HP Chromebook 14A G5 review: An AMD-powered workhorse for education or business users

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  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Great keyboard
  • Solid build
  • Good battery life
  • Good selection of ports

Cons

  • Moderate screen resolution
  • Only 32GB of internal storage

HP announced two AMD-powered additions to its Chromebook range at this January's education-focused BETT show, the Chromebook 11A G6 and 14A G5. The former got more of a public showing, but the latter was described as 'durable' and of a format as suitable for enterprise as for education. So, what does the 14-inch HP Chromebook 14A G5 have to offer a business user?

HPs Chromebook 14A G5 runs Chrome OS, an operating system that struggles to find traction in workplaces. It's certainly not appropriate for every use case, but Chrome OS is now a competent and fairly flexible operating system, which can support the gamut of web-based tasks that many of us take on as a matter of course. This means not just Google's own G Suite, but other productivity suites too, including Microsoft Office.

There are limitations, of course, but the premise with Chrome OS is to provide low-cost computing that's good enough to cover relatively low-level but widespread use cases. The step from classroom to workplace is not such a large one in this respect, and the Chromebook 14A G5's price of £249 (inc. VAT) will have some allure in this particular case.

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The HP Chromebook 14A G5 is powered by an AMD A4-9210C APU with Radeon R4 graphics. Although plastic-clad, the chassis is MIL-STD 810G compliant. The 14-inch screen resolution is just 1,366 by 768 pixels.

Images: HP Inc

The Chromebook 14A G5 runs on a dual-core AMD A4-9120C processor with integrated Radeon R4 graphics. There is 4GB of RAM and 20GB of storage free from the 32GB SSD. You also get 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage for two years. These specifications are reasonable, unless you need to keep a lot of data locally on your laptop. It's worth noting in passing that smartphones come with considerably more internal storage these days.

There is an earlier version of this Chromebook, the Chromebook 14 G5, which runs on an Intel Celeron N3350 processor and has otherwise identical specifications but is more expensive -- at the time of writing it costs £348 (inc. VAT). I found the AMD processor to be perfectly adequate for the tasks I asked it to complete. These included having around 20 Chrome windows open in one browser with a second browser window containing three documents being worked on at various different times, plus Gmail. I sometimes had to wait for web pages to fully render, but this wasn't a deal-breaker.

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Ports on the right-hand side: 3.5mm audio, MicroSD, USB 3.1, USB-C.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Connectivity is reasonably good, with a pair of USB 2.0 ports, two USB-C ports with provision for battery charging and DisplayPort, a 3.5mm headset jack and a MicroSD card slot that could be used to boost the meagre complement of internal storage -- something that's lacking on many 'fully fledged' laptops these days. So, for all its concentration on web-based for content creation and consumption, there is also provision to easily get data on and off this device.

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Battery life is stated by HP as being up to nine hours. Using the Chromebook for everyday workload of writing into web apps, browsing, listening to music and watching a little video, I saw the battery drop by 30 percent in three hours, suggesting that the nine-hour estimate is reasonably accurate.

For those who like (or need) to consume audio, the grille that hides the B&O speakers sits above the keyboard. Their output is good enough for a bit of music while working, and maximum volume would reach across a small conference table for presentations in the office. The audio lacks bass, but that's far from unusual.

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The Chromebook 14A G5 makes no attempt to hide its plastic chassis, but it is designed to be tough -- a build that can take the knocks of the classroom should be plenty robust enough for the office. Indeed, it's certified to MIL-STD 810G and IP41. The dimensions and weight are 337mm wide by 226mm deep by 18.3mm thick and 1.54kg.

The styling is reasonably smart, with a mix of grey shades, a textured lid, and a taper to the front edge. The hinge takes the screen far enough to rest flat on a table but no further -- this is not a convertible Chromebook like the stylus-toting Acer Chromebook Spin 13 or the HP Chromebook x360. There is a significant screen bezel, but that's nowhere near a deal-breaker. A 720p camera sits above the screen.

The 1,366-by-768 pixel LED non-touch display is something of a weak link. Its matte finish is welcome, but the resolution is too low. Working with two browser windows open side by side was possible, but word processor documents and web pages looked a little fuzzy.

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The keyboard is a highlight of the Chromebook 14A G5.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The keyboard, on the other hand, is a real pleasure to use. The keys are large and well-spaced, with plenty of travel and good spring-back after being hit. Their gentle 'thunk' should not disturb a quiet office. The Enter Key is a little squished vertically and there was no backlight on my review unit (this is an optional feature). Still, I managed to touch-type at my top speed with no difficulty. The trackpad is responsive and usable, too.

Conclusions

The HP Chromebook 14A G5 is not a 'bells-and-whistles' Chromebook. The screen resolution is disappointing, the build quality solid but workaday, and the internal specifications are run-of-the-mill. But it has a very good keyboard, and it does the job it's meant to do very well -- at an attractive price.

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