I have to be honest right up front: I’m not really a tablet guy. I want to be – I promise – but when it comes down to it, a large-screened phone handles most of my gaming, reading and casual consumption stuff and when I need a bigger screen, I normally want a keyboard to go along with it. So, in most scenarios, a Chromebook is a perfect fit for that use case. Between the two (phone and thin/light Chromebook), most of my digital needs are met and I start asking the inevitable question: where does a tablet even fit in for me? And the truth is, I just don’t know.
That doesn’t mean I don’t WANT to like tablets. I like the idea of them and I feel like I generally WANT to have a reason to pick one up, but unless I’m forcing myself to do so, my default needs just don’t require one and I never feel compelled to reach for a tablet in my real-world, day-to-day use. However, it’s important to note that I’m not a representative of all consumers. Plenty of people prefer tablets and even find great use for them in both personal and professional settings: I’m just not one of them.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it became painfully obvious for me during my time with the HP Chromebook x2 11 and instead of trying to approach this device from a philosophical perspective of where tablets do or don’t fit in these days for general consumers, I’ve decided to sidestep that entire conversation and instead focus on what this device does well, where it struggles, and hopefully arm you with enough detail to know if this tablet is the one for you or not. Let’s get into it.
I have to commend HP for a job well done when it comes to raw build quality of the x2 11. It feels great in the hand, it is well-crafted, and it looks great doing just about anything. Seriously, there are very few faults to be found in this one when we talk simply about how it is put together and how it looks.
Let’s talk just about the tablet portion first. Crafted out of a single slab of powdered aluminum and rocking HP’s fantastic new logo in chrome shininess around back, the whole package is sturdy, cool to the touch, and a great weight. Without all the additional back and keyboard covers, the 11-inch tablet comes in at 1.25 pounds and can be held in one hand for a reasonable amount of time. The volume rocker and power button are in good spots, they’re clicky, and don’t really interrupt the clean aesthetic HP has going on, here. This thing is just gorgeous.
Now, we can’t forget the other pieces that come in the box, though. If the tablet alone is fantastic and other, necessary parts are garbage, the overall experience can feel cheap. Thankfully with the x2, that’s not the case at all. The back panel is sturdy, has a firm hinge with a huge range of motion, and slaps on the back of the main tablet with a very firm magnetic clasp. For real, this thing’s tough to pull off once it is in place.
The keyboard’s magnets are good, too, firmly connecting the keyboard and tablet if they are even close to being in the vicinity of one another, I also appreciate the extra magnet that lifts the back part of the keyboard up to the screen when in laptop mode, but I wish that one was a little more sturdy. It works, but compared to the strength of all the other magnets on this thing, it feels a bit weak. In daily use, I never actually had the keyboard/screen magnet come apart, but it always felt like it was just on the verge of doing so.
When all the accessories are attached and the x2 11 is totally closed up, the seams are good and the additional pieces don’t feel bolted-on or half-baked. It all comes together into a smooth overall package and, again, I really think HP built this thing right. The only complaint I have with the build is the hinge on the back. It works great, but the hinge itself protrudes from the back plate a bit and if you leave it attached and set the tablet on a table, there’s a wobble that is frankly annoying – especially if you are trying to do any work with the pen. I found myself taking the back plate off if I was trying to use the tablet on its own on a table and honestly got frustrated that I had to take the back off over and over again.
This screen is lovely
OK, that covers the way this thing is built. It’s almost all good stuff and that just continues with the screen on the x2 11. At 2160×1440, this 11-inch 3:2 panel is a treat to look at. I honestly love everything about it. The aspect ratio is the right one for a tablet, the bezels all around are symmetrical, the brightness is awesome at 400 nits and everything just looks great on this screen. Zero complaints. This is the perfect size for a tablet that allows for light, one-handed operation and is still large enough to get some real work done when the keyboard is attached. HP 100% nailed it on this part.
Being a tablet first, the x2 doesn’t have to have the best keyboard/trackpad combo ever made, but it needs to be usable. The Lenovo Duet comes to mind when we talk about serviceable keyboard covers that definitely don’t make you want to use them on a regular basis. Thankfully, HP did a good job on this part of the equation, too.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t the best keyboard you’ll ever use, but it is absolutely usable for lengthy writing times and will 100% work for users that need to bust out a few emails, write some blog posts, or knock out more lengthy documents. I wrote a few full articles on this keyboard and found it to be plenty comfortable to use for long periods. It’s a keyboard COVER, though, so keep in mind the fact that it isn’t rigid like the tablet portion is. There’s some flex, here, but it didn’t really bother me when using it. The extra magnet that gets the back of the keyboard up off the table adds stability and makes the experience in your lap far more usable than something like the Duet or Pixel Slate ever could manage.
