2017 is rapidly turning into the rear of the ultra-sleek 2-in-1. The HP EliteBook x360 G2 is the latest challenger and it’s a fine example of the breed.
It’s clad in smart, matte silver aluminium, packed with high-spec internals and, just like the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 it’s slim and light enough that it looks just like a regular laptop, even up close.
HP EliteBook x360 G2 Review: Introduction
And yet, the HP EliteBook x360 G2 is as flexible as any 2-in-1 convertible laptop. You can use it as a tablet, a laptop or as a media screen in one of its two stand modes. And its 13.3in 1080p display, Core i7-7300U, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage means you can use it for pretty much anything, from light web browsing and movie watching on the move to office work and even intensive creative tasks. It’s a powerful, do-it-all portable business laptop that will take most things you throw at it in its stride.
Price and competition
First, I should state that we received the latest 7th Generation Intel Core i5 7300U model.
Competitors include the 12.5in Asus Zenbook 3 at £950, 13.5in Microsoft Surface Laptop at £890 and 13in Huawei MateBook X at around £1,200 which all share similar internals, but don’t offer the same 2-in-1 functions as the HP.
Design and build quality
HP’s attention to detail is fantastic. The EliteBook x360’s aluminium unibody, diamond-cut edges and sleek look make for a stunning-looking laptop. It’s flexible, too, with hinges that allow you fold over the screen and use it as a large tablet or in “stand” or “tent” mode.
It’s not just a pretty face, though; that sleek aluminium exterior cloaks a laptop that’s tougher and more rugged than many of its chief rivals. It’s been tested to the US military MIL-STD 810G specification, which means (among other things) that it should survive the odd fall or spillage, while the touchscreen is protected by the scratch- and shatter-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass.
Possibly as a result of this beefing up, the EliteBook x360 isn’t as light or slim as it’s main rival, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, but it’s far from bloated, measuring 14.9mm thick and weighing 1.27kg in weight.
That slightly thicker frame does have benefits, too, and the main one is that the laptop is able to accommodate plenty of ports. On its right-hand edge, you’ll find a power, USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, HDMI 1.4, and a microSD slot. On the left side, there’s an external micro-SIM slot, another USB 3.1 socket and a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack plus, since this is a business laptop, a smart card reader.
Underneath the laptop, you’ll find two stereo speakers with four integrated drivers. They’re Bang & Olufsen-branded, go reasonably loud and I found sound quality adequate for light music listening, with sound filtering from the bottom of the laptop when used in its regular form, and behind the screen when used in tablet mode.
The HP EliteBook x360 G2 also has a fingerprint reader and a RealSense camera, meaning you can unlock the laptop by prodding or merely looking at it. And HP has homed in on security elsewhere, too, with HP Sure Start Gen3, which protects it against BIOS attacks.
Keyboard, trackpad and pen
It’s clear that HP knows a thing or two about building business laptops and there’s nowhere this shines through more than in the quality of the keyboard and the touchpad. When I first used the laptop, I was surprised at how satisfying typing on it felt. Although the keys are flat-topped (I prefer a slightly scooped key-top profile), its mechanical-style switches feel fantastic under the finger.
The glass-topped touchpad is one of my favourite features of the EliteBook x360 G2, however. It’s wide and accurate and although the clicking action is mechanical rather than electromechanical (like on the MacBook Pro), you can click almost anywhere on its surface, with only the very top portion resisting clicks. It’s a joy to use and works with Windows 10’s multitouch gestures flawlessly.
HP also supplied the laptop to us with the Active Pen (it’s sold separately for £37), and while it’s perfectly functional, it still doesn’t feel quite as intuitive or as pleasant to use as the Surface Pen.
Powered by a full-fat, 7th Generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 7300U processor and backed up by 8GB of RAM, the HP flies through tasks and, in our in-house benchmarks, it edges ahead of all its key competitors. I also ran it through the cross-platform Geekbench 4 test, where it achieved impressive 4,097 single-core and 7,022 multi-core scores.
This means you’ll be able to power through intensive tasks, including Photoshop, basic video editing and software development. For everyday tasks, such as running Word, Excel and browsing the HP EliteBook x360 G2 has absolutely no issues.
Its Intel HD Graphics 620 chip isn’t aimed at gamers but it can handle basic stuff so you’ll be able to squeeze in a little Hearthstone or World of Warcraft on medium to low settings between meetings. Throwing GFXBench Car Chase at it, it returned 20fps at 1080p, while the less intensive Manhattan 3.0 benchmark resulted in a higher 39.4fps average frame rate.
As for storage, that’s slightly less impressive. The SanDisk 256GB M.2 SSD in our machine delivered reasonably quick sequential read and write speeds of 483MB/sec and 196MB/sec but it can’t match the sort of speeds you’ll see from the latest Apple MacBook Pro machines or the fastest NVMe-based Windows laptops.
I was also a little concerned about the laptop’s thermal design. Running a 1080p YouTube video in full screen at maximum brightness with the speakers at 40% is all it takes to get the laptop’s fans whirring at disturbingly loud levels and it came as a shock when I fired up Real Temp and HWMonitor to find temperatures hitting 83°C, only 17°C off its TJ Max (the maximum temperature threshold, before the laptop, shuts down or downclocks).
Battery life, at least, is excellent. In our test, the HP EliteBook x360 G2 lasted 10hrs 46mins, which effectively means that, for general office duties, it’ll last you all day. And because it supports Thunderbolt 3 you won’t necessarily have to charge it via the supplied DC power brick – you can simply plug in via the nearest USB Type-C power source instead.
Unfortunately, the EliteBook’s 1,920 x 1,080 display isn’t the best I’ve come across. With a measured 82.3% sRGB gamut coverage and an average Delta E of 2.56, is rather dull, lacks vibrance and, with a maximum brightness of only 260 cd/m², the display is hard to read in bright conditions.
In fact, even in our natural-light-starved Labs, the HP’s display looked dim. On the plus side, its 1,239:1 contrast ratio means you should still be able to make out the details in dark movie scenes. On a more positive note, the HP’s touchscreen does work well, responding smoothly and accurately to Windows 10’s touchscreen gestures.
The HP EliteBook x360 G2 is a fantastic 2-in-1 laptop that deserves high praise. From its sturdy, sleek design to performance and connectivity options, through to its excellent battery life and security options, it’s a cracking 13.3in laptop.
It’s let down a bit by its below par display and dodgy heat dissipation and it is more expensive than traditional laptop designs of a similar configuration. However, if you desperately want a 2-in-1 it’s a more competitive option than either the Microsoft Surface Book or Dell XPS 2-in-1. It comes warmly recommended.