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Billed as low-cost and low-maintenance devices, with easy access to web apps and automatic software updates, Chromebooks began life aimed at home and educational users, and later made the switch to the business world. Right now, as firms look to continue 2020's working-from-home imperative and to normalise remote workforces, Chromebooks are becoming an increasingly popular choice for some first-line and knowledge workers.
HP launched three Chromebooks for the business sector in May, as COVID-19 restrictions started to bite. The Pro c640 Chromebook was hailed as the world's thinnest 14-inch Chromebook, offering military-grade robustness, a sliding shutter on its webcam and an optional fingerprint sensor as key business features, along with Wi-Fi6, a good set of physical connections, and -- on some models -- Chrome Enterprise.
The Pro c640 Chromebook's MIL-STD 810H-compliant aluminium chassis is solid, making for a device that feels designed for professionals. The spill-resistant keyboard is welcome too, while the dimensions are compact considering the chassis houses a 14-inch screen, measuring 32.5cm wide by 20.5cm deep by 1.65cm thick. It's not particularly light at 1.5kg, but if you're mostly working from home, portability might not be your most pressing concern.
Ports and connectors are similar to those you'd find on a regular laptop: full-size HDMI, two USB 3.1, two USB-C (either of which can be used to charge the battery), a 3.5mm audio jack and a MicroSD card reader. The chassis can easily accommodate the HDMI connector, but the two USB 3.1 ports require a hinged section to allow for peripheral connection. The hinge is well made, and looks as though it will stand the test of time.
My review sample featured a 10th generation Intel Core i7 10610U processor, 16GB of RAM and 128GB of internal eMMC storage (108GB of which was available). The 14-inch IPS screen had FHD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution, an anti-glare coating and was touch-capable.
I couldn't find this iteration online to purchase in the UK at the time of writing, although it is available on mainland Europe at €1,138. You can get an awful lot of laptop for that sort of money, and this, ultimately, is the problem with the HP Pro c640 Chromebook: it just doesn't stand up to Windows-based competitors in terms of value for money.
There are some usability and design issues too. The bezel surrounding the screen is not particularly thin, is made from a rather low-grade plastic, and is raised rather than flush. At the price, I'd expect a more stylish design. Also, 250 nits of screen brightness is moderate, and won't suit some working environments. And despite the touch-screen, this isn't a convertible: the screen does lay flat on a desk, but full 360-degree rotation would have been preferable. Finally, it's arguable that 128GB isn't enough internal storage.
In use, the Core i7 processor handled multiple open browser windows and applications with ease, while the battery, which HP says lasts for up to 12 hours, easily kept me going for a full day's work. Despite these plus points, the HP Pro c640 Chromebook feels over-priced, and the screen is particularly disappointing.