I want to thank The Top Floor for providing me a demo HP Chromebook 11 g4 that I was able to tear down and evaluate for our 1:1 program. Being from VT, they are one of my favorite vendors to work with.
You can also check out my tear-down of the Asus C202.
My first impression of the G4 is that it looks and feels very well built. The rubberized rounded edges and 180 degree fold back screen do make it a nicely designed device. I didn’t even turn it on before my partner in crime and myself took it apart, so I don’t have any information about its performance, or how the keyboard and mouse feel.
All-in-all, I think this is a rugged, well built device and should hold up to many bumps and bruises, however if you are looking to do in-house repairs this may not be the ideal choice for the sole reason is that the changing the screen is the most cumbersome of any Chromebook I have worked on. On the flip side, at least in VT, these were priced less than the Asus c202’s we are also looking at, and the build quality for the price is amazing.
So if you are doing in-house repairs I might suggest leaning toward the Asus c202, whereas if you are sending away for support, then I would definitely consider the HP 11 G4.
How a device is packaged has been a pet peeve of mine since I had to unbox 500 Acer 720’s two years ago. The HP 11 G4 was boxed about the same as the original Acer 720’s were There was not any little pieces of tape to peel off which was nice, but there was foam and papers that would immediately go to the trash. What I found out 2 years ago was that unboxing each device could take as long if not longer than enrolling it, so less waste and easier removal is something we were looking for.
Replacing the monitor:
I don’t care how durable you make the device, students will break the screen and this is the #1 repair that IT departments will be making on Chromebooks. If you plan to send away the device, then it really doesn’t matter, and you might not even be looking at this blog post. However in-house repairs can greatly decrease turnaround time, which is why it is so important to our school. That said I was very surprised at HP’s decision to make changing the monitor so hard, to the point where I am wondering if they did it purposely to discourage in-house repairs.
P.s. I have seen some video’s from earlier models where they were able to remove the screws behind the hinges without removing the bottom, but it is certainly not designed to work that way.
Pulling apart the bottom
If you want to replace the keyboard, power adapter, (or monitor), you need to disassemble the bottom of the device. I got fooled the first time I tried this and attempted to remove the feet. Well, those feet do not come off, and if you do manage to pry them up a bit, they don’t go back. What HP did do was hide all of the 9 screws holding the back on, behind some rubber stoppers. Each of these stoppers are different sizes and shapes so if you do take them apart, make sure to note where they go.
The Battery, keyboard & Internal components
Replacing the keyboard is very similar to the ASUS c202 and the Lenovo N21, where it comes off and as an easily replaceable item, it is also very beefy which I felt was a positive toward durability.
The battery is held on by two screws and some snaps. I had to lift up the speakers to be able to remove the battery. After my experience with plastic mounts breaking on the 720’s, I think this is the weakest point of HP’s design. I bet that after 2 years of use, people will see this batter has broken loose and hopefully will not cause any damage. The Acer 720’s also have a 2 screw design and we have seen a high failure rate due to mouts breaking and the battery being able to shift.
The ram and hard-drive is soldered in so there is no repairing or upgrading this device without replacing the entire motherboard.
This is a definite plus for the HP. The plug itself that goes into the device is large and sturdy, and once inside the plug is not soldered to anything, so it can jiggle around and it will not affect the operation. Even if the port fails, it is a simple matter of replacing a plug.