I’ve been a fan of HP’s EliteBook line of premium portable PCs for years, and the EliteBook x360 1040 G5 remains one of my all-time-favorites. But a lot has changed in the past two years, including the unexpected 2020 introduction of the HP Elite Dragonfly, a colorful bit of in-house competition, albeit one with a smaller display. Well, it’s 2021 now. Can the latest EliteBook x360 1040 match the lofty standards of its predecessors?
Let’s find out.
As with previous-generation EliteBooks, the EliteBook x360 1040 is made of durable CNC aluminum and is available in a single color, silver. Some may find the design to be somewhat bland, but I think it exudes a professional, premium vibe.
Like previous versions, this is a convertible PC, meaning that you can transform it into various form factors—the two most popular being laptop and tablet—and take advantage of its multitouch and smartpen capabilities.
The most obvious change over previous versions is the EliteBook x360 1040’s smaller and lighter form factor, and the resulting shrinking of the display bezels. I cover these changes in a bit more detail later in the review, but both are net positives from a design perspective and the G7 isn’t so small that it harms usability.
More broadly, HP is moving its portable PC products to a more angular design, which has so far been more obvious and prominent with its prosumer-focused products like the Spectre x360 14 I’m also evaluating right now. But with the EliteBook x360 1040 G7, we see HP’s most aggressive moves yet in a business-class PC, with sheer, chopped off, angular corners and a sharply tapered display lid that helps make one-finger opening effortless.
I like this new look, which is most particularly obvious in the rear deck and bottom display corners, each of which is chopped off at a 45-degree angle. But unlike with the recent Spectre x360 convertibles, those angled corners aren’t big enough to be practical in that none of them house a USB-C port. They’re just part of the design.
And like other pandemic-era HP premium PCs, the EliteBook x360 1040 is treated to resist alcohol, crayons, wine, lipstick, and other common household items that might cause stains and fading. I somehow managed to keep my wine away from it.
HP now offers EliteBook x360 1040 buyers a choice of several different 14-inch multitouch display panels, each of which is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Unfortunately, all of them have a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The first is a 400-nit Full HD (1920 x 1080) low-power panel that can be had with or without an anti-glare coating. This is the version that came with the review unit, and it is significantly brighter than what I would have otherwise assumed was the same display panel used in my recent EliteBook 840 review.
The next step up is an even brighter 1000-nit Full HD panel with a Sure View privacy filter, which again can be had with or without an anti-glare coating.
And at the upper end of the price sheet, you’ll find two 4K/UHD (3840 x 2160) display options, one an HDR panel that emits 400 nits of brightness and the other a 550-nit OLED panel that I assume is incredible based on past experience.
The 16:9 aspect ratio is a bummer, but the bezels it sits within are dramatically smaller than the previous-generation model and the overall look is still sleek. The EliteBook x360 1040 has an excellent 89 percent screen-to-body ratio, compared to 83 percent for the previous version. And the bezels are 18 to 44 percent thinner, depending on the side. It’s a great look. (Which, yes, could be even better with 16:10 display panels.)
You can configure the EliteBook x360 1040 G7 with a variety of 10th-generation Core i5 and Core i7 processors. But since HP first released the PC, Intel shipped its 11th-generation Core chipsets, which feature much more powerful Iris Xe graphics. And so HP now sells G7 (10th-generation Core) and G8 (11th-generation Core) versions of this product side-by-side. I believe they are otherwise pretty much identical (and would choose a G8 is possible, personally).
You can configure an EliteBook with 8, 16, or 32 GB of RAM. And while the least inexpensive version available ships with a modest 128 GB of M.2/SATA 3-based SSD storage, the other configurations offer 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB of NVMe-based SSD storage and, in some cases, 16 or 32 GB of Intel Optane cache.
The review unit includes a 10th-generation Intel Core i7-10810U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of SSD storage. All of those are probably overkill for the productivity tasks most would perform with this PC. It’s certainly more PC than I need, but the performance is excellent.