The trackpad is much the same. Wide, glass, and with a perfect click, I didn’t feel like I was using a trackpad that is an afterthought. Other than the fact that you can flex the keyboard cover enough to register a trackpad click, there was nothing about using it that felt cheap or flimsy. Even in my lap, the whole thing was…usable.
But that word doesn’t really conjure up images of a good time, does it. “Usable” isn’t exactly what you aim for when you are making a piece of hardware, but that is exactly what this tablet feels like when you are trying to use it like a Chromebook on a regular basis. A standard Chromebook is always going to be better for this type of use, and whether I liked it or not, that’s how I kept ending up using the x2 11: like a Chromebook, and that’s not it’s best use case. It’s a tablet first, not a Chromebook, and when you start using it with the keyboard on all the time, you feel it and you notice it.
Speakers, ports, and camera
Sorry, I said I wouldn’t get into the tablet vs. Chromebook stuff, but it’s hard not to. Let’s move on to some of the other external things going on with this tablet. Around the outside, there is a volume rocker, power button, SIM/SD Card tray and two USB Type C ports. I’m very glad they included the second USB port, but a bit sad they chose to ditch the headphone/mic jack. There’s plenty of room, here, so I just don’t get that.
I like the inclusion of an SD Card option, here, but some of you will confuse it with a SIM tray. For the models that support LTE down the road, this tray will pull double duty. For the available model we have here, there’s only a spot for a microSD card. You’ll need a SIM tool or paperclip to get it open, but there is one hiding in the box in the paperwork section, so you’ll want to keep up with that for sure.
Hidden in the power button is a fantastic fingerprint scanner and it works just like you’d expect, allowing you to get logged in and running with just the tap of your registered finger. There’s no doubt that this needs to be part of any Chromebook and it just makes things feel so much more cohesive. I really enjoyed having it there.
Flanking both sides of the screen are the stereo speakers that sound…alright. There are some tablets that really lean into great sound and I was hoping HP would do so with this one. That isn’t the case, unfortunately, and the fact that the speakers are thin and weak makes me less apt to pick this up for video watching: an activity tablets should be great at. Take the the Pixel Slate, for instance. While it didn’t really appeal to me as a tablet for multiple reasons, it has great speakers and that made me choose it for content consumption when given the opportunity. That’s just not the case with the x2.
Hidden in the front bezel and shown quite prominently on the back are the cameras. Don’t expect anything amazing with these cameras once again as Chrome OS just doesn’t feel like it would leverage a great camera module even if one was available. For what it’s worth, HP did put a 5MP front shooter and 8MP rear camera on this tablet, so you have far better megapixel counts than you generally get on a Chromebook, but the quality and shooting experience is still half-baked. Case in point, don’t buy this tablet to be your primary camera.
The pen needs its own section
Like many Chromebooks on the market these days, the x2 supports USI pen input. But this one does it in a much cooler way than all of its peers. Taking a cue from the iPad Pro, the pen – that comes in the box, by the way – magnetically attaches to the side of the tablet and charges while its there. It looks cool, works well, and gives the pen a place to stay when not in use. We’ll talk about the pen performance in a second, but the fact that this one comes in the box and basically takes care of itself when not being used is just awesome. The pen’s tip is a tad wide for my liking, but again, it is included and so it gets a pass for not being perfect in every way.
But all those cool tricks don’t give the HP x2 a pass on how the stylus actually works, and the results are what you’d expect for USI on a Chromebook at this point: a bit all over the place. Apps like Squid still work better than most and Google’s new Cursive app is pretty bad. We did a whole video about that app and it’s shortcomings, but it does feel odd that a new handwriting app launched alongside this tablet works so poorly on it.
Part of that is the lack of speed this tablet is saddled with that we’ll talk about in a minute, but the other part is Cursive just isn’t optimized the way it should be just yet. I tried some other apps and they weren’t great, either. Concepts, Google Keep and others still had far too much pen lag to be useful and I can’t tell if that is on the pen, the processor, or a combination of the two. Either way, the pen experience was pretty mediocre and while I’m hopeful that it gets better eventually, don’t buy this tablet expecting an exceptional inking experience right now. It’s just not there yet.
