Today, HP announced two new devices that target consumers with an all-in-one Chrome OS desktop and a Chrome OS detachable powered by Qualcomm. Chrome OS holds a simple but niche OS market today primarily in education but during the pandemic, many businesses tried out the experience. I believe the rapid growth of digital adoption happening in every facet of our lives and the ability to run Android apps give Chrome OS a greater opportunity to compete in the consumer world. Most Chrome OS devices are found in lower-end hardware and are built for ease in the cloud, a good combo for bulk use in schools and increasingly the workplace.
This ease-of-use and feature adder element bleeds into the general consumer world, but we have to stop and think about whether these devices powered by Chrome OS are better alternatives than traditional Windows PCs or even the Apple ecosystem. Although HP is subtly launching two new Chrome OS family-specific devices, I think there is more to this launch than what’s on the table. Let’s take a look at HP’s new detachable Chrome OS tablet and All-In-One Chrome OS desktop.
Making the ACPC affordable
Keep in mind that HP designed these new devices with the family in mind. It makes sense for a family where the parents use Chrome OS for work and the children use Chrome OS for school to use devices at the home that are equally familiar. In every regard, Chrome OS makes sense as a family OS, and even in instances where parents and children don’t use Chrome OS, it is designed for ease of use with speed, security, and simplicity. Out of the other side of the mouth, I’ll say that very few adults are using Chrome OS or macOS for work, and Windows is the defacto standard. And, I want to hit on why Chrome OS is a strategic pick for these devices as family-specific companions because it is part of what makes these devices so fundamentally appealing. According to Google, one-third of Chrome OS buyers cite “simplicity and ease of use” as one of the top reasons for purchasing a Chromebook. While buyers use Chromebooks for basic functionality, half now utilize it for work or school. It is a little over decade-old OS that is specific to taking advantage of the cloud. If nothing else, Chrome OS is easy.
I have written and used Always Connected PC (ACPC) devices even before the pandemic and witnessed the radical increase in cloud and 5G technologies. In early 2019, Qualcomm debuted its ACPC with incredible battery life, so it is no surprise that it plays a part in HP’s ACPC for the consumer and family. The Chromebook x2 11 runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c Compute platform that features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X15 LTE modem and 8x Qualcomm Kryo 468 cores with up to 2.4GHz. The Snapdragon 7c SoC also has an Adreno 618 GPU to handle the Chromebook x2 11’s 11-inch 2K resolution display.
I think picking Qualcomm for its ACPC Chromebook tablet was the smart move for HP. However, the Snapdragon 7c is not Qualcomm’s latest generation. The Snapdragon 7c lacks 5G connectivity, WiFi 6 bands, and the Qualcomm 8c’s ability to power a 4K display. But it does hit a nice price point. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c maxes out on internal display resolutions at 2K resolution with differing aspect ratios. I am curious as to how beneficial it was to make the display a 2K display over opting for a 1080p display with more optimized battery life. It’s not as though HP was looking to future-proof the device with a 2K resolution display; instead, it would have gone for the Snapdragon 8c if it was looking to future-proof. All-in-all I think the Snapdragon 7c is reasonable for the Chromebook 2x 11. It is a good SoC, and the lack of 5G is not to a point where it matters past future-proofing a device. HP mentioned the Chromebook x2 11 is not the only device in this ACPC consumer-specific lineup, so I am not concerned about an older but still good SoC.
I think this ACPC concept for the Chromebook x2 11 could be a double-edged sword, with one edge being blunt. To take advantage of the full Chromebook x2 11 experience, the consumer has to be connected to LTE, which is another device needing another LTE plan. Although there has been rapid digital adoption, another LTE plan is another LTE plan, and unless there is an underlying use case to have LTE for a tablet, it is a luxury. I say this is a blunt edge for two reasons: I may be wrong in how many people have adopted LTE plans for secondary (even tertiary, considering I would get one for a smartwatch before a tablet) devices. The second being WiFi is everywhere, and if LTE is a luxury, WiFi is an abundant commodity.
The HP Chromebook x2 11 will also have available a Chromebook certified monitor. The HP M24fd USB-C Monitor will connect to a Chromebook out of the box and will be available in October starting at $249.99. The HP Chromebook x2 11 will be bundled with the HP Wireless Rechargeable USI Certified Pen and available this August starting at $599.99.
The all-in-one Chrome OS family PC
HP’s Chromebase All-in-One desktop brings a really fascinating concept to the family that I question if it was intentional or not. This thing is cool! The Chromebase is an all-in-one desktop for the home that runs on Google’s Chrome OS and, it being Google, inherently has the functionality to be the hub for all home-connected devices. HP even at one point called it the “heart of the home,” and in a sense, its felt base looks like a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa with a large 21-inch screen attached to it. I think this is a differing feature of HP’s new Chromebase.
I’ve had the pleasure of using an early version of the device, and I can tell you that it is beautiful. My wife is 100X more stylish than me, and she even allowed the device in our kitchen. This hasn’t happened for around 20 years. As soon as I work out some early kinks, I will be publishing a full review. If you plan on running Android Outlook and OneNote, I recommending maxing out on memory.
HP says it optimized the Chromebase for the growing Google and Chrome OS ecosystem, including Play Store, Stadia Streaming services, and Google Assistant. Its 21-inch FHD display is a touch screen with a rotating hinge so that the display can be placed horizontally or vertically. Just think how great those TikTok and Instagram content will look. I will admit, my 21 year-old daughter thought that was cool for a party.
Intel powers the Chromebase rather than Qualcomm, with the base model having a Pentium Gold 6405U dual-core processor with 4GB of memory going up to an Intel Core 13 10110U with 16GB of memory. If you intend to run office productivity Android apps like OneNote, Outloook, OneDrive and Word, I strongly advise getting 16GB. I think the Chromebase has enough computing power for basic functionalities like surfing the web, but anything more than that, I would opt for the highest-end model with the Intel Core i3. Although much of the heavier tasks will be cloud-based, extra compute cores make a noticeable difference. I do like that all models support WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5. WiFi 6 support tells me that HP did not want an always-connected ecosystem to be only for the Chromebook x2 11. The base model of the Chromebase has 64GB eMMC storage, with the Intel Core i3 model having 256GB of PCIe NVMe M.2 storage. Although 64GB is hardly anything in 2021, it shouldn’t matter, considering Chrome OS is cloud-based.
The HP Chromebase 21.5 inch All-in-One desktop will be available this August starting at $599.99.
I believe HP’s new Chrome OS devices have potential to change how families use devices, and I think our future’s direction of always-connectedness is evidence of that. The Chromebook x2 11 has all the right hardware to make it a viable ACPC for the consumer at an affordable price. Chrome OS is a mature ten-year-old OS, and I think it has gained a reputation in the workplace and in schools to make it an ideal consumer-family OS. Google’s cloud-based offerings and home IoT services are almost the perfect OS for the job. I like the design of both the Chromebook x2 11 and the Chromebase All-in-One PC and could see a whole family having one or even two all-in-ones for the kitchen and the office room, and then each family member having a Chromebook. Although the specs in both devices are not something to write home about, they don’t need to be. It enables HP to provide a good quality product at an affordable price.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.