Head-to-head: Google's new Chromebooks

Google's Chromebooks are gaining in popularity and two new models have just arrived in Australia. But which is better?

Two new models of Google's increasingly popular Chromebook laptops have just arrived in Australia.

One is by HP, the other by Toshiba. Both cost $399.

If you're in the market for one of the cut-price computers, which run Google's browser-based Chrome software, which should you opt for?

It depends on what you value. There are some key differences in design, feel and hardware.

Both are made of plastic with designs that borrow unashamedly from Apple's MacBooks.

The HP Chromebook 11 harks back to the 2006 original - all minimalist and glossy in black or white.

Accents around the keyboard in Google's signature red, yellow, green or blue add a nice design touch, and overall it looks quite nice for a budget device.

The Toshiba CB30 borrows from the more recent metallic silver MacBook design, but the textured plastic looks cheap and feels a little brittle, perhaps because you expect solid metal.

If you value how look as you type away in a trendy cafe, the HP is probably a better choice.

It also feels more solid when typing. The Toshiba has a tendency to bow, and the trackpad feels a little loose.

The HP is also smaller and, weighing one kilogram, about 500 grams lighter.

But that's down to Toshiba's main selling point: it's larger, 13.3-inch screen. It's the first Chromebook with a screen that size.

The HP's, by contrast, measures 11.6 inches diagonally. It mightn't sound like a sizeable difference, but it's telling when they're placed side-by-side.

Unfortunately for the Toshiba, bigger doesn't equal better. Both sport 1366 by 768 pixel displays, but because the Toshiba's screen is bigger, the resolution isn't quite as good.

Viewing angles on the Toshiba are also poorer. Colours can appear washed out on all but a few angles.

The HP's colours are deeper and its blacks are blacker through a wide range of angles. This comes in handy when the family is gathered round to watch a YouTube video, for example.

The Toshiba outmanoeuvres the HP in processing power. Its Intel Celeron motor beats HP's less powerful Samsung-made Exynos 5.

Then again, Chromebooks are designed for essential web-based activities such as email and word-processing, so power is less essential than it is on other devices.

Where the Toshiba certainly excels is connectivity. Unlike the HP, it has an SD-card slot for expandable memory and a HDMI port to connect to TVs and monitors.

And though both have two USB ports, the Toshiba's are the faster USB 3.0 variety.

The battery will also last longer, providing about nine hours of life between charges as opposed to the HP's six.

Both have 2GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage and Bluetooth 4.0 technology, and both come with 100GB of cloud storage free for two years.

VERDICT:

If you're after productivity, the Toshiba's big screen, extra connectivity and superior battery life will appeal.

If you're after portability, a clearer screen and a more solid feel, the HP is the better option.

Source AAP

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