HP Chromebase 21.5in All-in-One review: Proof that Chrome can be a hit on the desktop
An affordable all-in-one that showcases Chrome OS's versatility, but we would have liked a brighter screen
It won't have escaped your attention that the HP Chromebase isn't a Chromebook at all, but an ingenious Chrome OS spin on the all-in-one. The 21.5in screen sits on a chunky conical support, which contains the core components, the audio system and the connectivity. What's more, the screen is mounted deliberately high because it pivots, giving you the choice of working on a portrait-mode desktop as well as the more conventional 16:9 widescreen format.
The design is surprisingly compact and space-saving – the base only takes up a circular area roughly 17cm in diameter – while the portrait mode is great for editing Google Docs documents or doing research, particularly if you have to scroll or page through long reports. Annoyingly, the pointer doesn't change orientation along with the screen, but this is something that you soon get used to. What's more, it's a touchscreen, so you can scroll through with gestures or even stop and annotate with a finger. Not with a stylus, though, as there's no USI stylus support.
The Chromebase comes with a matching compact keyboard and slimline mouse, both of which connect wirelessly through Bluetooth. The mouse is light with a low profile that won't be to everyone's taste, but is perfectly usable; its biggest downside is that it chews through its two AAA batteries. The slimline keyboard is better than it looks thanks to a wedge-shaped profile and responsive chiclet keys with plenty of travel and a satisfyingly clicky feel.
The screen could be brighter, with a maximum luminance of only 276cd/m2, but that's enough for use in offices (just don't place it next to a window that faces the sun). It covers a respectable 87% of the sRGB colour spectrum. Colour accuracy isn't good enough for serious creative work, but it's fine for office work, homework or quick adjustments to your smartphone snaps. Crucially, the size is great for watching streaming video or playing Stadia games.
In fact, the Chromebase 22 makes a good all-in entertainer, because the built-in sound is comfortably better than you'll find in any Chromebook – or most all-in-one PCs. Two 5W speakers are built into the stand, and these produce a rich, warm and bass-heavy sound that's perfect for music, movies and games. If anything, the output can sometimes be too loud, in which case you can plug a pair of headphones into the 3.5mm jack at the rear of the stand, or simply use a Bluetooth headset.
The Chromebase also has two USB-C ports and two USB-A, all of which support the 10Gbits/sec USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard. You can connect an external monitor through DisplayPort through either USB-C port, and while there's no Ethernet port you can rely on Wi-Fi 6 for your internet connection.
HP sells a £600 version of the Chromebase with a Pentium Gold 6405U processor and 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but it needs to revisit that price. Our test unit, sold online for £649 (including VAT), partners a Core i3 processor with 8GB of RAM and the same size SSD, so is much better value for money.
Admittedly, it's an ageing 10th-generation Core i3-10110U. Despite two cores running four threads at up to 4.1GHz, the Chromebase delivered a worse performance in our benchmarks than Chromebooks running the newer Pentium Gold 7505, despite them being supported with just 4GB of RAM.
However, the Core i3-10110U still proved faster than devices based on Celeron or ARM-based processors, especially in multithreaded tasks, and we would expect this unit to beat the cheaper Chromebase (the Gold 6405U is no match for the Gold 7505) by around 20% in benchmarks.
What's more, speed in everyday use isn't bad at all. You can comfortably run multiple apps across multiple windows or stack up a dozen browser tabs without experiencing much in the way of slowdown or even delay when you're switching tabs.
A faster CPU and a brighter screen would certainly be welcome, and we hope HP brings both in with a future update. As it is, though, the Chromebase 22 is a practical option for anyone working from home using web-based apps, not to mention casual browsers and secondary-age students. It proves that Chrome OS shouldn't be confined to Chromebooks: with the right approach and some lateral thinking, it can be a hit on the desktop too.
HP Chromebase 21.5in all-in-one specifications
|CPU||10th-generation Core i3-10110U|
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