Hands-on: HP’s Chromebook 13 is the affordable ultrabook for Chrome OS

The just announced HP Chromebook 13 is a new take on the hardware side of Chrome OS — a premium system, with some specs reminiscent of Chrome OS laptops, but with the ultrabook spice seen on the market from Apple and Microsoft.

Its construction consists of pressed aluminum frame with plastic accents and keys, and definitely comes across as a more premium product than the everyday Chromebooks.

Being a 12.9mm thin machine that weighs 2.86 pounds, the Chromebook 13 has a 13.3-inch QHD+ (3200 x 1800) resolution IPS display — and it’s beautiful to look at.

Keep in mind, off the bat, the Chromebook 13 isn’t just a one-trick pony laptop with a high-res screen. For example, the audio is a branded experience, provided by Bang & Olufsen. Intel provides Core M processors for the Chromebook 13, with different clock speeds for the hardware configurations, ranging from a base of 900MHz on a Core M3, all the way up to a Core M7 clocked at 1.2GHz with 3.1GHz TurboBoost.

But how does it feel to hold and use? It’s solid.

The rest of the specs include: up 16GB of RAM, a 32GB SSD, backlit keyboard, microSD card port, an HP TrueVision webcam, two USB-C ports and a single USB 3.0,and a 45W battery with a recommended battery life of 11.5 hours.

Google and HP aren’t strictly touting the new Chromebook 13 as another Chrome OS laptop, but as a full productivity machine,. Education, consumer and enterprise benefit from this approach, with TPM 1.2 security and video output up to 4K resolution, or several monitors via an HP dock accessory connected via USB-C.

But how does it feel to hold and use? It’s solid. The keyboard has little flex with keys that have true actuation. The system itself has a smooth, brushed feel but it takes some close inspection to see that it’s actually metal, and not plastic.

The QHD display is glossy, but the full HD option for enterprise is matte, so screen aesthetics vary. While being held, the Chromebook 13 definitely has some presence — it’s not a feather but it isn’t heavy either — and this is a good thing, because it adds some substance.

Overall, these are some solid first impressions to be had on a budget-friendly Chromebook with some of the aesthetic of a premium Ultrabook. Pre-orders start today for $499. Expect a full review in the coming days.

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