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HP Elitebook x360: Our first take

HP's Elitebook x360 will protect you from prying eyes

The Elitebook line of laptops has been around for a very, very long time, yet most users don’t know much about it. That’s because HP, unlike Lenovo and to a lesser extent, Dell, has never put much effort into building EliteBooks that the average consumer may want. They’re hardcore business systems, and often ship with arcane features useful only to IT departments that manage hundreds if not thousands of laptops.

Every now and then, though, HP will produce and EliteBook for the people. The EliteBook x360 is exactly that. Starting at $1,250, this new model certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s way more affordable than a typical laptop from HP’s EliteBook line-up. And it can show consumer 2-in-1s a trick or two.

Looks like a Spectre, but better

If you’re familiar with the 13-inch Spectre x360, released last year, you might suspect the Elitebook x360 is a copy of it. Even HP doesn’t shy away from this comparison, and admits that the Spectre inspired the Elitebook. The two share a chassis that’s similar in many ways, from the width of display bezels, to the double-barrel design of the 2-in-1 hinge.

Despite that, the Elitebook x360 doesn’t look like a spin-off. In fact, it looks even nicer than the Spectre model. Both go for an elegant, silver unibody look, but the Elitebook has a more uniform finish that pairs nicely with its classy black keyboard. It also ditches the top-facing speakers. That may hurt sound quality (we’d have to test more to be sure), but it significantly boosts the look. It’s hard to find any seam or notch without turning the laptop upside down.

Connectivity is improved, too. The Spectre x360 has a pair of USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports, along with a USB Type-A. Buying the Elitebook nets you an HDMI output and a card reader, too. It’s not much, but it does mean the Elitebook model can output to most monitors or projectors without an adapter.

There’s one final upgrade to note, and that’s the display. The Spectre x360 only ships with a 1080p display right now, and the Elitebook has that standard as well. 4K is probably overkill on a 13-inch notebook, but if you want it, the Elitebook has it right now, and the Spectre will be getting the same treatment later.

A bag of tricks

The fundamentals of the Elitebook x360 are great for the same reasons as the Spectre model. It’s thin at just .6 inches, weighs just 2.82 pounds. Thin bezels on the sides of the display keep the footprint small, but a larger top bezel allows room for a webcam in the usual spot. Both the keyboard and touchpad feel great, and the latter is larger than most laptops. And since this is a 2-in-1, the display can fold over for tablet use.

HP’s Sure View will keep prying eyes away at your local coffee house.

But the Elitebook adds some tricks that you won’t find on the Spectre. First up is one that many people seem to be looking for — an active pen. That’s not something the Spectre x360 offers, and we received a lot of feedback from people on our review of the Spectre. They didn’t like its absence.

HP’s Sure View is another example of intriguing new features. It’s a backlight technology that emulates the function of a privacy screen, so passerby can’t see what you’re working on. Unlike most privacy screens, this one can be turned on or off with the tap of a button on the keyboard. While obviously meant for business users handling sensitive information, such as accountants, it’ll also keep prying eyes away at your local coffee house.

More: HP shows Spectre x360 15-inch, Elitebook x360, more at CES 2017

Another great value-add is the laptop’s biometric security. The EliteBook x360 supports Windows Hello though both facial and fingerprint recognition. We tend to prefer the facial recognition option, which is still hard to find in laptops. But the fingerprint option is nice, and may be preferred by users who don’t want their laptop to unlock the moment they sit down in front of it.

The EliteBook has 3G/4G LTE support, too. That’s a rare find in consumer laptops, and it can make all the difference for people who travel frequently. Just pop in a SIM card, and you’ll be able to use the internet from anywhere your data plan is supported.

Priced at a premium, but could be worth the upgrade

HP sells the Spectre x360 for $1,050. That’s $200 less than the price HP quoted us for the Elitebook x360. In terms of hardware, it appears the two are basically the same. Both have Core i5 processors of the latest generations, both have Intel graphics, both have 8GB of RAM to start. They even share 1080p displays.

That price gap may seem hard to justify, since the specifications are the same. But our short time with the Elitebook x360 left us seriously impressed. It’s as light as the Spectre x360, but it looks nicer, and has unique features that few, if any, laptops can claim. Not everyone will want to, or need to, opt for the Elitebook x360 instead, but it’ll appeal to anyone who values privacy, or wants a system that can work from almost anywhere.

Highs

  • Excellent, elegant design
  • Lots of ports
  • Switchable privacy screen
  • Full Windows Hello support

Lows

  • More expensive than similar Spectre x360
  • Ditches top-facing speakers