HP EliteBook x360 G2 First Impressions

Posted on April 4, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 3 Comments

HP EliteBook x360 G2 First Impressions

The HP EliteBook x360 G2 is a business-class convertible PC that blends the versatility of the Spectre x360 with HP’s vaunted security, manageability, and voice and video conferencing capabilities.

This isn’t the first time HP has tried this approach: Two years ago, it took its stock Spectre x360—a premium, consumer-focused PC—and outfitted it with the right software load-out and key HP security and management solutions. The feedback was positive, but HP was also told that its commercial customers wanted a PC that was custom-designed for their needs.

The EliteBook x360 G2 is that PC. The “G2” in the name indicates that this is the second generation version of this product, with the original Spectre x360 filling in for the first generation.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that the EliteBook x360 looks a bit like a new-generation Spectre x360, and features the same versatile 360-degree screen utility. But it also incorporates successes from other HP business-class PCs. For example, the EliteBook x360 incorporates the Skype for Business collaboration functionality that debuted in the EliteBook Folio 1020. And it provides security technologies like SureStart and the optional SureView privacy shield, the latter of which debuted previously in the EliteBook 1040 G3.

Together, these technologies form an impressive foundation for what is a truly modern business-class convertible PC. The trick, however, is combining enough style to attract an increasingly millennial-filled workforce with the durability that their commercial employers demand. It’s an interesting target.

The EliteBook x360 (bottom) is slightly bigger than the consumer-focused Spectre x360 (top)

Like the Spectre x360 on which it is based, the EliteBook x360 is professional-looking and attractive, and it comes clad only in an unoffensive silver color that HP, tongue-in-cheek (I hope) calls Asteroid Silver. But it’s no Spectre x360 knock-off: Where that consumer device provides almost feminine curves, the EliteBook is hard-edged and wedge-shaped, and it lacks the minimal-bezel display of its premium consumer counterpart.

Part of the reason for these changes is durability and reliability: The EliteBook is backed by a three-year warranty, and it meets U.S. Military Standard (MIL-STD) 810 testing guidelines for environmental ruggedness. Point being, it should survive even the most demanding of road warriors.

And in another nod to its commercial customer overlords, the EliteBook x360 also has one foot in the past. Instead of offering USB-C/Thunderbolt across the board, this device ships with a standard HP power port so business users can use their existing chargers. (Yes, you can charge over the single USB-C port as well, if you have the part.)

There are two full-sized USB 3 ports, instead of one, and you get a microSD card reader and a smart card slot too. There’s even a full-sized HDMI port for video-out.

The keyboard is less wide than that of the Spectre x360, and each key is a bit smaller, and a bit more separated from the other keys. I’ve written this review and other documents with the device, and while I had expected to experience some issues related to these changes that hasn’t been the case.

Keyboard sizes compared: Spectre x360 (left) and EliteBook x360 (right)

The clickpad is even better, in fact: It’s smaller than the overly-wide version found on the Spectre x360 and has been delightfully free of palm rejection mistakes.

But back to the keyboard, which is different in other ways: HP refers to this as its premium collaboration keyboard, and like previous-generation Folio PCs, it offers dedicated Skype for Business keys—like Mute/Unmute, Answer Call, End Call, and Share Screen—in place of some alternate function keys. This is arguably a great idea, but the alternate function keys that were there had to go somewhere, so there are a lot of strange keyboard combinations—like Fn + WINKEY + SHIFT to take a screenshot—and an unusual arrow key layout.

The EliteBook x360 outdoes the Spectre x360 by offering both fingerprint and facial recognition support for Windows Hello—the Spectre lacks the fingerprint reader, and I prefer this type of sign-in—but there are no Quad HD or 4K/UHD display options: You’re stuck with Full HD. Which, frankly, isn’t terrible: Like the Full HD display on the Spectre x360, this is bright, crisp, and full of contrast.

Update: HP tells me that a 4K/UHD display is, in fact, available as an option. –Paul

Despite its corporate bent, the EliteBook x360 is delightfully thin, at under 15 mm, the height of a AA battery. It’s also quite light, at just 2.82 pounds. HP rates the battery life at 16.5 hours, which is even better than that of the Spectre x360. But as impressive, you can charge the battery to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. (The battery is likewise designed to last the full three years of the warranty period, or about one-third more than a typical laptop battery.)

In addition to its Windows Hello support, the HP EliteBook x360 sports numerous business-focused security and management technologies that you’d never see in even a premium PC aimed at consumers. For example, HP’s third-generation SureStart technologies provide self-healing BIOS capabilities and runtime intrusion detection, and the firm builds a bewildering array of other security technologies into the software image, along with the centralized management capabilities that IT expects.

HP also will offer its integrated privacy screen technology, called SureView, on EliteBooks starting in mid-April. The review unit does not include this feature, but I was able to examine it briefly last week, and it works a bit differently than before, by providing a white, rather than dark, blur for people viewing the screen from an angle. HP says it’s an improved implementation, but you have to be dead-center on the screen to not get at least some visually wobbling, which I’m not sure I’d like.

There is a lot more to examine here, but I didn’t want to overload a first impressions article with too much information. That said, I cannot allow this one to pass: HP provides two—not one, but two—ways to secure its Active Pen to the EliteBook x360. One is a glue-on little tab, much like Microsoft’s Surface Pen Loop. But the other is genius, and a more durable slide-in tab for the smart card slot that will likely otherwise go unused anyway.

Sometimes it really is the little things.

 

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