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HP's 11.6-inch Elite X2 1012 pays obvious homage to Microsoft's successful Surface Pro 4, and also competes with the recently reviewed Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet. With a starting price of £660 (ex. VAT, or £792 inc. VAT), including a basic Travel Keyboard, the Elite X2 1012 is competitively priced: Microsoft's entry-level Core m3/4GB/128GB Surface Pro 4 costs £749 (inc. VAT) -- but that's without a Type Cover keyboard, which adds another £110 (inc. VAT). That sounds like good value for money, but does it deliver?
All of HP's Elite laptops and hybrids meet MIL-STD 810G levels of ruggedness, which should inspire confidence among mobile professionals. The X2 1012's detachable Travel Keyboard is exceptionally thin and light at just 5.4mm and 385g, and yet is solidly made.
I'm not a fan of the keyboard's felt-like backing material, though. It doesn't look great, is likely to get snagged by bag-detritus and stained by liquids in pretty short order, and doesn't do a particularly good job of stopping the keyboard slipping about on a desk.
The backing extends beyond the back of the keyboard to house the docking port for the tablet, whose magnets are strong enough to keep the two sections together very securely. An extra 30mm of the backing can be folded in on itself and adheres to the bottom screen bezel, again via magnets, to prop the keyboard up at a comfortable angle for typing.
The tablet's large screen bezel is no surprise for a 2-in-1 device, but it does mean that the 11.6-inch display sits in a chassis that's perhaps a little large at 300mm wide by 213.5mm deep. With the Travel Keyboard attached, the Elite X2 1012's thickness rises from 8.05mm to 13.45mm, while the weight goes up from 820g to 1.2kg.
The rear-facing camera sits in a strip of black at the top that breaks up the tablet's otherwise entirely silver metal backing. The kickstand emerges from the back to prop the tablet on a desk for working. The stand's hinges are tight, so it takes a little effort to push it to its widest angl. You can tilt the screen back to around 150 degrees, which caters for a range of different use cases -- as long as they are desk-based. As with many kickstand-based designs, 'lappability' was a problem and I found it tricky to balance the Elite X2 1012 on my knees.
The 11.6-inch touchscreen has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,280 pixels (190ppi) which, while not a patch on the Surface Pro 4's 2,736x1,824/267ppi, does rival the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet's 1,440x1,260/216ppi. The Elite X2 1012's IPS panel provides enough detail for comfortable video viewing and text reading, but it's very reflective, and colours could be more vibrant.
Although the audio subsystem is designed with input from Bang & Olufsen, the speakers don't deliver much volume and sound quality is only average. That might not be ideal if you deliver a lot of laptop-based presentations to small groups, but should be fine for solo videoconferencing.
HP includes an Active Pen stylus that's powered by a single AAA battery. This is far too fat to sit inside the slimline chassis, and there's no magnet-based docking system as used by Microsoft's Surface Pen. Instead, HP provides a self-adhesive 'loop' that users can attach to the tablet. In fact, you get two of these -- a sure sign that it's a less than robust option. It feels somewhat of a Heath-Robinson option for such an otherwise well-thought-out device. There's also a lanyard for the stylus, but no clear fixing point on the device itself.
The Travel Keyboard is comfortable to use, with just the right degree of bounce-back on the keys. I had no problems touch-typing at full speed. The backlight has two brightness levels, toggled via a Fn key combination. The touchpad is similarly comfortable to work with.
There are four models of the HP Elite X2 1012 available in the UK at the time of writing with the entry-level £660 (ex. VAT) model having a 900MHz-2.2GHz Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor and the most expensive £920 (ex. VAT) model a 1.1-2.7GHz Core m5-6Y54.
The less expensive models have 4GB of RAM, while high-end ones have 8GB. Internal storage runs to 128GB SSDs on the cheaper models and 256GB SSDs on the more expensive variants. Microsoft trumps HP by offering a wider range of Surface Pro 4 options, including up to 1TB of storage and Core i5/i7 processors.
The top-end £920 (ex. VAT, £1,104 inc. VAT) model of the HP Elite X2 1012, which we were sent, supports mobile broadband. You can also opt for a fingerprint reader on the tablet and to upgrade to an Advanced Keyboard with built-in NFC and a smartcard reader. The latter will set you back another £196.80 (inc. VAT).
All the ports and connectors are on the tablet. A USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt support doubles as the charge connector. There's also a single full-size USB 3.0 port, a MicroSD card slot and a 3.5mm headset jack.
There are various optional adapters: USB-C to VGA (£26.40 inc. VAT), USB 3.0 to LAN (£20.47 inc. VAT) and USB-C to HDMI (£28.80 inc. VAT). If this isn't enough, the £236.28 (inc. VAT) HP Elite USB Docking Station provides four USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port (it occupies the tablet's USB-C port when connected), HDMI, DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio and RJ-45 Ethernet.
According to HP, the battery will last up to 10 hours 15 minutes, butit's unclear under what circumstances that might be achieved. Under my normal usage pattern -- involving mostly typing, web browsing and music streaming -- five to six hours would be more realistic. That's disappointing, especially as this device is aimed at the business users who are likely to spend a good deal of time on the road.
The HP Elite X2 1012 is a nicely made 2-in-1 with an excellent keyboard and a very serviceable kickstand for the tablet. The mobile broadband option in the top-end model is also welcome. On the downside, the 11.6-inch HD screen is reflective, the speakers could be louder, and battery life is disappointing. Also, while we like the included Active Pen, the lack of a proper 'home' on the tablet means that it's likely to get mislaid.