Here's the first Chromebook in a while that's worth paying attention to: the HP Chromebook 13. It's a thin, all-metal machine with surprisingly capable specs.
This is the first Chromebook to use one of Intel's Core m Skylake processors (as far as I can tell, it's the first Chromebook with a Core m processor period), it can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM, and its 13.3-inch display can be upgraded to use a 3200 x 1800 display. The Chromebook 13 is a little bit like HP's answer to the question: what would it look like if the MacBook ran Chrome?
Core m makes a ton of sense in a Chromebook
HP is introducing the new Chromebook at an event this morning in Google's New York office. Google is said to have collaborated on the laptop's design. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising: Google has long been looking for higher-end machines to show what Chrome OS is capable of and make the ecosystem look more attractive. With the Pixel now a year old — and still priced at $999 — the Chromebook 13 seemingly serves as a fresher, more accessible alternative.
While Core m's lower processing power is somewhat limiting to computers like the MacBook, it may not be a problem for Chromebooks. Sure, a lot of tabs are still likely to bog it down, but the processor won't be running much beyond those tabs, which should provide more leeway. Using Core m is also supposed to provide 11.5 hours of battery life (on par with the MacBook).
The Chromebook 13 has two USB-C ports, a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. It measures just over half an inch thick and weighs 2.86 pounds. Its body is made with brushed aluminum, which gives it a solid look, but also a mid-2000s iTunes vibe.
This coming month should be great for Chromebooks
HP is also pushing this Chromebook as a solution for business users. That might be a hard sell for anyone whose company isn't entirely reliant on Google's ecosystem (most people!), but HP thinks a dock might help convince them. Alongside the laptop, HP is also introducing something called the Elite USB-C Docking Station (dull, but to the point), which is able to hook the Chromebook 13 up to two displays and a series of peripherals.
The Chromebook 13 is supposed to begin shipping in May, with sales opening today. Pricing starts at $499, but you'll have to pay a lot more for the fully specced model. At $499, you get the same build quality but far more limited internals — it won't even have a Core m processor; just a low-end Pentium chip. And no matter how much you spend, no model is available with a touchscreen.
Still, this is a good time to see a powerful new Chromebook hit the market. Google's big developer conference is coming up, and it's looking more and more likely that we're going to see Chrome and Android begin to cross paths. Already, we've seen signs that Android apps will open up to Chromebooks. That'd suddenly make laptops like the Chromebook 13 far more useful than they are today. We'll have to wait a few weeks to see how that plays out, but this next month could be great for Chromebooks.
Correction: The Chromebook 13 has a microSD card reader, not a full-sized SD card reader, as this story originally stated.