Alas, poor HP Chromebook 11, I returned you today

Alas, poor HP Chromebook 11, I returned you today

Summary: One of the ways I make my own luck is by not taking unnecessary risks. After thinking on it for a few days, I realized that hanging onto the HP Chromebook, no matter how much I liked it, would be an unnecessary risk.

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TOPICS: Google
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This is one of those articles that almost hurts to write. There's a twinge, a bit of sadness, an almost-poignancy that reflects sudden attachment and then necessary abandonment.

This is a story of what might have been. In fact, I was planning on writing this story very differently.

Larry Seltzer, Ed Bott, James Kendrick, SJVN, Matt Baxter-Reynolds, and I have all written recently about the value and future of Chromebooks. At one end was Larry, who believes Chromebooks have no future. At the other end was my own opinion, having become rather enamored by the inexpensive, tiny, yet surprisingly useful devices.

I originally bought last year's model, the very nice Samsung Chromebook 11-inch. Shortly after I bought it, I took it on a weekend trip, and realized — like with most laptops and netbooks — the power brick was a large pain in the bag.

Right after I bought the Samsung Chromebook, HP came out with its Chromebook 11, and its really big claim to fame was the elimination of the power brick.

The HP Chromebook 11 could be charged using a typical micro USB smartphone charger. Even though the HP Chromebook was forty bucks more ($279 vs. $239), the extra cash was more than worth it if I never had to use a power brick with the device. The HP also had a much nicer screen, which added to my enjoyment of the device, even after spending an extra four Hamiltons. So I returned the more cumbersome Samsung (it was within the 14-day period) and bought the happy, little HP.

I was planning on writing an article to that effect. I even took a picture of the Samsung brick with the plan to mock how old school heavy bricks are:

2013-10-28-Samsung-Cord
Image: David Gewirtz

I also took a picture of the micro USB slot on the HP to showcase the wonders of modern technology:

2013-11-04-HP-chrome
Image: David Gewirtz

I never got a chance to run the article.

On Wednesday, ZDNet editors started buzzing about a mystery: HP Chromebook 11s were vanishing from shelves. It didn't take long to find out the whole story: the device had been pulled from the sales channel because of an overheating problem with the device's charger. Oops.

As it turns out, while HP and Google pulled the product form sale, they did NOT recall the device from consumers. The reasoning was that you could plug the device into someone else's UL-approved charging dongle and all would be just hunky-dory.

I deluded myself with that for a few days. I really liked this device, and I had a wide range of USB charging plugs.

Sitting on the couch the other night, I stared at my friendly little Chromebook.

I hadn't charged it since the news of the overload, and even though I had good UL-approved charging plugs, I just wasn't absolutely sure. Was that white one really from Apple, or was it one we ordered from Amazon through a third party a year or so ago? Was that black one really from one of my other devices, or was it just one of the many spares that have found their ways into my parts bin over the years?

Then I thought about my house and my family. I love my family and I really like my house. Was I really, really willing to take a chance that one night, after a long day, was there a chance, even the tiniest chance in the world, that I might plug in an unsafe charger?

Was I willing to risk my family and home on it? Was I willing to take a risk when staying in a hotel or lodge overnight?

Did I feel lucky? Well, did I?

The fact is, I do feel lucky most of the time, but I make my own luck. One of the ways I make my own luck is by not taking unnecessary risks. After thinking on it for a few days, I realized that hanging onto the HP Chromebook, no matter how much I liked it, would be an unnecessary risk.

I returned it. Best Buy was actually cool about the return. They understood the problem and credited my account.

So, while I still most definitely think there are uses for Chromebooks, right now, I don't have one. I'm really hung up on the charging feature, so I'm going to wait awhile and see what comes out. And, heck, if I'm in a real bind, a similarly svelte MacBook Air is only about seven or eight hundred bucks more. Of course, that would prove Larry's point and we can't let that happen, can we?

I already miss my little HP Chromebook 11. It was a friend. I hope when HP welcomes it home, they treat it with love and care. After all, just because it got a little hot under the charger, that wasn't really its fault.

It used to blink its lights at me when I opened its lid.

Topic: Google

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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80 comments
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  • No reason to exist

    Paying $250 for a browser is absurd.
    Owl;Net
    • Wouldn't necessarily call it a browser...

      But with all the time it's had, I can't believe how badly Chromebooks are doing.

      Hell, even Windows RT is doing better.

      Yes, I know the Samsung Chromebook is the number one seller on Amazon.

      But remember, Amazon probably doesn't sell that many laptops in general, especially when compared to something like Best (Worst) Buy.

      Google needs to rethink their strategy if they want to go somewhere, the price factor is taking them nowhere.
      ForeverCookie
      • Mobile Browser (not so much please)

        A full featured Chrome browser running on Android would produce one heck of an OS. Flash would be essential.

        A ten inch tablet would turn into a Chromebook with a rich background OS with a huge cache of apps. For many a keyboard cover wouldn't even be necessary with Swype or SwiftKey being enough.

        Question is does Google want this?

