There’s a small, yet growing, number of 2-in-1 Chromebooks hitting the market. HP has been on the Chromebook bandwagon for some time now, including releasing their X2 Chromebook back in 2018. The X2 has gotten an update in 2021, with the unit now on-sale in Australia.
The HP Chromebook X2 in 2021 is a smaller unit than its predecessor with a more compact 11-inch display. The internals have also been refreshed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon SC7180 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB of on-board storage.
The 2-in-1 has also seen the addition of 4G connectivity to keep you connected while on the go.
HP has also re-thought the keyboard attachment and kickstand, moving from a mechanical hinge to a detachable keyboard with a kickstand cover that attaches magnetically to the rear.
Priced at $999 RRP, the HP Chromebook x2 11 isn’t the cheapest option – but there are a number of sales around that can bring that price down fairly significantly if you do some checking.
I’ve been using the HP Chromebook x2 11 for 2 weeks now, and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
For all intents and purposes, the HP Chromebook x2 11 is a fairly standard 2-in-1 design. The 11” QHD resolution IPS display has some decent, but uniform chunky bezels around the edges which actually makes the tablet easy to hold without worrying about phantom touches.
The display itself is excellent, capable of up to 400-nit brightness, it looks good indoors though can struggle a little when in the harsh glare of the sun, but even then it’s still quite usable. The downside for anyone wanting responsive displays is that the tablet only has a 60Hz refresh which is a little low when compared to phone displays these days, but overall it looks good.
There’s a pair of Bang & Olufssen speakers on either side of the display and these can belt out surprisingly loud and clear sound, though at higher volumes it does tend to fuzz out a bit. The only downside to this is that changing orientation of the tablet to portrait also means your sound suffers with the speakers now positioned above and below the screen which makes stereo sound a little more challenging.
The tablet itself is a fairly thick, as well as weighty unit, measuring 7.6mm and weighing in at just over half a kilo. It’s a little heavy to hold, the squared-off design feels like it’s not the most ergonomic and the metallic rear can get a little cold when you first pick it up. The addition of the back cover makes it a little more comfortable and warmer to hold, covering the rear metal panel.
The rear cover though helps to offset some of these factors though and it looks lovely in the ‘Night Teal’ colourway that also graces the detachable keyboard. The cover is sturdy and solidly holds the tablet up in a variety of positions.
The keyboard cover is decently sized and comes with a trackpad built-in. The cover is mostly solid, though has a little flex in it but can be used on your lap fairly comfortably. It’s a nice size for touch-typing, so it’s not cramped and the keys have a nice spring to them making it easy to type. Likewise the trackpad is nicely sized and very responsive whether it’s just navigating around or using gestures.
The only real change I’d like to see on the HP Chromebook x2 11 is the addition of a backlight for the keyboard, which would make it easier to use at night – fingers crossed for next year.
The volume and power buttons are easy to reach on the tablet with the power button (which doubles as a fingerprint reader) on top when in landscape and the volume rocker on the left with dual USB-C ports below and the SIM card slot above.
The other side of the tablet includes a magnetic for the USI (Universal Stylus Initiative) stylus, though there isn’t a stylus in the box. Previous iterations have used a loop to keep the stylus nearby, but this magnetic attachment is much more aesthetically and functionally pleasing. I prefer the nested design of the ASUS CM3 which as a hole in the tablet for storing the stylus, but this is a good option if you’re a stylus user.
The base of the tablet includes the POGO pins for the keyboard as well as a couple of guide holes for the plastic pegs on the keyboard cover which are used to easily alight the pins for connecting. It’s a very easy process to attach and detach the keyboard when needed, but it won’t just drop off – these magnets are good.
Using the Qualcomm ARM based processor the tablet has a fanless design, so there’s no vents on the unit – but it doesn’t heat up at all, even after extended use.
It’s also a decently responsive processor though, with Chrome running beautifully, though there are moments of slowness when using some larger Android apps, or apps from the Linux (Crosstini) side of the partition.
I mostly noticed slowness only when launching apps, but not once they were loaded. Based on this I can’t help but wonder how the tablet would handle with more RAM – however, that said, apart from these load times the 8GB is definitely more than enough for the average user.
The 128GB of on-board storage is fairly generous when talking about a tablet or Chromebook, though quite limited when talking about a laptop. I’d ideally prefer to have a microSD Card slot to expand the storage, but with Chrome OS mostly relying on cloud storage (Dropbox, OneDrive, Drive, Box etc.) – which can be integrated into the Files app for easy access.
