Why the HP Chromebook 11's exploding charger is its best feature
Shortly after I wrote that the most interesting thing about the HP Chromebook 11 was its charger, which could also be used to charge smartphones and tablets, I bought the laptop. Now, more than two months later, I can confirm that this is the worst $279 I've ever spent.
This should hardly come as a surprise. The product was pulled shortly after its debut, because HP and Google learned that the bundled charger would overheat and explode. It vanished from Google's website, disappeared from retailers' shelves, and left people like me with a hunk of plastic that shipped with a faulty charger.
In that sense, I suppose my original post was proven correct: The most interesting thing about the laptop is the fact that I was able to use my smartphone charger to fill its battery after learning that the bundled charger might explode. It took way too long to charge, and it would only last for a few hours between fill-ups, but it was workable.
But the fact that this was even necessary -- that a decades-old manufacturer and a leading tech company were unable to ship a charger that wouldn't overheat and explode -- shows just how little attention was paid to this product.
It would be crazy to expect much from the HP Chromebook 11. It's a cheap laptop, and it's never pretended to be anything else. But its inability to so much as load Google's homepage without stuttering when its entire purpose is to provide a decent browsing experience is a slap in the face to any poor sap foolish enough to purchase the device after this charger debacle.
Chromebooks are all about the idea that allowing people to do fairly basic tasks like check their email or monitor their social networks is all a device really needs to do. They don't feature advanced software like that found on other platforms. They don't boast a lot of storage or processing power. They simply allow people to browse the Web -- or that's the idea, anyway.
The reality, at least with this particular device, is much bleaker. The device has a creaky hinge, a blurry display, and a cramped keyboard. It regularly drops an Internet connection even when other devices manage to stay connected. And it doesn't even allow its owners to perform even the simplest of tasks, whether it's editing a document or browsing Reddit, with any reliability.
When I said that the charger was the most interesting aspect of this Chromebook, I did so with the assumption that the rest of the device was unremarkable but would work as expected. Now I know that even though the charger truly is the most notable thing about this infernal laptop, it's because the rest of the device fails so spectacularly at its modest goals that a faulty charger prone to overheating and explosions is the best goddamn thing found in its box.
[Image courtesy rust.bucket]