I’m a semi-retired IT technician, so this review comes from that standpoint.
If you’re not familiar with the Chrome operating system you may want to do some independent research before purchasing a Chromebook. While they are designed around Cloud computing (with most data being saved in Google Docs rather than locally), it’s quite possible to work with the machine offline. You can specify in Google Docs that files should be available “offline”; a copy of the file is kept locally and syncs back to the Cloud when WiFi becomes available.
Google Docs (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software) all come with your Gmail account and is the “base” set of applications used by most folks on a Chromebook.
I’ve enabled Linux on the HP, and installed LibreOffice – primarily because there’s no database application in Google Docs and I do a bit of work in databases. Linux works very well on the HP for that purpose.
Linux also allows the installation of GIMP, which is a PhotoShop type image editor.[EDIT 9/30/18 – I should note that Linux documents (such as you may create in LibreOffice) should be kept within the Linux folder structure. Keeping such files on an SD drive doesn’t work – Linux can’t “see” that drive. There may be a method to guide Linux to the proper folder. If I take time to figure that out I’ll update the review. In the interim, plan on using a bit of the 32gb of internal space for LibreOffice docs. The upside is that, of course, such documents are totally independent of the Cloud, just like they would be on a Windows machine).
I’ve enabled File System For Windows (another app) which allows me to contact to my Windows 10 Pro machine and transfer files to and from while on the same network. Chrome RDP allows me to take control of the Windows machine while on the same network and Chrome Remote Desktop allows access to the Windows machine from wherever there is an Internet connection (without direct file transfer – if you need to swap a file, just drop it into Google Drive).
If you’re a DropBox user, you can install File System for DropBox on the Chromebook.
Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Outlook, etc. are all available from the Microsoft web applications. Microsoft Access is not available on the web apps. There are also Android apps for Microsoft (which I don’t use, I use the web apps). If you have encrypted Word or Excel files the M/S web apps can’t open them. You can install the (free) WPS office suite and it can open password locked Microsoft documents just fine. If you enable Linux, LibreOffice can also open encrypted Microsoft documents.
Splashtop for Business works using their web app, and from that I can log into remote Windows machines (including Windows Server 12r2).
As you can see, quite a bit of work can be done using a Chromebook – it all depends upon your needs and the setup.
The HP has a decent, but not great, keyboard. Battery life is excellent. Be advised – there’s no dedicated “delete” key or “caps lock” key. You can remap the “search” key to emulate a “caps lock” key but that affects cursor movement if you’re working in Google Docs. If you haven’t used a Chromebook before, Google for how the keyboard works. Takes a little getting used to, but it’s doable.
There’s a micro-SD card slot (I’m using a 32gb card, but it will accept larger cards if need be). Remember that, while Chromebooks are fairly secure, the card is not encrypted by default. There are encryption apps available for locking down the SD card.
The screen (the non-touch version) is O.K.; it doesn’t come close to the Pixel screen but it costs only 1/4 as much as a Pixel.
The charger (included) plugs into either of two USB C ports – one on each side of the machine. The machine also offers two USB A ports.
The touch-pad is good – it doesn’t get in the way when typing. However the “mouse clicks” on the pad are ‘way too hard and loud. In a library setting it would become annoying very quickly. Better to use the ‘double tap’ on the touch-pad rather than click the corners.
The speakers, for this size of machine in this price range, are excellent. (I’m not an audiophile, but they sound pretty good to me). Unlike many lower priced units the speakers are on the Chromebook surface, not underneath or to the sides. [EDIT 9/30/18 – Using the on board Bluetooth I was able to successfully “pair” the HP with an Amazon Echo. Playing .MP3 files from the SD card using the on board Audio app works fine.]
Printing is still a bit of an issue with Chromebooks – if you’ve not used Chromebooks before, do some research on printing lest you be surprised. Remember that Chromebooks don’t accept “.exe” programs (so you can’t load M/S Office from a DVD) and you can’t load printer drivers (there are work-arounds but you’ll have to look ’em up on your own). Google Cloud Print is supported. Still, most printers aren’t ‘plug ‘n play’ by simply plugging in a USB cable. I’m printing to a Samsung, a Kodak 7.1, and an old HP4050n which is hooked up to a Windows 10 machine via Ethernet. It may take a little more effort than you’re used to with “plug ‘n play” Windows.
There’s no Ethernet port on the machine, but you can get adapters that use the USB C ports and have Ethernet connections. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are, of course, supported by default.
The power switch is above the “backspace” key and not likely to be hit accidentally – an improvement over my last Chromebook.
One note on Cloud storage – Google offers a 100gb “free” upgrade for two years (after that if you use more than the 15gb that comes with a Gmail account you have to start paying). You can Google that – but be aware that if you have multiple Chromebooks (as I do) assigned to one Gmail account, you can’t “stack” or extend the 100gb offer. It’s 100gb total for each account. IMHO Google should change their policy on this and, if a new device is purchased for the existing account, the 100gb offer should be extended from the new date of purchase. YMMV.
YouTube videos seem to play well – I don’t play games or watch Netflix on the machine, it’s more of a workhorse for me.
Out of the 32gb total internal storage, after Linux and all other apps that I use are installed, I have 18gb free space (not including the SD card).
Fit and finish is good (although the machine is basically plastic) and it weighs about 3 pounds (again, the non-touch screen version). It is, for me, a true “laptop” machine in that the bottom doesn’t get too hot to hold when it’s in my lap.
Overall I’m really pleased with the HP 14-ca040nr. I’ve read reviews that say that Chromebooks don’t work offline, or don’t offer software – and those reviews are wrong. You just have to set the machine up properly.