HP redesigns its second-generation Elite x2 detachable

HP's Elite x2 1012 tablet/laptop hybrid is aimed at executives and knowledge workers, and also designed to make life easy for IT departments.

At the start of this year HP unveiled its first enterprise-class 2-in-1 tablet/laptop hybrid in the shape of the 11.6-inch Elite x2 1011. ZDNet praised the x2 1011 for its features and build quality, while noting its premium price and one or two issues with the arrangement of ports and connectors.

The first-generation Elite x2 1011's Power Keyboard has a conventional hinge into which the tablet slots for clamshell-mode operation, and also contains a battery. The second-generation 12-inch Elite x2 1012 takes a very different tack, with a design that's more than a little reminiscent of Microsoft's Surface Pro devices: it comprises a slim, stylish kickstand-equipped tablet and a dual-position magnetically attached keyboard (without a battery):

HP's Elite x2 1012 comprises a slim, fanless Core M-based tablet with a multi-angle kickstand and an optional keyboard that can lie flat or be raised at the back for a more comfortable typing angle. Image: HP Inc.

The Elite x2 1012 is designed for "the executive and the high-end productivity worker," according to Michael Park, HP Inc's vice-president and general manager for commercial mobility and software solutions, business personal systems. The ethos behind the product, said Park, is "built for IT, loved by end users," and the stated design inspiration was, rather than the Surface Pro, the 1929 modernist Barcelona chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.

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The tablet is 8.05 mm thick and weighs 840g. Image: HP Inc.

Key design goals for the Windows 10 tablet were thinness (8mm was the target, but the finished product came in at 8.05mm), sub-1kg weight (840g was achieved) and fanless operation so that there are no thermal openings that could admit dust or liquids.

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The optional backlit Travel Keyboard adds 5.4mm and 395g. Image: HP Inc.

Another key requirement was that the keyboard experience be "head-to-head as good as a notebook," said Park, adding that this is "no easy feat to accomplish with a detachable." We liked the backlit keyboard on HP's slimline EliteBook Folio 1020 enterprise-class laptop, and HP has put the same unit -- in all its 49 international variations -- into the optional detachable Travel Keyboard, which is 5.4mm thick, weighs 395g and makes an admirably firm typing platform thanks to its aluminium chassis. "This keyboard has been rated for ten million keystrokes," said Park. "The keys won't wear down, and the spring returns will stay consistent." Park was non-committal when we noted the similarity between the dual-position keyboard and that of the Surface Pro 3 and 4, merely noting that "the difference is the double hinge on this one is much stiffer than the Surface Pro."

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The infinitely adjustable kickstand opens to 150 degrees. Image: HP Inc.

The kickstand, like that of the Surface Pro 3 and 4, is infinitely adjustable from almost upright to almost flat on the desk (150 degrees) and is made from extra-durable 'aircraft-grade' T7000 aluminium. The hydraulic hinge is rated for over 10,000 open/close cycles (6 times a day, 7 days a week for 5 years), and is designed so that, if put under unreasonable pressure, only the replaceable kickstand will break, rather than the hinge itself.

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The rear of the Elite x2 1012 houses a fingerprint reader as well as a camera. Image: HP Inc.

The Elite x2 1012 is built around a 6th-generation Intel Core M vPro chipset and has a 12-inch full-HD touchscreen protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The chassis is milled from solid block of T6000 aluminium and the motherboard components "fit right into the metal -- that's how we get the MIL-STD certification," said Park. There's one battery, in the tablet, which HP claims will deliver 10-hour all-day operation. Features aimed at communication and collaboration include front and rear cameras, dual array microphones, HP noise cancelling software and premium Bang & Olufsen speakers.

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The Wacom-based Active Pen comes as standard with the Elite x2 1012, but there's nowhere to stow it when it's not in use. Image: HP Inc.

Although the Travel Keyboard is an optional extra, you get a Wacom-based HP Active Pen as standard. Unfortunately, as with many other tablets and hybrids, there's nowhere to stash the pen when you're not using it, but -- in another nod to the Surface Pro -- it does include a configurable App Launch button.

"We really focused on connectivity," said Park, drawing attention to the Elite x2 1012's full-size USB-A and Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, with the latter able to drive the full range of power, display and data. As well as the usual wi-fi and Bluetooth, there's optional mobile broadband in the shape of Qualcomm's Snapdragon X5 LTE modem, plus an SD card slot for storage expansion.

Accessories for the Elite x2 1012 include a Thunderbolt 65W Dock that supports dual 4K displays, a USB-C Docking Station and HP's Advanced Wireless Docking Station, which uses WiGig technology.

IT friendly

Among the features aimed at IT managers is HP SureStart. Common to the Elite line, SureStart keeps a BIOS on an embedded chip, restoring the system BIOS on bootup should it be compromised by malicious software.

Many enterprises require smartcard authentication, so HP offers an Advanced Keyboard with a smartcard reader and NFC support that's slightly thicker (8.4mm versus 5.4mm) and heavier (470g versus 395g) than the standard Travel Keyboard.

Finally, the Elite x2 1012 is more serviceable (although not by end users) than your average hybrid: the display panel can be popped out for replacement, and you can also replace the RAM and SSD storage.

Price and availability

The HP Elite x2 1012 is expected to ship in EMEA in January 2016 starting at €999. The HP Active Pen with App Launch is included, but the HP Travel Keyboard is a €159 option. These prices are right in line with Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, which starts at €999 (4GB RAM, 128GB SSD), with the optional Type Cover costing €149.99.