HP Chromebook x2 Review

The HP Chromebook x2 takes Chrome to the next level

The Chromebook x2 is the first in a coming wave of innovative Chrome OS machines, and it kicks things off right.
The Chromebook x2 is the first in a coming wave of innovative Chrome OS machines, and it kicks things off right.
The Chromebook x2 is the first in a coming wave of innovative Chrome OS machines, and it kicks things off right.

Highs

  • Outstanding build quality
  • A lovely aesthetic that really stands out
  • Great performance
  • Excellent keyboard base makes for a compelling clamshell
  • Very good battery life

Lows

  • Screen is a little wobbly in laptop mode
  • A bit heavy to hold when attached to keyboard
  • No backlit keyboard

Outside the Pixelbook, most Chromebooks feel like they’ve been cut from the same cloth. There are plenty of good options, though none that feel all that innovative. That’s all changing, though — and the HP Chromebook x2 is proof.

We were sent the $600 version of this detachable tablet, which is well-equipped for a Chrome OS machine with 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a low-power 7th-gen Intel Core m3-7Y30. Even better, HP includes the keyboard base and active pen, something that competitors like Microsoft sometimes leave out.

The Chromebook x2 has some promising components and an interesting design, but is that enough to give it a leg up on an increasingly intriguing crowd of Chrome OS notebooks?

Attractive, well-built, and slightly wobbly

Pull the Chromebook x2 out of its box, and the first thing you’ll notice is that it doesn’t look like any other Chromebook. First, it’s a detachable tablet, meaning that the HP packed the PC components into the display portion that snaps together with a keyboard to provide notebook-like functionality. Next, it’s not a simple gray slab of plastic or metal, but rather it stands out with an attractive “ceramic white” color adorning the back of the tablet to go with chrome trim around the edges and black bezels up around front.

It’s also very well built, especially at this price point. Like all good tablets, and the Microsoft Surface Pro is the best example here, the Chromebook x2 feels like a solid chunk of metal and Corning Gorilla Glass 4. Well, not metal, exactly, because the ceramic-white portion uses a special anodized electrodeposition (AED) process to coat the underlying aluminum and provide some additional strength, durability, and scratch resistance. It’s much better built than the other Chrome OS tablet available today, Acer’s cheaper Chromebook Tab 10, and it’s just as well-built as the Google Pixelbook, a premium 360-degree convertible.

The Chromebook x2 is well-balanced, thanks to a detachable keyboard that’s a bit heavier than usual.

The keyboard is also nicely made, with black metal on the back and a textured, rubberized plastic covering the keyboard deck that makes for a comfortable typing surface. Speaking of the keyboard, the Chromebook x2’s design is more Microsoft Surface Book 2 than Surface Pro. That is, the tablet magnetically connects to the keyboard base, forming a traditional clamshell configuration that’s more stable on the lap than tablets with Surface Pro-like snap-on keyboards.

The design works well, allowing for four useful modes. In addition to the clamshell mode, the tablet can be reversed and used in movie mode, or it can be inserted into the keyboard base and closed into a tablet with the back of the tablet covering the keyboard. That’s a preferable mechanism compared to 360-degree convertible designs where the screen flips all the way around into tablet mode, leaving the keyboard exposed to the elements. And of course, the tablet can be completely removed from the keyboard and used as a standalone slate.

Our only complaint with the design is that it’s a bit wobbly when used in clamshell mode. It’s well-balanced, thanks to a detachable keyboard that’s a bit heavier than usual, and so it’s very Surface Book 2-like in this respect. But unlike Microsoft’s iteration, the Chromebook x2 tablet/display portion flops back and forth quite a bit as you move the combination around and tap on the screen.

HP Chromebook x2 Review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

We can’t complain about the size, though. The tablet portion is 0.33 inches thin and weighs 1.62 pounds by itself. That compares favorably to the Surface Pro’s identical thickness and slightly heavier weight of 1.69 pounds. With the tablet attached, the Chromebook x2 weighs a heftier 3.07 pounds, though, compared to the Surface Pro’s 2.37 pounds (thanks to a lighter keyboard). HP’s tablet slightly exceeds Microsoft’s in overall dimensions thanks to top and bottom bezels that are just a bit larger but still well within modern tablet standards.

Finally, the Chromebook x2 has a standard complement of ports for a tablet. You’ll find a USB-C port and microSD card reader on the left side and another USB-C port and 3.5mm audio jack on the right side. Both USB-C ports provide data, display, and power support, and both can charge the notebook using the included USB-C charger.

