HP Chromebook x2 review: Gives Surface Pro, Pixel Slate, iPad Pro a run for their money
Let's get right to it: I love the HP x2. It's a terrific Chromebook laptop with a great display, a keyboard that's comfortable to type on and surprisingly peppy performance. And it's also a fabulous tablet -- thin and lightweight, responsive to touch and stylus and perceptive to orientation. Plus -- and this is a big one -- it comes with stylus and keyboard included at a time when many premium hybrids insist you buy them separately.
If you can live without the few remaining apps that require Windows or Mac OS -- and trust me, most of you can -- the Chromebook x2 is your jam.
Priced at $599, the x2's closest competitor is Google's new Pixel Slate, which also runs Google's stripped-down Chrome OS and starts at $599 (though higher-end configurations cost more). But the Pixel Slate comes without two vital accessories, and adding the $99 Pixel stylus and $199 keyboard jacks up the price to $899.
You run into the same problem with Microsoft's Surface Pro 6, which starts at $899, and the 12.9-inch version of Apple's newest iPad Pro, which starts at $799. Adding the stylus and keyboard adds hundreds more to those already hefty price tags.
Simple, straightforward and fast
Now, the x2's specs aren't particularly impressive, especially compared to the devices named above, with the exception of the entry-level Pixel Slate, which runs an inferior Celeron CPU. The x2 comes with an Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor, 4GB of RAM and a pitiful 32GB hard drive.
HP doesn't offer alternate configurations in the US, though the version it sells in the UK has twice the RAM and storage capacity for £799, which converts to roughly $1,015 -- a price that totally undermines the x2's appeal. It's not yet available in Australia.
And yet, somehow, these components come together in way that surpassed my expectations. Often, two-in-ones seem confused -- staggering when you switch from laptop to tablet, or just moving slowly in general. But the x2 is positively zippy. I experienced zero performance lag, in tablet or laptop mode, when loading up websites or opening apps. I hit the button to install Spotify, blinked, and it was done.
HP Chromebook x2 (12-f015nr)
|Price as reviewed||$599|
|Display size/resolution||12.3-inch 2,400x1,600-pixel touchscreen|
|CPU||Dual core 2.6GHz Intel Core m3-7Y30|
|Memory||4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 615|
|Webcam||Built-in 5-megapixel camera (front), 13-megapixel camera (rear) and dual array mic|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Chrome OS|
Yes, a 32GB hard drive is lame -- but this is a Chromebook, after all. Some degree of reliance on internet-connected apps and storage services is part of the deal, and when it works, it's fast. That noted, Chromebooks have evolved; they're no longer confined to online-only apps and tools. Most, including this one, support the Google Play Store, which lets you download and use almost any Android app, whether you're connected to the internet or not.
Like the Surface Pro 6 and Pixel Slate, the x2 has a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Though it has the lowest resolution of the bunch (2,400x1,600 pixels) and is no match for the iPad Pro's Liquid Retina display, it's more than good enough for writing documents and reading articles. Whether I used a finger or the included stylus, the x2 was responsive and accurate. And the x2 converts elegantly to a standalone tablet -- simply lift the display off of two plastic protrusions connected to the keyboard.
I watched the Netflix stand up comedy miniseries Bumping Mics -- I recommend it, by the way -- and some short documentaries on the New York Times' website. Video looked bright, vibrant and super crisp. I don't mind the x2's significant bezel, which makes for a good grip when in tablet mode. And the Bang & Olufson stereo speakers are better than average: surprisingly loud and balanced, though, like nearly all laptops and tablets, weaker on the low-end.
Everything else you need in a tablet and laptop
The keyboard is a bit mushy, but big and comfortable enough to type on when resting on a lap or tabletop. The x2's touchpad is slightly undersized and not great -- but the iPad Pro's keyboard has none. The x2's included stylus runs on one AAA battery and can be stowed in a loop connected to the keyboard. It's not the most secure setup, and given the loop's propensity to catch on things, I'd be a bit concerned about its durability over the long haul.
With two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microSD slot, the x2 beats out both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro in the ports and connections department. It also has two cameras -- a 5-megapixel front-facing cam for selfies and a 13-megapixel setup on the back. They're not quite as good as what you'd find on a proper Android or iOS tablet, but they're fine for photos and video, with a user interface that's simple and intuitive.
Battery life is solid. HP says the x2 rated for up to 12.5 hours, and we got a bit more than 10 hours in our streaming video drain test; better than the Surface Pro and equal to the iPad Pro. Completely charging the x2's battery took about 30 minutes.
HP delivers a standout 2-in-1
It isn't as flashy as the pricier Surface Pro, Pixel Slate or iPad Pro. And, yes, there are some inherent limitations in any Chromebook. But, for hundreds less than any of them (in the US, at least), the HP x2 delivers everything most folks will need for entertainment and productivity from a laptop and a tablet. I recommend it.
|HP Chromebook x2||Chrome OS; 2.6GHz Intel Core m3-7Y30; 4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; Intel HD Graphics 615; 32GB eMMC|
|Acer Chromebook Spin 13||Chrome OS; 1.6GHz Intel Core m3-6Y30; 4GB Lenovo 500e Chromebook|
|Lenovo 500e Chromebook||Chrome OS; 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N3450U; 2GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; Intel UHD Graphics 500; 32GB eMMC|
|Samsung Chromebook Pro||Chrome OS; 2.2GHz Intel Core m3-6Y30; 4GB LDDR3; Intel HD Graphics 515; 32GB eMMC|