Hewlett-Packard has been blowing a bit hot and cold with Windows 8 recently. With sales of Windows 8 tablets still flatlining, HP has been telling anyone that will listen that it is prepared to look at other alternatives for its mobile offerings. See all budget laptops.
Editor's note: The Chromebook is a self-updating laptop based around Google's Chrome OS – essentially just a Chrome web browser and a few supporting utilities. By giving Google permission to collate all its personal data on you and all the content you've given it to store, once logged into any Chromebook the Google services, tracking and targeted advertising will be brought together through your unified Google account. See: The 8 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2013?
HP's take on the Chromebook hardware is a little different, though. The Chromebooks released by rivals such as Samsung and Acer are very much in the older netbook mould, with compact 11-inch or 12-inch displays. In contrast, the Pavilion Chromebook opts for a larger 14-inch display, and aims to offer the comfort and features of a full-sized laptop.
The glossy black plastic casing has a slightly cheap and cheerful feel to it, but it's sturdy enough for day-to-day use. Our only real complaint about the build quality was that the keys on the keyboard didn't travel much and felt rather lifeless.
It's a little heavier than we might have liked, at 1.8kg, but that's still light enough to carry around in a backpack without much strain.
The 14-inch screen isn't the brightest we've ever seen either – and viewing angle were poor with only around 50-degrees limit to either side – but it's fine for browsing the web and watching some streaming video.
The 1366 x 768-pixel resolution is basic too, while the built-in speakers sounded tinny. But we've seen and heard worse on Windows laptops costing around £100 more.
It's well connected too, with three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, memory-card slot and – thankfully – even an ethernet port to complement the built-in Wi-Fi.
The Chrome OS, of course, won't run any regular software for Windows or Macintosh, and all Chromebooks require a near-permanent internet connection in order to use Google's cloud services such as Google Drive or the web-based Google Docs.
The Pavilion Chromebook doesn't provide a 3G option either, as most of its rivals do, so unless you find a way to tether to a smartphone you won't be using this laptop much while on the move.
The rest of the spec is also modest. A single configuration runs to a dual-core Intel Celeron 847 processor clocked at 1.1GHz, with 4GB of memory and 16GB of solid-state storage. But, to be fair, the machine felt perfectly smooth and responsive during our tests and more than adequate for browsing, email and routine word-processing work – all through the Chrome browser of course.
That's because the Chrome OS itself is a lean, stripped-down Linux operating system with the Chrome web browser and just a handful of simple apps running on top, such as a File Browser and a camera app for the built-in webcam.
You can also download a small selection of additional apps from the Chrome Webstore, but for the most part you'll be relying on internet-connected cloud services such as Google Docs for all your work.
Some people have criticized the basic idea of the Chrome OS, as it requires a permanent 'net connection in order to be useful – but that's no longer entirely true. The various Google Docs apps do provide an offline option – available to Chrome OS devices only – that allows you to work online and then sync your documents from the Chromebook's internal SSD so that you can continue to work offline.
The Pavilion Chromebook has another Achilles' Heel. Its small, removable battery pack doesn't last nearly as long as you would expect from a modern, mobile device.
We got just over three hours of streaming video during our tests – 181 minutes, to be precise. But by its very nature, a Chromebook is meant to be always mobile and always connected, so just a few hours from a full charge is disappointing.