Introduction and design
In the land of the tablets, the one with the type cover is king. In the land of the type covers, the one most like a traditional notebook keyboard/trackpad is king … or something.
You get the picture.
And so has HP. Thanks to the superb inputs on its type cover, the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 may be the kingliest of the 2-in-1 kings. The golden crown, though, comes at an iron price. At $1349 (£1,289, AU$1,850) you’ll have to pay a king’s ransom to acquire it.
The Elite x2 will naturally draw comparisons to the Dell XPS 12 and, of course, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Like its rivals, the Elite x2 is as fit for the boardroom as it is for your nightstand. Its backlit keyboard (with number pad), stutter-less trackpad, Wacom pen and Thunderbolt supporting USB-C port, along with enterprise ready security features, will turn any business user’s head.
Both the business set and aesthetes will appreciate the Elite x2. It’s a looker.
The exterior is two tone: a black, gorilla glass encased brow – wherein sits the tablet’s rear-facing camera – complements a silver aluminum shell. The gorilla glass not only protects the camera from falls, but from lens-smearing fingers too.
Fingerprint scanners are seldom seen on tablet, however, HP found room to put it on the back of the tablet. . It’s tactile enough to find without flipping the tablet over, and discrete enough that it doesn’t detract from the Elite x2’s fine looks.
Like it’s upper brow, the Elite x2’s 12 inch screen is encased in gorilla glass. Framing the screen is a notably large bezel, which on a notebook would be unsightly, but on a tablet adds ample surface area to grab the device.
The screen is also relatively easy to remove should you ever need to add upgrades. Unscrew the kickstand (which I talk more about below), attach a suction cup to the screen, pull and voila – the Elite x2’s guts are yours to poke and prod.
This ensures the tablet is not a Manhattan Project-level production to service, and enterprise users can dump drives after leaving sensitive areas without having to sacrifice the entire device.
Overall, the Elite x2’s tablet feels sturdy – but not heavy. In fact, at 1.8 pounds the Elite x2 it’s only a hair heavier than the XPS 12 (1.75 pounds) and the Surface Pro 4 (1.73 pounds).
This sturdiness, according to HP, was an important goal for their design team. HP says it put the Elite x2 through a 12 point stress test that included various drops, bumps and temperature changes. Compared to these stresses, a ride in a hot car trunk, or an uncaring luggage handler, should be an easy challenge for the Elite x2.
Fair and balanced
As I’ve already mentioned, the Elite x2 depends on an aluminum leg to stay upright. A notch on the side of the tablet gives fingernails easy access to this appendage, which, after a slight tug, swivels out of a cozy nook etched into the back of the x2. The kickstand has no set lock points, allowing the screen to tilt to nearly any viewing angle.
Fortunately the hinge is “sticky.” Once adjusted, the kickstand, and thus the screen will stay in place. The Elite x2 does not fear the frictionless conference table.
Nor does it fear your lap, which may come as a surprise to some. Typically 2-in-1s are like gymnasts with a strong floor exercise but a poor balance beam routine. This isn’t necessarily true with the Elite x2. Yes, it prefers a solid desk, but it balances well enough on uneven surfaces too.
The keyboard base’s magnets’ connection is definitely not Krazy Glue approved, but it is strong enough to keep the device together when it’s shifted around a lap, or even when hung upside down.
A second set of magnets near the keyboard connects the type cover onto the tablet’s lower bezel. This connection point is the weak link of the setup; it frequently comes undone when moving the device.
So be prepared to flick it up after you shift the x2 around your lap. Also be prepared to continuously adjust your kickstand during lap use.
It’s a little annoying, but it prevents the x2’s tablet from tipping forward onto the keyboard. It doesn’t happen often, but if there’s a big shift the x2 will faceplant. Luckily for the health of the device, and your wallet, it’s more likely to fall forward than swan dive off your legs.
Also: wear pants. The Elite x2’s metal leg isn’t sharp, but it is thin, and after a marathon session it can get uncomfortable on bare thighs.
