HP Chromebook 13 G1 Review – A Year Later
(Actually more than a year, but I digress before even having started…)
I still own the Chromebook. I no longer run ChromeOS, but have switched to GalliumOS, a XUbuntu derivate with a number of driver adaptations. It’s also a little leaner than ChromeOS and doesn’t need any chroot shenanigans, so I can run a fresh kernel instead of the dusty one that Google ships with ChromeOS.
The downside is that I still have to press Ctrl + L at bootup and avoid pressing SPACE before the machine boots, otherwise the machine might try to overwrite my system with a clean ChromeOS install (no idea if that would work, and I have too much data on the machine to want to try). I hear that the bootup sequence can be altered by removing the write protect screw and flashing the BIOS with a so-called “servo” (or at least setting some BIOS flags with a script). Unfortunately, five of the eleven screws are behind the rubber feet, which are glued to the device and impossible to remove without damaging them, so doing this is out of the question unless I can somehow source replacement rubber feet.
Otherwise, I’m still happy with the Chromebook despite a few snags having emerged in day-to-day use: First, headphones don’t work automatically (but there is a simple command to make them work, and I hear people on the GalliumOS side are working on a fix), and the internal mic doesn’t work at all (again, probably just a matter of time). I worked around the latter problem by buying a cheap USB mic, but it’s still a nuisance. One of the rubber foots went loose, so I glued it back on with some shoe glue. Not great, but no big deal either. Otherwise I love the sleek look and the comfortable weight.
The display is still the best thing about the device: The resolution is great and the image is bright enough to read in daylight, even though the screen is a glare-type. I recently compared with a coworkers recently bought notebook and the difference in brightness is striking. The downside (compared to my old large IdeaPad) is only 13.3” screen estate, and the fact that due to my HiDPI settings everything on Full HD monitors will look comically large. Worth it.
I have mostly adjusted to the keyboard (with the exception of some function key combos) and will now press Caps-Lock + → to go to the end of a line (among other combos). I bought my wife an Acer Chromebook 14 to get her the same keyboard layout so I no longer mistype when using her notebook. Funny, but true. The touchpad is a tad finicky at times, but doesn’t detract from the overall very good experience.
The CPU has proven good enough for my usage, including a number of Rust builds. Having more memory would certainly be good, but I haven’t run into real problems yet, so I’m fine with the 4GB I have. The disk is predictably 85% full and I sometimes clear out projects I no longer use. I sometimes wish cargo would garbage-collect libraries more aggressively.
Battery life hasn’t measurably deteriorated, which is still one of the upsides, despite the display taking more power than a Full HD one. Hats off to HP engineers for packing so much power in such a tiny space.
Would I buy it again? The answer is a sound “yes”. Sure, there are more capable devices out there, but I cannot afford them anyway. Would I recommend it to a friend? It depends. Perhaps if that friend is already a Linux user and happy to work around the kinks in the general setup. Otherwise they’re probably happier with a Windows device anyway.