To combat fan sound and heat, HP has optimized the thermals of the EliteBook x360 1040 G7 using both hardware and software. The fan blades are 17 percent thinner than before, which allows for more blades, better airflow, and better and quieter cooling. The PC also has more thermal sensors and improved algorithms for managing how and when the fan kicks in.
Of course, the big question is whether any of this makes a difference. In my experience, it does, for the most part. The fan kicks in less often than was the case with the EliteBook 840, and the PC is generally cool and quiet. That said, there was still some fan noise during certain tasks, such as application installs.
The EliteBook x360 1040 provides both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 for connectivity. NFC is optional, as is an Intel XMM 7360 LTE-Advanced modem and nano-SIM card tray. (There’s no eSIM.) If you don’t go with LTE, you can configure an EliteBook x360 1040 G7 with an internal Tile module for device tracking. I’d personally find that latter option more useful.
As with previous models, the wireless antennas are at the top of the display lid to help with reliability and performance. I never had any connectivity issues.
Ports and expansion
The EliteBook x360 1040 has a diverse assortment of new and legacy ports that should meet almost anyone’s needs. On the left, you’ll find a single full-sized USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port, an audio combo port, a 4G/LTE SIM card slot (if configured), and a security lock slot.
And on the right is a second full-sized USB-A 3.1 port, a full-sized HDMI 1.4b port, and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, both of which support Power Delivery 3.0.
My only gripe—and this is unchanged from my G5 review of two years ago—is the positioning of those two USB-C ports, which are further towards the front of the PC than I like: The EliteBook uses USB-C for power, and if you are right-handed and want to use an external mouse, the power cable will get in the way. USB-C ports on the corner cut-outs would solve this problem.
Audio and video
Because of its versatile convertible form factor, the HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7 is equipped with four speakers, two that are upward-firing and two that are downward-firing. Sound quality is excellent, especially in laptop mode, with wide stereo separation. An HP Audio app can be used to customize the sound for music, movies, or voice, but I found that the default auto-detection capability works well.
There are a total of four microphones as well—two front-facing and two world-facing—and HP augments their capabilities with AI-based ambient noise reduction for a superior virtual meeting experience.
How good is it? HP demonstrated its functionality by having one meeting participant crumple a bag of paper chips during a call, and it was almost inaudible. The firm says that its system has been trained to block out sirens, slamming doors, barking dogs, and other complex background noises. It will improve over time using machine learning, and because it’s built-in to the system, it will work with whatever software—Teams, Skype, Zoom, whatever—you choose.
The EliteBook x360 1040 ships with a middling 720p webcam, but it has Windows Hello facial recognition capabilities and a privacy shield that’s activated with a function key, a nice touch.
Keyboard, touchpad, and pen
There have been some big changes to HP’s excellent collaboration keyboard over the past year or two, and the new design is my favorite yet. The power button has been moved from the side of the PC to the top function key row, and it’s to the left of the Delete button, which is the preferred layout.
The fingerprint reader has also been moved from the wrist rest to a key between the right Alt and Ctrl keys, which is also excellent.
There are also two new keys, one for electronically shuttering the webcam, which I prefer to a manual slider, and the HP Programmable Key, which, as its name suggests, can be customized to launch whichever apps or websites you prefer. Both are great additions.
The previous EliteBook x360 1040 I reviewed provided the best keyboard I had ever used to that point, though a few more recent premium HP PCs have matched it. The G7, go figure, is even better, thanks to new key corner stiffness that adds a bit of stability. With its short key throws, comfortable feel, and satisfying feedback, the EliteBook 360 1040 G7 is my new favorite.
The glass precision touchpad is likewise excellent. It’s a medium-large size, but it’s precise and error-free.
