readable text and vivid colors. While watching the HD trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, I could make out tons of detail in a craggy cliff face, and flickering orange particle effects from a raging fire looked vibrant.
But workers will really love that the Chromebook 13 G1’s quad-HD display feels a lot roomier than lower-res, 1080p screens on rival systems. Split-screen multitasking on HP’s notebook feels noticeably more comfortable than it does on Acer’s Chromebook 14 for work, even though that system has a larger 14-inch display.
On our brightness text, HP’s system topped out at 297 nits of brightness, putting it about on par with the 303-nit average. Notably, it outshines the dimmer displays on systems like the ThinkPad 13 (241 nits) and Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (231 nits).
The Chromebook 13 G1 is more secure than your average Chromebook. For starters, it comes equipped with a Trusted Platform Module, which encrypts your private files to keep them private. And as on all Chromebooks, security updates are installed seamlessly in the background, you’re always protected and never have to endure lengthy update screens during a reboot.
The Chromebook 13 G1’s keyboard feels nice enough to type on, though I’d prefer deeper keys. The system offers just about 1.2 millimeters of key travel on each stroke, which is noticeably less than the 1.5mm that we consider the minimum for a work system. While I typed up this review on the machine, I eventually found myself pining for my desktop keyboard. At least the keys offer a good amount of tactile feedback, which helps mitigate the issue. Overall, it’s a decent typing experience.
Still, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 and Acer Chromebook 14 for Work both offer a deeper, more comfortable keyboard layout.
Chromebook vs. PC
Chromebooks ren’t typically thought of as work laptops. That’s because they run on Google’s lightweight Chrome OS operating system, which can’t run software made for Windows or Macs – at least not without resorting to relatively clunky virtualization software. Instead, you’ll rely mostly on Web apps, which means the Chromebook 13 is probably a non-starter for works who need a specific piece of Windows or Mac software to do their job.
Still with me? Good, because in many cases Chrome OS isn’t nearly as limiting as it sounds. After all, the number of full-featured Web apps is always expanding, and includes excellent online versions of Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint programs.
Plus, the Chromebook 13’s software library will expand exponentially when the system gains the ability to run Android apps – the same apps that run on Android smartphones and tablets -- with an upcoming system update. Google has been rolling out the functionality slowly, and says the HP Chromebook 13 G1 will get it “later in 2016/2017.” Without more information on when HP’s system will get the update, workers who need a new Chromebook right now might want to check out Acer’s Chromebook 14 for Work, which was recently updated with Android app support.
In the meantime, you get an operating system that will look pretty familiar to PC users. Booting up the machine and logging into your Google account whisks you to the desktop, which looks like a pared-down version of Windows, complete with a taskbar and a button that lets you browse your apps.
Google for Work
HP’s Chromebook 13 G1 also happens to be part of the Google for Work initiative, which means that it comes configured for business users right out of the box. Essentially, that means that it comes preloaded with software that makes it easy for IT staff to configure, deploy and remotely manage the system. Acer’s Chromebook 14 for Work and Lenovo’s Chromebook 13 also come Google-for-Work-ready.
The Chromebook 13 G1’s portable design may be good for mobile workers, but its short battery life is not. The system ran for just 6 hours and 48 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That’s an hour shorter than the average ultraportable laptop. And rival systems including the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (8:33) and Lenovo ThinkPad (9:13) both lasted even longer than that.
The Chromebook 13 G1 is also available with a lower-res 1080p display, but it’s tough to recommend that version when it’s only available as a pricier customizable model that starts at $713. But although we didn’t have a chance to test the 1080p version of the Chromebook 13 G1, we do feel it’s safe to say that that model would probably fare better on our battery test. The quad-HD display on our review unit is a pleasure to work on, but the extra pixel density drained the battery in a hurry.
The Chromebook 13 G1 sped along without a hitch as I researched and typed up this review on the machine. It came equipped with a 6th-generation Intel Core m5-6Y57 processor and 8GB of RAM, a configuration that makes it well-suited for daily productivity and moderate multitasking. I didn’t notice any slowdown at all while typing and browsing the Web with more than a dozen tabs open, including one streaming HD video.
HP’s system edged out most rivals on performance tests. It racked up a good score of 28,485 on the Octane 2.0 performance test, narrowly beating the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work’s score of 27,987.
Lenovo sells the Chromebook 13 G1 in a handful of hardware configurations. The entry-level offering is equipped with a 3200 x 1800-pixel quad-HD display, a low-power Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for $499.
Most workers would be better off opting for the mid-range model, which provides a zippier Core m3 processor for $599. We reviewed a pricier model, which comes with a Core m5 processor and 8GB of RAM for $819.
As mentioned earlier in this review, the Chromebook 13 G1 is also available with a lower-res 1080p display if you opt for the pricier, fully customizable model ($713) over any of the lower-cost, pre-configured versions. If you can afford it, that model might be worth a look, since the more modest display should help the system last longer on a charge. The tradeoff is that you’re losing out on a gorgeous, roomy quad-HD display, and paying more for it.
HP’s Chromebook 13 G1 is so slim and sleek that it’s hard to resist. Commuters will love the system’s portable design, and its business credentials are pretty good, with solid security and good manageability options. Other highlights include a gorgeous quad-HD display and snappy performance.
On the other hand, short battery life limits just how mobile you can be with this system, and its keyboard could be more comfortable. Acer’s Chromebook 14 for work is a great alternative, with a nicer keyboard at a more affordable price point (starting at $349). Then again, Acer’s machine is also thicker, heavier, and not nearly as stylish.
Mobile workers will find a solid productivity companion in the HP Chromebook 13 G1 – just don’t forget your charger at home.