There’s two HP Wide Vision cameras on the tablet, a 5MP front-facing and an 8MP rear-facing, both of which include dual array microphones.
The cameras are useful within the context of the education sector, which heavily uses Chromebooks in both private and public schools, and while I use the front-facing camera for video conferencing, I don’t tend to find much use for the rear camera but it’s there and fairly decent quality.
With a 32 Wh Lithium-ion Polymer battery, the HP Chromebook x2 11 offers up to 11 and a quarter hours of battery life according to HP. In my testing, I can say that this is definitely shown true in my testing – though I managed to get a little more with fairly light use just watching videos, reading books and surfing the web.
There’s a 45 W USB Type-C power adapter included in the box which offers quick charging support. The spec sheet says you’ll get approximately 50% in 45 minutes of charging which is almost on-par with most phones these days which is pretty good.
Given the compact nature of these 2-in-1’s I would like to see one attempt wireless charging one day, maybe next year.
Overall though, the HP Chromebook x2 11 is an absolute beast when it comes to giving you a full day of use, even if you decide to put it through some rigorous work.
The inception of Chrome OS saw Google building an OS that was lightweight and did more, with less. Over the years Chrome OS has evolved and gained higher functionality through the addition of both Android apps with Google Play, as well as with the introduction of a Linux container thanks to Crosstini.
Chrome OS itself is constantly updating. There’s three tiers in theory, Stable, Beta and Dev. The HP Chromebook x2 11, and Chrome OS devices in general arrive with the Stable channel set by default, Chrome v94 at this stage but that will get updates.
Google tends to push updates out on a 6-week schedule for Chrome OS moving releases through Dev > Beta and finally Stable when they’re ready.
Best of all, the updates install in the background and generally don’t require a restart….unlike other Operating Systems that always seem to need to update right before you need them.
Beta and Dev can be dicey to use if you rely on your Chromebook day-to-day, as the features on offer aren’t generally guaranteed to work – but they can be fun to check out. If you stick to the Stable channel though, you should never run into problems.
The introduction of Android apps to Chrome OS has been a rocky one. Even now, five years after they first brought the Play Store to the OS, Android apps are still finding their feet. Google has been trying to engineer solutions to make them work without developers needing to change anything, but the best experience is found when developers optimise their app for Chrome OS.
While having Android apps ‘just work’ on Chrome OS would be great, they are hit and miss. Sometimes you get a phone layout when you should see a broader layout for a larger screen. There’s good apps, Telegram for one, but there’s others, including a number of games that don’t scale well – so be forewarned.
This layout issue has been a theme for both Android tablets and now Chrome OS tablets for years. It is getting better after sales of Chrome OS tablets soared during the pandemic, but it’s still a problem for a lot of apps.
For the most part though, Android apps work decently but not perfectly and that’s ok because you can still access a lot of the services you want through the Chrome browser.
The second arrow in Chrome OS’ quiver is the inclusion of Linux support. You can enable Linux support and start installing Linux apps in no time at all.
Of course you need some familiarity with Linux, but once that learning curve has been tamed you’ll find a surprising amount of functionality has been added. There’s a number of how-to’s on using Linux on Chrome OS which are worth checking out on YouTube, but if you have familiarity with Linux it’s a killer inclusion.
An oft overlooked bonus of Chromebooks are the redeemable perks. Google gifts subscriptions such as 100GB of free Google One storage, or 3-months YouTube Premium among others. These are great to redeem, however if you’re a regular Chrome OS user, you won’t be able to use these much as you can only redeem them once. Still, nice to know they’re there.
Should you buy it?
It’s a resounding yes from me on this one. The HP Chromebook X2 has a few rough edges in design, but the chunkiness of the body allows for great battery life and with the inclusion of 4G connectivity you can be connected just about anywhere.
The price is a key point, and while at the RRP of $999 it’s a bit pricey, when it’s on-sale – which it currently is – it’s an absolute bargain.
Using the Qualcomm processor over a more moderate Mediatek offering such as used by competitors, gives the X2 a performance edge which shouldn’t be discounted. There are of course improvements that can be made for functionality, but in terms of the ‘whole package’ the HP Chromebook x2 11 has a lot to offer.