Under the hood
So, we have a great build quality, great aesthetic, nice additions in the fingerprint scanner and magnetic stylus, and a fantastic screen. On the outside, HP’s outdone themselves with this tablet in a bunch of ways, but what about the inside stuff? With the Snapdragon 7c, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, how does this thing actually perform?
Not great, honestly. For some general browsing it is fine, but if you get into some multitasking and even a small bit of real work, you feel the processor struggling to keep up. While I can forgive this for most things, I constantly felt the lag when moving things around in tablet mode. Love it or hate it, Chrome OS has some useful parts of the tablet UI that, when given enough horsepower to support them, can be fun to use. Swiping around the interface should feel fluid and intuitive, but the processor in the HP just can’t keep up. It makes all those fun swipes and animations sluggish and aggravating to use.
Battery life was fine, netting a solid 8-10 hours on a charge for my use cases. I think the x2 11 would have really knocked it out of the park in the battery category if the screen was a standard HD 3:2 panel. Pushing around all those extra pixels comes at a performance and power cost and those 400 nits of brightness don’t help here, either. Don’t get me wrong: I love a pin-sharp, bright display, but I am also fine with those stats taking my batter down a notch, too.
We have to talk about Android app performance, too. As an ARM-based tablet with Snapdragon branding, I really expected Android apps to fly on this. That just wasn’t the case. To be fair, some apps worked just fine, but a few of the smaller games I play on my phone struggled mightily on this device. Ultimate Golf was so laggy it was unplayable, Call of Duty Mobile (that used to play quite well on the Duet) wouldn’t let me go past the lowest possible graphics settings, and drawing apps like Concepts were terrible. I don’t understand why things weren’t better in this department, but there is clearly some work that still needs to be done for the Snapdragon 7c in Chromebooks, here.
That being said, I know a ton of people that use the Duet on a regular basis in tablet mode and don’t seem to be too bothered by the overall performance for web apps or Android apps. The missed animations and jittery multitasking don’t seem to be that much of a bother. If that is you, the HP will be a step up from that experience. But for me, my standard for gesture-based navigation is my phone that – for better or worse – floats through my swipes with ease, moving me from app to app without too much thought. That is not the experience on the HP x2 and as much as I wish it was, I have to let you know that using this thing as a tablet is going to feel a bit half-baked.
To buy or not to buy
So, is this thing worth buying? For those of you who use and like tablets and find the Duet is pretty good for your uses, I’d say 100%. The HP x2 11 is a step up from that device in every possible way. It’s built better, has a better screen with a better aspect ratio, better keyboard/trackpad, an included pen, a faster processor, a fingerprint scanner, and more RAM. Even for you Pixel Slate users, there are upgrades here, too. The keyboard case is better, the size is more manageable, and the pen has a place to live.
But for those of you who are like me and aren’t sure where a tablet fits into your life, I’m not sure what to tell you. The x2 is a well-made tablet that handles Chrome OS like a mid-range Chromebook would. It’s not so bad I’d tell you to skip it, but it’s also not fast enough that you escape the regular jitters and slow downs that accompany a more affordable device. If the perks on offer here sound like the things you are into, this could be a great device for you. If you are into high performance and spend most of your time with the keyboard attached, I’d argue your money could go farther with a more-standard Chromebook.
But price is part of this equation, too, and as we were putting together this review, a big change happened that is very notable. HP decided to drop $200 off of the $599 price tag for the x2, and that matters a whole lot. At $599, you really have to decide if the aesthetic and tablet form factor are for you. At $399, that decision becomes far easier. While $400 isn’t secondary device money, it does put this tablet in the same realm as the Lenovo Duet that generally sells for $300 most days. Again, the x2 beats that tablet in every possible way, and at only $100 more (when on sale), I definitely think it is worth the upgrade. Also, keep in mind that this Chromebook will get regular security/OS updates until June of 2029, too. But I don’t know where you are in all this. I can’t tell you whether a tablet is right for you or if a Chromebook is better, but I can tell you 100% that this HP x2 11 is a fantastic overall piece of hardware that I think a lot of you could really enjoy. And, who knows, maybe if we eventually get some tablets with a bit more speed, I’ll get on board too.