        I know I do!
        louishelps
        • What does a chromebook give you over say

          a Dell venue pro or an Asus transformer? Seriously W8 hardware is just as low priced with tons of advantages. Chromebooks are brain dead.
          Johnny Vegas
    • I think it's a bargain.

      It is a *little* more than a browser - but, more to the point, it's a fast, safe browser, with great battery life and NO WINDOWS.

      ANything with no windows, for half the price of a clunky, slow, power eater WITH windows is a true bargain. I love my Chromebook - power brick and all - and I'd never go back to Clunkyville.
      Heenan73
      • Well, irrational hatred aside...

        You can get slim, light Windows tablets and laptops in the same price range as a Chromebook - so that argument is silly.

        As for Windows itself, you could easily take one and install Chrome and set it to start on boot and just stay in it all the time. Turn off update. Never install anything else. Never touch it. Voila. Chromebook.

        Or, heck, uninstall Windows and install Linux. (Wait.. do they make a Chrome browser for Linux?)

        Like a lot of haters, lack of imagination is the rule of the day.
        TheWerewolf
        • Why not install Mint/Ubuntu/Debian on it?

          ChromeBook doesn't have to be run by ChromeOS just like your Windows-pc would run better with Linux.

          http://www.yumapk.com/How-to-install-linux-mint-on-HP-Pavilion-Chromebook-14-c010us.html

          http://www.muktware.com/2012/12/install-bodhi-linux-on-arm-chromebooks/3772
          Napoleon XIV
          • That is the litmus test that shows the viability of Chromebooks

            Take a Chromebook and put any other operating system on it.

            Does it increase in funcitonality? Yes.

            Put ChromeOS on any other device.

            Does it increase in functionality? No.


            Price is the only significant reason for Chromebooks to exist and honestly there are options near enough in cost (or below in the case of tablets) that it is a wash or even a cost saving to not get a Chromebook and get a more useful device.


            Chromebook is a cool idea (maybe ahead of its time?), but I can't see the reason to recommend it to someone unless they just want an additional computer to play around with.
            Emacho
          • OF COURSE its an extra netbook!

            "Unless they just want an additional computer to play around with."
            BINGO! Exactly what they are good for, and all I ever expected from it.
            Christopher Daniels
          • Could be but You are not every one

            I does not cost a dime to add Linux if you need, however for most people Chromebook functionality is good enough for their daily needs. Not everyone need full Photoshop, on the other hand, there are plenty of nice applications running on Chromebook that are good enough alternative. For office, Google docs and Quick Office are native since both run offline. Not to mention the 100 GB of Google Drive that you don't have to pay. For people who are using cloud storage, it is a clear win. It is maintenance, virus free and it is becomes better at every update. There are more and more packaged applications. All in all, Chromebook is a good alternative to Windows PC for most people would you mind recommending it or not. Last for not least, Chrome OS is not a browser, it allows you to run Linux without dual booting. I personally own a Chromebook that runs also Ubuntu since I need Dart editor and Dartium. When Chromebook will come with both Chromium and Dartium, I will not even need Linux.
            oldman60
      • You misunderstand me.

        It doesn't matter if Windows is a "clunky, slow, power eater" OS (it isn't), it doesn't change the fact that Chrome OS is a *little* more than a browser.

        Just because it's cheap doesn't mean that it's better.

        Chances are, the only reason why you ended up with crappy Windows machines is because you're unwilling to invest in a half-decent computer.

        I use business machines, so a majority of my computers are fast, powerful, and battery efficient.

        You're simply choosing the wrong PCs.
        ForeverCookie
        • re:

          Or he started off with a decent Windows machine, turned off updating, and installed a bunch of buggy crapware like Firefox, Chrome, and Google docs. Then, voila!, a crappy "Windows" machine.
          Sir Name
          • Firefox crappy?

            Really....

            Why do you think that?
            WhoRUKiddin
        • no one misunderstood you...

          and first windows is extremely clunky slow power eater.

          secondly, 250$ is for piece of hardware that you can install linux into it and get full working machine
          veryevilempire
      • You can't do much more

        than a traditional Laptop with a REAL os, whether it be Windows or OS X. Heck, even Linux you can do more than silly Chrome. I think selling a product that basically has little to no profit for a company is silly. And you wonder why none of these companies are making much, if any, profits.
        RichDavis1
        • Deflation

          Actually the hardware sales in the tech sector are poor because of deflation. There are macro-economic reasons for lack of profits for any of these companies.
          Selling products with no to little direct profit has sent Google to over $1000 a share. Not so silly.
          Even linux you can do more than Chrome? Which OS will teach you grammar? That's the one you should use.
          Christopher Daniels
      • Twice the price? NOT so

        My Samsung full Windows 8.1 laptop (larger 15.6" screen too BTW) was only $100 more and I do not have to worry if it will or will not run program X, as it runs ALL Windows programs just fine.
        eye4bear
        • sure...

          ..it runs viruses too.

          and contrary to other software viruses run smoothly
          veryevilempire
      • I'll burn you a copy of Fedora.

        No windows, and no borg implants required.
        Subsentient
    • You pay for the computer

      The browser is free.
      danbi