Getting data into this 2-in-1 is pleasant and efficient

The Chromebook x2’s keyboard base is the usual island type with black chiclet keys and white lettering. It’s not backlit, which is disappointing and something other detachable tablets like the Surface Pro and lower-cost Surface Go provide. Even the new Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 includes this feature. However, the key mechanism is nice and snappy, managing to avoid uncomfortably bottoming out despite its average travel. It’s a very good keyboard that allowed us to type at full speed with minimal errors.

The Chromebook x2 provided an experience better than most budget Chromebooks we’ve tested.

The touchpad is just about equal to the one on the Surface Pro’s Type cover, meaning that it’s just large enough to avoid making us feel claustrophobic but not nearly as large as on some other notebooks like the Surface Book 2. It supports the limited set of Chrome OS gestures with no problem, and it provides a comfortable swiping surface.

HP does the buyer a real service by including an active pen, and that, too, works well with the functionality that Chrome OS supports. You can write in compatible apps, use the pen to control the user interface, and take quick screen captures. Chrome OS doesn’t have the same level of pen support as Window 10 Ink, but it’s still a useful addition.

Bright, colorful, and a productivity-friendly aspect

HP equipped the Chromebook x2 with a 12.3-inch QHD (2,400 x 1,600 or 235 PPI) IPS display that runs at the same 3:2 aspect ratio as Microsoft popularized with its Surface line and Google imitated with the Pixelbook. That makes the display better for productivity by providing more vertical space, but it also means you’ll have some letterboxing when watch video.

HP Chromebook x2 Review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Once again, Chrome OS limitations mean we can’t subject the display to our usual test, including or objective colorimeter suite of benchmarks. Even so, we can say that the display offers up more than sufficient brightness for environments with significant ambient brightness. The contrast was very good, with black text standing out nicely against a white background, and colors popped.

Whether we were getting some work done, viewing images, or watch video, the display was a pleasure. HP nailed the gamma, because the Avengers trailer that we use for our video loop battery test was neither too bright nor too dark. Given that we’ve watched that trailer hundreds of times, the Chromebook x2 provided at least as nice an experience as the Surface Pro and better than most budget Chromebooks we’ve tested.

Overall, the display is at least the equal of the much more expensive Pixelbook, and thanks to that accurate gamma, dark scenes in movies and TV shows are easier to see on the Chromebook x2. The HP’s display is right up there with the very best.

The audio was equally enjoyable thanks to two front-firing speakers — again very Surface Pro-like — that boast Bang & Olufsen tuning along with HP Audio Boost 2’s discrete amplifier. Volume was copious with only a bit of distortion at maximum volume. There was even some slight stereo separation, with solid mids and highs and even a touch of bass. Enjoyably watching a movie or binging a TV show is more than possible without pulling out your headphones.

Snappy performance for a lightweight OS

We can’t run our usual suite of benchmarks on Chrome OS devices, and so it’s always a challenge to quantify their performance. But we can say with certainty that the Chromebook x2 benefits from its 7th-gen Intel Core m3-7Y30 CPU — that would be a low-end processor in a Windows 10 notebook, but it’s more than enough for the much lighter Chrome OS.

The x2 ran faster than any Chromebook we’ve tested and competes well with some Windows 10 laptops. 

And in fact, the Chromebook x2 felt much quicker than some of the Pentium-equipped Chromebooks we’ve reviewed. It should be noted it that an 8th-gen version of this chip has recently been announced by Intel, though the Core m3 kept up with everything we threw at it. Compared to the wealth of other Chromebooks we’ve used, Chrome OS itself felt so much smoother and more pleasant to use.

Running the Android version of Geekbench 4 netted a single-core speed of 3,441 and a multi-core speed of 6,685, much stronger than the 1,559 and 4,884 managed by the Pentium N4200 in the Acer Chromebook 15. We also ran the Speedometer 2.0 benchmark, and the Chromebook x2 scored a strong 75.1. That’s faster than any Chromebook we’ve tested so far, and competes well with Windows 10 machines like the Asus ZenBook S with a Core i7-8550U that scored 72.1.

We could almost go so far as saying that Google’s more limited OS becomes that much more competitive when things are this snappy. Combined with a nice keyboard and a lovely display, the Chromebook x2’s performance goes a long way to confirming Chrome OS as a solid choice.

HP Chromebook x2 Review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The bottom line is whether you’re running Chrome OS apps, working in the Chrome browser, or accessing the huge library of Android apps, the Chromebook x2 should be able to keep up with whatever you’re doing. The 32GB of eMMC storage isn’t the quickest around, but it can keep up with the operating system’s needs.

