HP Elite x2 review: Beats the Surface Pro 4 in some ways (but not in others)
A strong rival to the Surface Pro 4, but it’s not quite the finished article
In some ways, the HP Elite x2 is a boring old rehash of established design ideas. A Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard, kickstand and stylus and a 12in display, designed to take on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 at its own game. There are loads of these on the market right now, some good, some bad.
HP is hoping to distinguish its own effort by offering something last seen in the 1990s: the ace up the Elite x2’s sleeve is its repairability. Unscrew the rear panel (via a series of Torx screws beneath the kickstand at the rear), and it’s possible to remove and replace the screen, hard disk and memory, something that’s impossible to do easily or quickly on a consumer device such as the Surface Pro 4.
But before you get too excited about adding RAM and improving hard disk capacity, this isn’t a development aimed at consumers, but businesses who buy such devices in bulk, saving them large bundles of cash. Not having to replace a device or send it back to the manufacturer every time a single component goes pop could save thousands and thousands of pounds over the lifecycle of a product such as this.
The big question is, is the HP Elite x2 a decent Surface Pro 4 replacement? Or is it just an also-ran?
HP Elite x2 review: The tablet
Let’s take a look at the design for a moment. Just like countless Surface Pro 4 rivals before it, the Elite x2 consists of a tablet part, in which all the core components reside – the CPU, the RAM, storage and battery – and a keyboard cover that attaches to the spine of the tablet magnetically.
The tablet is nicely designed. In fact, if you follow the fortunes of Surface Pro 4 rivals avidly (what do you mean you don’t?), you’ll probably notice a few similarities with HP’s consumer-grade HP Spectre x2 tablet.
The chassis is constructed from a robust-feeling matte-finish aluminium that feels silky under the finger. There’s a glossy black strip running along the top edge at the rear that houses the rear camera module and flash, and the whole thing, ignoring the slightly geeky-looking HP logo, is pleasingly attractive.
It’s very slightly heavier and thicker than the Surface Pro 4, but it’s close enough to hold its own and, if anything, build quality favours the HP device. The kickstand at the rear has a built-to-last feel to it, supporting the tablet at angles ranging from near-vertical to almost flat, and it feels more sturdy than the Surface Pro 4’s flat blade.
Just like the Surface Pro 4, this HP has tough Gorilla Glass on the front: the top-spec 1,920 x 1,280 model I have here gets Gorilla Glass 4, while the cheaper 11.6in, 1,366 x 768 and 1,920 x 1080 options get Gorilla Glass 3.
Plus, being an HP business machine, the Elite x2 has been put through a battery of reliability torture tests. The kickstand, built from 7000-series aluminium, has been tested through 10,000 cycles. It’s been drop-tested from a height of 91cm onto wood and 51cm onto concrete, and the keyboard has been designed to withstand ten million keystrokes.
The Elite x2 is also quite practical for a tablet-based 2-in-1, with both full-fat USB Type-C and standard USB 3 ports on the right edge, a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD and micro-SIM trays. Stereo speakers sensibly adorn the top edge and there’s a Kensington lock slot on the left edge, too. There’s plenty to like here.
HP Elite x2
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Dimensions without keyboard
301 x 8.2 x 214mm
292 x 8 x 201mm
Weight without keyboard
Screen aspect ratio
1,920 x 1,280
2,736 x 1,824
Intel Core m3, m5, m7
Intel Core m3, i5, i7
Storage and RAM options
128-512GB (1TB version is US only); 4-16GB
HP Elite x2 1012 review: Keyboard and stylus
HP’s detachable Travel Keyboard is also similar in many ways to Microsoft’s Type Cover. It clamps to the bottom spine of the tablet firmly, and has a pleat along its top edge so you can prop it up at an angle when you’re typing. And it’s at least as good to type on as the Surface Pro 4, if not more so.
What HP has done here is to transplant the keyboard – key-tops, switches and all – directly from the Elitebook Folio 1020, backing it with a four-layer aluminium panel in the process. The result is typing ecstasy, with a key action that’s softly cushioned and yet has plenty of positive feedback, while the metal support tray provides a good solid base even with the keyboard tilted up. True, there’s still a touch of that shoebox feel, but it’s nowhere near as pronounced as on the Surface Pro 4.
What isn’t all that different is the lack of, for want of a better word, “lappability”. This is something that affects all 2-in-1 detachables to a greater or lesser extent, and the HP Elite x2 is similarly afflicted. It doesn’t feel particularly stable on your lap, and those with short thighs won’t get on with it at all. At least typing isn’t too uncomfortable, though, aided by that thick aluminium keyboard base.
And then there’s the active stylus that, as usual, the manufacturer has found no room for in the chassis. Instead, there’s a small self-adhesive loop in the box that you can use to mount it to the chassis or keyboard. That’s disappointing, but the pen itself is nicely weighted and built, and has a pleasantly pliant feel on the screen.
HP Elite x2 1012 specifications
|Processor||Dual-core 1.2GHz Intel Core m7-6Y75|
|Dimensions (WDH)||301 x 8.2 x 214mm (301 x 14 x 219mm with keyboard)|
|Pointing device||Touchpad, touchscreen, stylus|
|Screen resolution||1,920 x 1,280|
|Graphics adaptor||Intel HD Graphics|
|Graphics outputs||HDMI and DisplayPort (via USB Type-C)|
|Optical drive type||None|
|USB ports||1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB Type-C|
|Memory card reader||MicroSD|
|Other ports||Micro SIM|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro|
|Parts and labour warranty||3-year limited parts and labour warranty|
|Price inc VAT||£1,229 inc VAT|