HP Chromebook 14 on T-Mobile's 200MB Free Plan
The HP Chromebook 14 is a powerful mid-sized Chromebook that is great for quick, daily use. It includes a cellular modem compatible with T-Mobile and other providers (HSDPA+) and is eligible for the 200MB free-data-for-life plan from T-Mobile, which is why I am reviewing it here. It is also one of my favorite devices. And, while newer Chromebooks have since hit the market, this model still offers advantages over newer competitors in 2015.
At its release the 14” form-factor made it the largest option in the low-end space. Other, more popular, Chromebooks in its generation (Acer C720) were on the smaller side with 11 or 13” screens, so this was really the largest option (Pixel excluded) at the time of its release. While the large screen makes it feel more like a work-sized laptop, the low quality panel was its biggest draw-back (most frequent complaint in other reviews, though honsetly it doesn’t bother me). The 2955U processor is the rock star of the hardware specs - it is a solid performer, and holds up (is even preferable) to later Chromebook releases. The 200MB free-data-for-life offer from T-Mobile adds icing to the cake and is the only chromebook offered with T-Mobile, making it a unique offering in this space.
*Note the model reviewed here is the 2955U processor. The newer Tegra model does not include T-Mobile.
200MB In Practice
In practice, your 200MB are out the window as soon as you jump online. Even light browsing you could accidentally load a video advertisement or download that blows through your monthly allotment faster than you can close the tab.
There are options for reducing your mobile data, though it requires some configuration which I have detailed in this post. See my guide to reducing data usage on Chrome OS. In short, you can make your Chromebook useful on 200MB a month with some effort.
If you have never used a Chromebook before, they are incredibly fast and fun to use. And, there is something very much addicting about speedy response. Within a week of using it, I found that it was always my go to device because of that speed. I stopped using my tablet around the house entirely. If I needed to look something up it was much faster to turn on the Chromebook and go than it was to pick up the tablet. (This was the biggest surprise for me was how strongly I prefer the Chromebook over my tablet now).
The OS itself really just gets out of your way. Click a button, it turns on. Shut the screen, it goes to standby. Software updates are as fast as rebooting. You are never caught waiting for anything before you can shutdown. It is really what an OS should be and I am always surprised now using Windows machines where I am waiting on updates to install before I can do basic OS functions like turning on or off my machine.
While I found it incredibly useful for daily activities, there are obviously major limitations with the Chromebook platform. Offline support is there, but in practice that just means you can use Google Docs offline. The best options for using your Chromebook as a desktop replacement at this time are really not doing that, and just remoting in to a physical or cloud-based desktop, and there is good support for that on most platforms. You can also run linux on it through ‘crouton’, or natively, but this requires running in developer mode, which is, in theory, less secure.
Unadvertised 4K Support
My favorite feature by far on the entire line of 2955U-based Chromebooks and Chromeboxes is the unadvertised 4K HDMI support. No, you’re probably not going to power 4K video (which is probably why they leave it off the spec sheets), but it does support 4K resolution. So, you can plug in a 4K monitor and have an INSANE desktop. I picked up a Seiki 4K display from Amazon and omg… Try having six windows open at once, plus the laptop itself as a side monitor. It takes multi-tasking to a level previously only attainable with a multi-monitor setup. (A 4K display is the equivilent of having four 1080p monitors in a grid - that’s how much desktop space you will have. It is awesome).
One note on this model is that it comes in 2GB and 4GB variants. If possible, get the 4GB. In most cases 2GB is enough, but it is better to have than not.
Improved (but still lacking) Android-features
“Google Now” cards show up in a notification tray and are pretty unobtrusive. There when you want them, but easily ignored otherwise. Likewise, “OK Google” support was added a few months back, which can be useful also. These are not killer features in my opinion, but they are worth mentioning if you have used them before on Android. And, while initially the Android and Chromebook projects were worlds apart, Google now seems committed to integrating the two when possible. Android L unlock was introduced recently (where pairing with a latest generation Android phone allows you to instantly unlock your Chromebook). Also, developer tools to port applications from Android to Chrome OS were introduced, and several third-party projects have sprung up to build unofficial ports for Android apps. Though not all apps can work under Chrome OS and actual performance varies from app to app. Still, support is far better than it was a year ago, and is heading in the right direction.
200MB a month is a selling point for this Chromebook, but the killer features are all within Chrome OS itself. If you like it, or want to give it a try, this is a great device. It is priced right, and hey, it does happen to come with 200MB a month also. One thing I did not mention above, Chromebooks are cheap and tend to hold their price. So there is little harm buying, trying, and selling if you find you don’t like it. 200MB won’t go far, but I have found it sufficient and quite useful for Google Docs access, email, maps, light text-only browsing. The HP Chromebook 14 is available at Amazon.
Reviewed by Cheapest Data Plan on
Snappy processor, great OS and free 200MB make this a great device even compared to 2015 models