That’s a popular size and type of drive for Chromebooks, with only the Pixelbook offering more storage. It’s also a slower option than the PCIe SSDs you’ll find in Windows 10 notebooks, though you’ll be hard-pressed to find one of those in a $600 laptop. Chrome OS demands less local storage than Windows 10, and it doesn’t demand the same performance. However, we would have liked to see HP offer a larger and faster SSD option.

You won’t be disappointed with android gaming on the Chromebook x2.

In comparing the performance against a comparable Windows 10 notebook, we found it to be just as quick if not just slightly sprightlier. Windows 10 makes more demands on a processor, and at this price point, you’ re likely to be getting an 8th-gen Intel Core i5-8250U CPU.

Open the same number of tabs in Chrome on an Asus ZenBook UX330UA, for example, along with some productivity apps and maybe Netflix, and you’ll find the same kind of responsiveness. The same goes for the Surface Pro’s 7th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7. That’s impressive, and will surely make Chromebooks more attractive to those who assume all Chromebooks are sluggish.

If you want to game on a Chrome OS device, then that primarily means picking from among the scads of Android games in the Google Play Store. The Chromebook x2 uses the Intel UHD 615 GPU, which is more than fast enough for Android games. Action games like Asphalt 8 and Fallout Shelter ran well, making for a pleasant – albeit slightly clumsy thanks to the slate’s sheer size – gaming experience. Accordingly, you won’t be disappointed with accessing the Android gaming library on the Chromebook x2.

Enough battery life for a full day’s work

HP packed 48 watt-hours of battery into the Chromebook x2, a piddling amount for a notebook in general but on the high end for detachable tablets. The Surface Pro, for example, has 45 watt-hours.

Also, Chrome OS is a more lightweight OS that typically puts less demand on a battery. We saw this effect In our most aggressive Basemark web benchmark test, where the Chromebook x2 lasted for over four and a half hours and the Surface Pro managed an hour less. The Pixelbook went for 13 minutes less.

Browsing the web in Chrome was a real strength for the Chromebook x2, where it almost managed a full 10 hours. The Surface Pro couldn’t make it to five and a half hours, while the much larger Acer Chromebook 15 lasted for 11 and a half hours.

Finally, the Chromebook x2 was able to loop a local Avengers trailer for just under 10 hours, which is a good result for a tablet. The Surface Pro lasted for just over 10 hours, and the Samsung Chromebook Pro closely matched HP’s 2-in-1.

Simply put, the Chromebook x2 will easy last you a full workday away from a plug, and then some. That can’t be said about every Windows tablet.

Our Take

HP is leading the way in introducing innovative form factors to Chrome OS. The Chromebook x2 mimics the Surface Book 2 in providing a clamshell format detachable tablet, and although HP eschewed Microsoft’s futuristic engineering, the Chromebook x2’s design still works. It’s fast, efficient, and looks great, and it could pull some people over to Chrome OS who’ve been stuck in Windows 10.

Is there a better alternative?

There aren’t currently many directly comparable Chromebooks generally available. The first detachable tablet Chromebook, Acer’s Chromebook Tab 10, is an even lower-priced Chrome OS tablet that’s limited to the educational market. In our review, we found that $330 device to be much more cheaply built and designed than HP’s vastly more elegant Chromebook x2.

There are, though, some 360-degree convertible 2-in-1s available, with the Google Pixelbook being the premium example. And when we say “premium,” we mean it: The Pixelbook starts at $1,000 including its Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. In addition, rumor has it that we could see a revised Pixelbook with a detachable keyboard this October. But until then, the Chromebook x2 is a far better value and comes with the convenience of a detachable form factor.

Then, you could skip Chrome OS and go for a Microsoft Surface Pro. You’ll pay more, starting out at $800 for a Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a faster 128GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). But you’ll also need to shell out at least $130 for a Type Cover keyboard and $100 for a Surface Pen, where HP includes equivalents of both in the box for just $600. And you’ll be switching to Windows 10, which offers some enhance features that you might not care about if you’re in the market for a Chromebook.

How long will it last?

The Chromebook x2 is very well made, feeling solid enough to last through years of use. It also uses fast components that should keep Chrome OS running well even as it continues to evolve. The one-year warranty is the industry standard.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There is a host of Chromebook 2-in-1s coming later this year, and so that’s something to keep in mind. But the Chromebook x2 is fast, well-built, has solid battery life, and makes for an impressive Surface Book 2 clone for only $600.

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