HP doesn’t bundle a smartpen with the EliteBook, but it’s compatible with the firm’s Active Electrostatic (AES) smartpens, and you can pick one up from HP for about $75 if you’re so inclined. Given the PC’s versatile convertible form factor, that may not be a horrible idea, though it’s a bit big and heavy as a tablet, and the 16:9 display isn’t ideal in this usage mode either.
The EliteBook x360 1040 weighs just 2.9 pounds, so it’s about 2.2 percent lighter than its predecessor. It’s over 6 percent smaller, too, at 0.65 by 12.6 by 8 inches. This is a thin, light, and portable PC that would easily disappear into any backpack. I can’t wait to take it on a trip, and viewed alongside the EliteBook 840, you can see how much smaller and thinner it is.
Depending on the configuration, you can choose between a 4-cell 54-WHr battery and a 4-cell 78-WHr battery, both of which are internal and not user-serviceable. Either way, you get a standard 65-watt USB-C-based power adapter, though HP offers a slimmer version for a few dollars more.
From a battery life perspective, HP promises an incredible 19+ hours of life with video playback if you choose the 78-watt-hour battery option and, I assume, a Full HD display. That kind of number usually translates to about half as much battery life in real-world usage, and with the understanding that real-world usage during the pandemic is a bit hard to judge, I’m exceeding that figure handily: I’ve been averaging roughly 10 hours on a charge. (As with other pandemic-era reviews, I’m a bit worried about the accuracy of my battery life reports, but it will, if anything, be better than what I describe.)
Finally, in a nice touch, HP has customized the Windows 10 power slider, which you access by pressing the Power icon to the right side of the taskbar. As with most PCs, the EliteBook uses a Balanced power profile by default, splitting the difference between the best possible battery life and the best possible performance. Slide it all the way to the left, however, and the system fans will come on much less often, giving you nearly silent performance. Slide it all the way to the right, and you’ll experience a 10 to 22 percent performance boost depending on the workload. I mostly left it in the default position, but I’m curious about eking out more battery life on the go if I ever get to travel with this PC.
The EliteBook x360 1040 ships with Windows 10 Pro and whatever crapware Microsoft is bundling with its OS these days. And like the EliteBook 840 I recently reviewed, it also ships with at least 15 HP utilities. There’s no reason to beat this to death: That’s too much, especially for a business-class PC. And while most of it cannot fairly be called crapware, the word bloatware is arguably applicable.
That said, some of the software that HP bundles on this PC is truly useful and unique. For example, a feature called Presence Aware detects you (and other people) as you approach the PC—using a time of flight (TOF) sensor, not the camera—and toggles the display so you can sign-in more quickly; it is instant if you have Windows Hello facial recognition configured. And when you leave, it turns off the display and, optionally, locks the PC.
Pricing and configurations
The HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7 starts at $1649 for a base model with a Core i5-10210U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, a 400-nit Full HD display, and a 54-WHr battery. The review configuration, with its Core i7-10810U vPro processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, 400-nit Full HD display, 4G/LTE capabilities, and 78-WHr battery runs a hefty $2499. Bump up the RAM (32 GB), storage (2 TB), and display (4K/UHD/HDR), and add a few other options and you could easily spend over $3100 on this PC.
Recommendations and conclusions
HP’s winning streak continues with the EliteBook x360 1040 G7, which is one of the most versatile and long-lasting premium convertibles I’ve ever used. I’d like to see 16:10 displays at this hefty price point, and a barrel power connector would be nice if only to spare the ill-positioned USB-C ports from power duty. Beyond that, however, the EliteBook is nearly perfect, with the best portable PC typing experience yet, a versatile design, and enough power for any productivity task. (Versions with the newer 11th-generation Intel Core chipsets should be even better.)
The HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7 is highly recommended, though individuals are advised, as always, to look at HP’s prosumer-focused Spectre lineup for more colorful designs and considerable savings.
- The best laptop keyboard I’ve ever used
- Excellent build quality
- Professional design
- Versatile convertible form factor
- HP Presence Aware is a truly useful addition
- 16:9 display
- USB-C port placement