Keyboard, trackpad and pen…oh my
There’s no dearth of inputs on the Elite x2. Keyboard, trackpad, Wacom pen, touch screen – even your voice if you count Cortana’s search and fetch – are all inputs available on this business tablet and all work very well.
The core inputs, the keyboard and trackpad, are integrated into the x2’s excellent type cover. There’s no flimsy plastic here, the type cover is made of stiff aluminum with a felt covered exterior. This provides a solid, and most importantly, comfortable base for your hands.
The backlit keyboard may be busy, but it’s not hard to navigate. The chiclet-style keys are large (the letter keys in particular) and well-spaced for easy finger-finding. On many keyboards where space is at a premium, the size of the keys on the edges (caps lock, enter, shift, etc.) is sacrificed for the well-being of the center keys, but not here.
Typing is as comfortable as it is on a real notebook. That’s really saying something when the type cover only measures two-thirds of a centimeter thick. All the keys have excellent travel and none (even those sacrificial lamb edge keys) are mushy.
Enterprise users will love the inclusion of a number pad. It’s not a discrete set of keys, but rather an alternate key function enabled by pressing num lock. It’s a great compromise for space starved keyboards, and one I hope more type cover designers adopt.
All this keyboard focus does have an unfortunate downside: the trackpad suffers from Oliver Twist syndrome. It’s hungry (for space) and asking for more.
The trackpad is certainly wide, but it’s not nearly long enough. It’s squat nature is particularly noticeable during vertical scrolling. Of course, cranking up scroll sensitivity in Settings helps alleviate this issue, but a little more room to work with would be appreciated.
On the plus side, the trackpad is sensitive, and its all important “click” is deep and springy. Overall, the type cover’s inputs are very satisfying to use. Enterprise users will have no issue working on projects all day with the Elite x2.
Type cover aside, the other notable input of the Elite x2 is its Wacom stylus, which HP calls the Active Pen. HP feels it’s an important inclusion not just for creatives, but for enterprise users, who often need to sign documents on a tablet, or take quick notes in a meeting.
The Active Pen, in my admittedly casual use, performed admirably. The pen is perfectly calibrated out of the box. It feels natural to use, like writing with an ink pen on paper. And it makes OneNote easy to access: just click the pen’s eraser button to open the app.
HP’s attachment offerings for its Active Pen, however, are a bit wonky. Your choices are either stick-on stylus loops or an – admittedly charming – piece of thread. Since the adhesive on the stylus loops won’t last six months in a backpack, the “tying the pen to the tablet with thread” option is – unbelievably – more appealing.
Full HD is enough…or is it?
The Elite x2’s 1,920 x 1,280 FHD display is not pushing display technology to the limit, but it’s all the visual power you’ll need when staring into a 12 inch screen. In a nutshell, the x2’s display checks the minimum amount of boxes.
Off-angle viewing is very clear and glare is minimal, though not completely absent as the screen is glossy. These are essentials for a device that wants to attract the conference and board room crowd.
Its touchscreen responsiveness is also excellent – even for a zombie finger’d user like me. Scrolling, manipulating apps, clicking links – the x2 and Windows 10 handled it all without delay.
That said, some users might expect more pixels for their $1,349 outlay. The Surface Pro 4 pumps out a 2,736 x 1,824 display for only $1,199. And the XPS 12’s $1,299 model delivers a 3,840 x 2,160 Ultra HD screen. It’s not like these devices skimp on other hardware either: each contains 256GB of storage too, the same as the Elite x2.
Specifications, performance and features
The $1,199 Surface Pro 4 and the $1,299 XPS 12 contain the same memory and storage as the Elite x2: 8GB and 256GB, respectively. But the three devices differ in a number of ways, even beyond their displays.
The XPS 12 and the Elite x2 prioritize energy conservation – they are Core M powered devices – while The Surface Pro 4, with its 2.4GHz Core i5 processor, brings more raw power to the table.
When it comes to ports, however, the XPS 12 and Elite x2 are far more impressive than the SP4. The former feature the port that is the darling of business users: the USB-C with Thunderbolt. The XPS 12 doubles down on this: it has two USB-C ports.
