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HP Pavilion x2 (2015) review: A sharp-looking hybrid PC that overpromises

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MSRP: $299.99
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The Good The revamped Pavilion x2 has a modern-looking new design, good keyboard and a strong magnetic hinge to keep its two halves together.

The Bad Despite a prominent Bang & Olufsen logo and large speaker grilles, the audio sounds thin and weak. The desktop is littered with advertising links and battery life is shorter than some similar systems.

The Bottom Line Easily the best-looking Atom-powered hybrid in its price range, the HP Pavilion x2 is still a few tweaks away from being a budget standout.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7

Review Sections

HP was one of the first PC makers to embrace the idea of a hybrid 2-in-1 laptop. The original x2 systems appeared just after the launch of Windows 8, and combined elements of both a clamshell laptop and a touchscreen tablet.

But that original model was not one of our favorites of that era. The clunky plastic switch used to hold the tablet and keyboard halves together was ugly and hard to use, performance from the Intel Atom processor disappointed, and most importantly, Windows 8 was not ready for primetime, despite an emphasis on touch-friendly tablet features.

The HP Pavilion x2 has a new design, new audio partnership and a new magnetic hinge. Sarah Tew/CNET

Since that time, many of the parts that make up a system like the x2 have improved. Low-power Intel chips are faster while offering better battery life, with budget laptops even getting thinner and lighter. Plus Windows 10 finally offers a usable mix of desktop and tablet interface features.

The latest version of HP's mainstream hybrid, still called the Pavilion x2, shows a steady evolution from its predecessors. It has a new design, new audio partnership and a new magnetic hinge. Starting at $299 (£249 in the UK and AU$549 in Australia), it's a sharp-looking 10-inch Windows 10 hybrid, even if it has the same type of low-power processor, low-resolution screen and small amount of solid-state storage as many other budget laptops and hybrids.

Helping it stand out from the crowd is the excellent new design, with large side-mounted speaker grilles adding a high-end look. The keyboard is very usable, and the magnetic hinge makes it easy to pull the screen off into a separate tablet. For power, the Pavilion x2 follows the lead of Apple's 12-inch MacBook and uses a newer USB-C connection.

The latest version of HP's mainstream hybrid, still called the Pavilion x2, shows a steady evolution from its predecessors. Sarah Tew/CNET

But one of the system's most promising features ends up being a weakness. HP lost the rights to use Beats audio branding and technology in its PCs after Apple absorbed the Beats brand. HP's new audio partner is Bang & Olufsen. While B&O didn't design or build the speakers in this (or any other) HP system, the company claims it provided sound-tuning feedback based on the specific size and acoustic qualities of different products in HP's 2015 lineup. The problem here is that despite the big speaker grilles and prominent B&O branding, the audio is disappointingly thin and weak-sounding, even for a budget system.

The HP Pavilion x2 sends a mixed message. It looks great for a low-cost hybrid, and it runs about as well as other hybrids and laptops in its category. But it also implies audio promises it can't keep, and comes positively buried with bloatware and adware. At $299, it's decent, but Acer gives you an extra 500GB hard drive in the Switch 10 E for only $50 more. For a big performance boost, consider the $499 Microsoft Surface 3 . For a price cut, ditch the touch screen and hybrid hinge by checking out the $179 HP Stream 11.

HP Pavilion x2

Price as reviewed $299 (£249 in the UK and AU$549 in Australia)
Display size/resolution 10.1-inch 1,280 x 800 touchscreen
PC CPU 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3735F
PC Memory 2048MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz
Graphics 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics
Storage 32GB Flash Memory
Networking 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (32-bit)

Design and features

If the new Pavilion x2 has a single standout feature, it's the sharp-looking design. The screen half tapers slightly towards the top, giving you a thin end and a thicker, squared-off end when holding it in portrait mode. The two parts fit together well as a clamshell laptop, with the rounded back of the hinge rotating down to act as a tiny kickstand, elevating the rear of the system.

The x2 is available in white, red and silver. This test unit is white, and the plastic finish has a subtle pearlized look which rejects fingerprints while looking more upscale than some other sub-$300 laptops.

The magnetic hinge pulls apart cleanly with two hands, one of which is needed to hold the keyboard base down. Sarah Tew/CNET

The display connects to a keyboard base by way of a magnetic hinge, which replaces the clunkier hook-and-latch system on most earlier HP detachable hybrids. The magnetic hinge pulls apart cleanly with two hands, one of which is needed to hold the keyboard base down. It easily reattaches with one hand, thanks to the strong magnetic connection that guides the two halves together as soon as they get close to each other.

With large, island-style keys, the keyboard is easier to type on than similar models from Asus or Acer we've seen recently. HP traditionally does a good job of keeping important keys, such as the Shift, Tab and Ctrl keys, from getting lost on smaller keyboards. The wide but shallow touchpad is less successful, and basic two-finger gestures such as scrolling down long websites aren't as smooth as they could be.

The keyboard is easier to type on than similar models from Asus or Acer we've seen recently. Sarah Tew/CNET

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