In a landscape dominated by convertibles and clamshells, the HP Chromebook x2 arrives on the scene with a bold, distinctive and important claim: the world’s first detachable Chromebook. It is a neat trick to be sure, but without the proper performance, build quality and user experience to go along with it, a separating form factor becomes just that: a parlor trick. Can the HP Chromebook x2 live up to the hype of being the first of its kind?
Let’s take a look.
The overall feel of the HP x2 is fantastic. Let’s get that out there right off the bat. This thing looks, feels and is a premium device. From the brushed aluminum wrap to the pristine white back, HP has put together a very compelling package.
Is it perfect? No. But nothing is or has been up to this point. The hinge is a bit large and a tad wobbly, but that is to be expected with all the device’s innards being packed behind the screen portion. It definitely isn’t as solid as a clamshell when compared to convertibles or standard laptop devices. That’s not to say it is unusable or unwieldy: it just has some quirks you have to get used to.
I tend to pick up my Pixelbook from the palm rest quite often. I wouldn’t advise this on the HP x2 as the weight of the screen puts a lot of stress on the keyboard in this situation. You’ll get a bit of that wobble when it’s in your lap, but if you know it is there, it isn’t really a bother at all. At least you can easily use it on the couch or in a chair, unlike some other detachables out there.
On a desk, these issues completely vanish as the setup feels sturdy and very clamshell-like during use. For my uses, this helped me forget about any wobbliness altogether.
The second half of a detachable, however, is the tablet mode. True tablet mode, to be precise. And in this form, the HP x2 is a rock star. It is light and easy to hold, has front-firing speakers, and just enough bezel to hold onto while using it. I found myself using the tablet setup FAR more than I ever do on my Pixelbook simply due to the fact that it doesn’t force you to fondle a keyboard while holding it.
Oh, and it is light enough to use as a tablet. And thin enough. So much so I used it for reading, watching videos and playing some games instead of using my phone. This is the first Chromebook to get me to use it in this fashion, so that is saying something.
Lastly, the keyboard is solid, not flimsy, and the attach/detach functionality works like you’d want it to. Easy to remove, easy to re-attach. No levers or buttons, just firm and trusty magnets. This is how you do it right.
On the whole, HP gets an A+ for the way this thing is put together. I really, really enjoy it.
Well, this will be quick. This is the same 2400×1600 display in the Pixelbook and Samsung Chromebook Pro/Plus. Great colors, sharpness, viewing angles, and brightness. At 400 nits, it performs well everywhere. And the 3:2 aspect ratio makes the transition to tablet simply fantastic.
Again, HP made the right choice, here.
Once again, HP did very well here. The keyboard is full-sized, well-spaced and has great travel and clickiness. It isn’t as good as the Pixelbook, but it is very good.
HP, on their own website, said this would be shipping with a backlit keyboard. It is not. And, at this point, we aren’t sure it ever will. If that is a necessary element for you, I suppose it is a deal breaker. For me, it’s not a huge deal.
The trackpad is large, smooth, responsive and has a fantastic click mechanism. No complaints at all, here. It isn’t a glass element, but it performs as well as one.
The pen is an AES (powered) stylus like the Pixelbook employs. I use my pen to jot notes and honestly can’t draw much more that shapes or stick figures, so I can’t comment on how it would function for an artist. From what I’ve seen, most artistic types would rather have an EMR stylus (like what we see on most other Chromebooks), but that simply isn’t the case with the HP x2.
Another thing HP did well here is include the pen in the box and include a place for it to live. While I prefer a garaged stylus, I understand having a full-sized writing utensil is important and that those pens won’t fit inside thin, light devices. The included pen loop works very well, however, as the most annoying part of the Pixelbook pen loop was what to do with it when flipped into tablet mode. I hated it and quickly removed it.
The HP has no issue here as the pen loop is on the keyboard that conveniently can be left behind when using this device as a tablet. Overall, it all worked together quite well.
The port selection here is pretty streamlined, but well thought out. You get 2 USB Type-C ports, a headphone/mic jack, and a microSD card slot. The position of the USB ports are considerate and find themselves positioned on each side of the device and at the bottom of the screen when setup as a clamshell. I’ve seen detachable devices not consider this use case before and you end up with dongles hanging from the top of your devices when docked at the desk.
The addition of the SD card slot also helps mitigate the small 32GB eMMC drive included.
With the speakers, HP managed to fit in front-facing speakers on the left and right bezels of the screen that manage to produce decent sound and loud audio. There’s little to no bass response, but stereo separation is very good and watching content with proper stereo audio is a very nice experience on this device.
Yeah, we have to start talking about cameras on Chromebooks. Well, at least soon. This device comes with a 13MP rear sensor that we rarely see on Chromebooks. For now, however, it is basically useless. The included Chrome OS camera is a terrible piece of software that renders any camera unusable at this point.
That is all about to change, however, as Google is prepping the FANTASTIC Google Camera app for use on Chromebooks. When it comes out, we’ll revisit this portion of the review as that app on my Pixelbook makes the camera experience far better. I’d imagine the HP will take a decent photo and video once this is commonplace on Chromebooks. Just not yet.
While not shocking on the spec sheet, the HP Chromebook x2 performs very well. We’re met with an Intel Core m3-7y30, 32GB of eMMC storage, and 4GB of RAM and it all works together very well.
I work on an i5 Pixelbook with 8GB of RAM on a daily basis, so I expected to feel the lack of memory. I honestly didn’t run into a single issue.
And the processor simply shocked me. It felt very fast and snappy, not making me miss by Pixelbook performance at all. Running a few benchmarks, I was able to get over 25,000 on Octane and 129 on Speedometer. For reference, the Pixelbook gets a bit over 27,000 on Octane and 126 on Speedometer. Yeah, this Core m3 is faster that the last-gen i5 in the Pixelbook.
I was shocked by that score, but the real-world use actually aligns with these speeds. This thing is a performance beast!
Battery life was great, too, coming in around 10 hours of use if I didn’t go crazy with the screen brightness. If you can keep it around 60-70%, you’ll get by all day on a single charge.
So, if you can’t tell, I didn’t have much bad to say about this device.
That’s on purpose.
HP has done a stellar job with the Chromebook x2, and I think if you’re on the fence about it, I’d tell you to get it. You can find it for about $600 directly from HP and that includes the keyboard and stylus as well. For the money, you get a unique, attractive, fast Chromebook with a stylus and the ability to use it as a fantastic tablet.
The only users I’d direct away from this one are those who primarily use a laptop in their laps. While passable, this is the HP x2’s main weakness. If that isn’t you and you’re thinking about this Chromebook, I’d say buy it. You won’t be disappointed!