By comparison, the Elite x2 though, only has one Type-C port. The x2’s second port is a regular old USB 3.0 – a wiser inclusion, in my opinion, than a second USB-C – for all those legacy devices still out there.
The Elite x2’s Advanced Keyboard has the smart card reader that the base model is missing. Hopefully in future iterations HP can include one stock.
Here is the HP Elite x2 1012 G1’s configuration sent to techradar for review:
CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost)Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515RAM: 8GB LPDDR3-1866 SDRAMScreen: 12-inch, 1,920 x 1,280 FHD UWVA eDP ultra-slim LED-backlit touch screenStorage: 256GB M.2 SATA TLC SSDPorts: USB Type-C with Thunderbolt support, USB 3.0, headphone/mic combo jackConnectivity: 2 x 2 Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 ComboCamera: 2MP FHD 1080p front-facing webcam, 5MP FHD 1080p rear-facingWeight: 1.8 pounds (tablet), 2.65 pounds (tablet with travel keyboard), 2.79 pounds (tablet with advanced keyboard)Size: 11.8 x 8.4 x 0.3 inches (tablet), 11.8 x 8.4 x 0.5 inches (tablet with travel keyboard), 11.8 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches (tablet with advanced keyboard) (W x D x H)Performance
Few 2-in-1’s can deliver a great (non-mobile) gaming experience, and the Elite x2 is no exception. It shines, however, in day-to-day home and business tasks. It’s an excellent multi-tasker.
BenchmarksHere’s how the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:3DMark: Cloud Gate: 3,548; Sky Diver: 2,016; Fire Strike: 494Cinebench CPU: 218 points; Graphics: 24.44 fpsGeekBench: 2,915 (single-core); 5,739 (multi-core)PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,447pointsPCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 53 minutesBattery Life (techradar movie test): 5 hours and 1 minute
Considering its hardware, its not surprising the Elite x2 is no graphical powerhouse. It’s competitors, in this instance, have it beat. The SP4 scores, on average, 60% higher on its 3DMark benchmarks and the XPS 12 scores about 10% higher despite it having similar hardware to the x2.
Interestingly, the Elite x2 more than holds its own on the PCMark 8 Home Test. In fact, it scores slightly higher (2,447) than the SP4 (2,406) and the XPS 12 (2,247). Anecdotally, the x2 is quite zippy in everyday use, even with multiple applications open and streaming audio playing in the background.
Where the Elite x2 disappoints, however, is in battery life. Despite its Core M configuration, it lasts a paltry 3 hours and 53 minutes on the PCMark 8 Battery Test and just over 5 hours on my movie test (full screen video playing on repeat at 50% brightness and 50% volume).
The XPS 12 doesn’t do much better. Its PCMark 8 Battery Test has it lasting only 3 hours and 35 minutes. On our movie test it only runs about 5 hours before conking out. The SP4 and its Core i5 hardware is predictably worse, but not by much: 3 hours, 15 minutes with PCMark 8, and 5 hours, 15 minutes with techradar’s movie test.
The Elite x2 doesn’t quite close the gap between enterprise notebook and 2-in-1, but its excellent inputs and USB-C port make it a strong choice for the boardroom battalion. All it needs to achieve truly “elite” status is an improvement in battery life and hinge strength.
Its easy to use, nothing-left-out keyboard, sleek trackpad and plug ‘n’ play pen are the highlights of this enterprise oriented 2-in-1, as well as its fully adjustable kickstand and relatively balanced standing. The Elite x2 is one of the more comfortable 2-in-1s to use in notebook mode.
For a Core M device, the battery life is just too short. Its target market, business travelers, are going to want to, you know, travel with it. The Elite x2’s quick-draining battery might be understandable if it delivered more power, or higher resolution, but it doesn’t on both counts.
The Elite x2 nearly achieves the 2-in-1 dream: usability in both tablet and notebook modes. The inputs are enterprise laptop quality for sure. Unfortunately, the battery is not.
The Elite x2’s cost also limits its market. The usability of the x2 may not be worth enough to justify its relatively high price tag to the Netflix and Candy Crush crowd. HP designed the Elite x2 for business and business is likely what they’ll get.