HP Chromebook 11a – Review 2021

When searching for the depth of cheap laptops, do not expect much other than competent internet browsing and word processing capabilities. Still, there is always a chance that you can win gold. Dell Chromebook 11 (3100) or Lenovo Chromebook Duet are excellent examples of laptops for less than $ 500. Unfortunately, it is not the HP Chromebook 11a (model 11a-na0040nr). This $ 299.99-as-tested 11-inch Chromebook, equipped in our test model with a touch screen, is a usable laptop (non-touch models start at $ 259.99), but only if you look past the narrow keyboard and the balky touchpad.

It came from … the offer container

Even premium Chromebooks rarely contain impressive computer components, especially when you have a budget. The HP Chromebook 11a features only 4 GB of RAM and only 32 GB of eMMC storage. These are unacceptably low amounts of storage space and RAM for a Windows PC, but they are on par with the price of a budget Chromebook. In what is definitely a cost-saving decision, the HP Chromebook 11a does not use an AMD or Intel processor, but instead chooses a Mediatek MT8381 processor. Mediatek and other ARM-based chips are often found in low-end Chromebooks and typically perform slower than their Intel and AMD brothers. (How to choose the best laptop processor).

Side view of the HP Chromebook 11a

In addition to the not-so-great specifications, the HP Chromebook 11a is a smart-looking device. At just 2.4 pounds and 0.6 x 7.6 x 11.2 inches (HWD), the Chromebook is slim and light, especially compared to other 11-inch machines, such as the Acer Chromebook Spin 311, which measures 0.8 x 11.7 x 8.1 inches and 2.6 pounds. Our review unit came in Ash Gray (though you would be forgiven if you thought it was black), but the laptop is also available in Indigo Blue and Snow White.

Located on Chromebook 11a

The overall construction of the machine is acceptable, although opening and closing the lid on the laptop does not exactly feel the smoothest. Pushing the laptop screen all the way back actually gives the machine a slight incline, which is nice for those who can’t stand the thought of typing on a flat keyboard. Below you will find two rubber strips that do a good job of keeping your laptop stable and preventing any slipping around.

Bottom of HP Chromebook 11a

The 11.6-inch touchscreen is also not that bad as long as you keep your expectations checked. The IPS panel of 1,366 x 768 pixels and the low brightness of 220 nits do not impress, but the smaller screen size keeps the hazy view to a minimum. That would not be the case if the Chromebook was larger, but retained the same screen resolution as the 14-inch HP Chromebook x360. Larger screens with resolutions below full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) tend to exaggerate pixelation and other unwanted screen effects.

We had no issues with the touch screen and were grateful for its good performance (you will understand why a little later). We also did not notice any glare, no matter what angle we looked from. Rounding off the viewing experience is a 720p webcam, embedded in the top screen frame.

One press is not enough

The screen and build quality are as good as you can reasonably expect from such an inexpensive machine, but the keyboard and trackpad are disappointing even by budget-portable standards. The keyboard feels cramped, but that can be expected of such a small laptop. For the most part, typing is fine, though the keys feel cheap to the touch. Because the keys are so close together, I got to press the wrong keys often. In particular, I smashed the power button located just above the backspace key a few times while writing this review. While it might just be the result of larger hands working across a smaller keyboard, if you’ve had a similar problem on other 11-inch machines, you probably have it here.

HP Chromebook 11a keyboard

The speakers located under the laptop are decent for a machine at this price – just do not expect to be blown away by the sound quality at higher volumes. For the most part, they sound just fine.

Left side of Chromebook 11a

But the biggest flaw with the HP Chromebook 11a is its very bad, not-so-good touchpad. On our test, the pillow proved to be only spotty responsive and cross-border useless. Also press-click on the pad gave a disturbing mechanical resilient sound. If it were not for the aforementioned touch screen, navigation would be almost impossible. Therefore, we can not recommend versions of this laptop without a touch screen at all. But even though with the touch screen, touch and cursor manipulation on the Chromebook 11a is a chore. It’s just not a pleasant experience.

Regarding ports: Well, there are not many. On the right side you will find an SD card slot that makes it easy to add extra storage space if you need to supplement the cramped 32 GB internal drive. There is also a headphone jack and a USB Type-C port used for charging.

Right side of HP Chromebook 11a

Meanwhile, the left side contains a single USB 2.0 Type-A port, and that’s it. Something to note here: due to the location of the port, it was actually somewhat difficult to insert and remove a USB connector from the port. At times, it felt like I really had to force the plug into the opening.

Left side of HP Chromebook 11a

Benchmarking the HP Chromebook 11a: A test of patience

The HP Chromebook 11a has some major flaws, but some of them can be expected from a budget machine. It could redeem itself in its computer performance, so we tested it against other Chromebooks. For our benchmark tests, we compared the Chromebook 11a with the Acer Chromebook Spin 311, Dell Chromebook 11 (3100), Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3 and Samsung Chromebook 4. All Chromebooks in our test use bargain-bin processors and only 4GB of RAM.

Our benchmark journey begins with CrXPRT 2, a Chrome OS test suite that measures how quickly a system performs daily tasks, such as applying effects to images and encrypting files, as well as a few specialized tasks. None of the Chromebooks in this test are top performers, but in a race to the bottom, the HP Chromebook 11a performs almost worst in the group with 41 points, right from the last place thanks to the Asus Chromebook Detachable CM3, which performed just below it.

Our next benchmark is the browser-based Basemark Web 3.0, which assesses how well a PC can run web applications. The HP Chromebook 11a falls short again and shares the bottom step with the Asus CM3.

The next benchmark we are running is the Android version of PCMark, downloaded directly from the Google Play Store. PCMark simulates everyday workflows such as word processing, web browsing and data analysis and provides an overall performance score. The HP Chromebook 11a does not perform very well again, but it manages to surpass the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2.

The HP Chromebook 11a finally finds its footing with the Android version of Geekbench, a multi-core CPU test designed to simulate real-world applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Surprisingly, the Chromebook 11a comes at the top.

Chromebooks are not known for their gaming capabilities (and as you can see so far, low-end models’ CPU performance is generally scarce), but we would be despised if we did not run GFXBench 5.0, a GPU benchmark across platforms that stress test both low-level and high-level gaming routines. All the cheap Chromebooks in our test kit performed poorly, which is not surprising. After all, these are budget machines. If you are interested in playing on the go, you are better off with a Windows-based gaming laptop.

To test portable battery life, we use a 720p copy of the open source Blender classic, Tears of steel. We drop set the brightness to 50%, turn up the volume to 100%, and turn off Wi-Fi, then run the video playback until the system calls it quits. If the computer does not have enough storage space to store the video file, we play it from an external solid-state drive. The HP Chromebook 11a lands right in the middle of our test package and lasts longer than the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 and Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, but well below the Dell Chromebook 1 (3100) and Asus Chromebook Removable CM3.

Resist the low price temptation

The HP Chromebook 11a can handle basic tasks like surfing the web and word processing, and its affordability makes it a tempting purchase. But the bad touchpad sometimes makes navigation a struggle, tempting you to rely on the touch screen for input wherever you can. And if you are specifically looking for a Chromebook experience that is forward-looking, we suggest a valuable 2-in-1 Chromebook as our Editors’ Choice, Lenovo Chromebook Duet. Meanwhile, if you have your heart set on an affordable Chromebook with an 11-inch screen, the Dell Chromebook 11 (3100) is a better choice.


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