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HP EliteBook x360 1020 G2 review: A counter-surveillance laptop for spies like us

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The Good Includes HP SureView, a built-in privacy screen. Slim, 360-degree design with plenty of RAM and storage.

The Bad Battery life is merely OK, and the security screen leaves the display feeling a little muted. The processor is a last-gen model and the touchpad hitches occasionally.

The Bottom Line One of the best business/consumer crossover laptops, the HP EliteBook x360 takes the lead on security with a useful on-demand privacy filter.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 6

The type of situational security awareness that once seemed to be the exclusive domain of the paranoid has become depressingly mainstream. Hackers, phishers and various bad actors threaten your email, financial information and even online reputation, through a wide palette of blackhat tools.

Besides malware and tricky lookalike emails from faux banks and social network imposters, it's also important to be on guard against visual hacking. That's the simple act of physically looking over at someone's laptop while there's sensitive information up on the screen. It can happen anywhere, from coffee shops to airplanes to open offices, and it's one of the reasons people sometimes lug clunky polarized privacy screens around with them.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

A clever integrated solution to the visual hacking problem is the main selling point of this HP EliteBook x360 1020 G2, a sharp-looking 12-inch business 2-in-1 laptop that borrows from both HP's excellent Spectre x360 line and ultraportable products like Apple's 12-inch MacBook.

Keep your secrets safe

HP introduced its SureView technology in 2016, but this is the first laptop I've tested with the feature built in. Developed with 3M, it adds a privacy filter to the display, activated by hitting the F2 button. With the SureView feature off, it looks like a normal laptop screen (mostly). Activate the feature and the view turns white, becoming more opaque as you move farther to the side, thanks to a light-controlling film built into the screen.

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The standard view of a top-secret document. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's a very cool effect, and an effective one, as long as you keep your expectations realistic. Depending on what information you have on the screen, much of it is still readable from a closer over-the-shoulder view, and it does very little for a viewer seated directly behind you. 

There's about 70 degrees of reasonably clear viewing, after which the screen fades into white. It's certainly opaque enough, even at closer angles, to prevent a casual quick glance from stealing a password or account number.

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As the angle increases, the document fades from view, eventually becoming completely white. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Even when the filter is turned off, the display is a little more muted than other similar laptop screens, and there's a tighter sweet spot for optimal viewing before the image degrades. I'm sure I'd get used to this minor irritation in time, but compared with the half-dozen other laptops I've used recently, it's definitely noticeable. It's not a deal-breaker, but it doesn't do the 1,920x1,080 display any favors.

It is, however, a fun and attention-getting party trick to turn the SureView feature on with a quick tap of the F2 key, and a heck of a lot easier than toting a removable privacy filter screen around. 

HP EliteBook x360 1020 G2

Price as reviewed $2,049
Display size/resolution 12-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch display
PC CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7600U
PC memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz
Graphics 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 512GB SSD
Operating system Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)


Small and solid

The EliteBook line has always been one of my favorite business/consumer crossover choices. The design is slim and sharp, and can pass for a pre-level version of Apple's 12-inch MacBook, but with more corporate security features, more customization options and better processors.

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